Connecticut-based Phoenix Professional Services, LLC is a healthcare business that provides mental health, clinical, holistic, and therapeutic services to individuals, healthcare providers, foster care agencies, school systems, and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. The company has two locations in Hartford and Manchester, CT.

Phoenix Professional Services CEO and Director of Integrative Medicine Tamar Draughn was one of 10 women to pitch at the Women Innovate Pitch Competition on June 30. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Tamar about her entrepreneurial journey, landing in Connecticut, and getting involved in Connecticut’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

NAN PRICE: Have you always been entrepreneurial?

TAMAR DRAUGHN: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Looking back to when I was much younger, I’ve always tried to create something and sell something. But I didn’t necessarily realize I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

NAN: How did you segue that spirit into your business concept?

TAMAR: I was born in Jamaica, which is an impoverished country. And I was raised in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up, I realized that a lot of minority children or those impacted by their economical standing can’t access the healthcare resources they need to thrive. So, the concept started with me wanting to help reach those children whose lives were more challenging than others.

I little background: My mother transitioned from Jamaica to Brooklyn when I was 6 years old. When I  was 16, she joined the U.S. military. So, right after high school, we moved to Germany, where I lived from ages 18 to 28.

I began my career in therapy there, working with U.S. Army military families. I continued my career in Europe and then, speaking of entrepreneurial spirit, I moved in Connecticut in 2008 to manage an eight-family apartment building my mother bought. I ended up living in Hartford, which reminded me of Brooklyn. I loved that it was urban and diversified.

When I moved to Connecticut, I worked for large mental health agency where I saw children kind of rotate in. There was a disconnect. I would work with a 9-year-old child and within one to three years they would return to the system with increased family issues and new traumas and underlying issues.

I wanted to change the narrative. The organization was too big. And, I feel the larger an organization gets, the harder it is to treat people with one-on-one support they need, so they don’t feel like a number. I also think individual and family therapy go hand in hand as a best effort to change unhealthy patterns and create adaptive behaviors.

I launched as a sole proprietor in 2013. My company is small and I know every single client’s name. If I was to grow, I would grow in hubs. I would create other leaders so we all stay small and the director would always know everybody’s name.

NAN: How are you marketing and targeting your ideal clients?

TAMAR: This company was built from word of mouth. I came from a very large company, which really diversified me. When I left, people who knew my skills reached out to me. They would tell a friend in the community or a Department of Child Services worker would remember me and Google my name and hunt me down. We never marketed until about two years ago, when we built a website. Honestly, we save so much money because we don’t really market.

NAN: In addition to participating in the event hosted by the University of Hartford Entrepreneurial Center & Women’s Business Center (EC-WBC), have you been involved other Connecticut business resources as you’re building your business?

TAMAR: No, not really. I recently did some investing in myself as far as marketing. I used to work on government contracting overseas. And, during the pandemic with everything falling apart, I was thought: How did I forget about government contracting? So, I became registered as a contractor.

I also wanted to refine myself, so I invested in mentorship. I’m working with Samantha Williams of Sam’s Word, LLC. Sam was aware of the pitch competition and pushed me to enter.

I feel like Sam opened up a world I wasn’t really paying attention to because I’ve been working so hard running a mental health firm that offers many different services and worried about my employees and clients. So, I’ve spent a good amount of time working in my business. Now that everything is ebbing and flowing, I need to work on my business.

It’s time for me to recognize that I’m a pretty good public speaker. I need to get out there, I need to speak, and I need to learn. From that competition alone, I learned so many different ways to present yourself. I even started thinking about my own technology-based interventions—and I never thought about things like that before.

NAN: Any other business evolution?

TAMAR: The COVID-19 pandemic gave me time to be alone with myself and I started thinking: Am I meeting my personal and professional goals? While this pandemic has been a devastating experience, at the same time, it’s almost like we needed this. We needed a moment of stillness and self-reflection so we can recognize how to make the world better and how to make ourselves better. And, hopefully, we all come out of this more united and more creative than we were before.

Learn more about Phoenix Professional Services