Helping businesses and individuals succeed in serving those with disabilities
In 2016, when Candace Ellis started her home and community-based consulting service—C. A. Ellis and Associates—she faced a number of challenges.
“I was working for a business for 15 years,” said the 42-year-old. “I stepped away to complete my practicum [on-the-job experience] in psychology. I just couldn’t manage being in school, doing the practicum, working as the COO for this business, as well as being a single mom.”
Candace decided to leave her job and updated her LinkedIn profile. After that, small community-based providers started reaching out to her. “At the time, I realized that I couldn’t be employed by someone, so I started my own business. Instead of me being an employee, I was a contractor,” she said.
“I didn’t think anything of it at that time. I just thought it was something to fill my time and get some extra money. But it has become a substantial business in this particular niche,” she added.
MSR: Tell me more about what you do. What niche or professional social service consulting do you provide?
CC: It’s a mouthful. My professional niche is providing consultation to small businesses and social services training. There are two parts to it.
I provide home and community-based services that are under the Department of Human Service [DHS] for providers who serve individuals with disabilities, so that they can be in their home or apartments. What we do as a company is that DHS requires individuals with disabilities to have someone with the level of experience and knowledge about their service needs to manage their care.
We serve that individual and manage their provider company’s paperwork for both the individuals as well as provide their staff with training to ensure that they’re DHS-compliant. So that is the main source of our employees’ work. [The company currently employs three full-time employees, one full-time contractor, two part-time employees, and two part-time contractors.]
On the other side, we provide community engagement, project management, and process optimization to providers, such as the counties and cities.
MSR: What drew you to this niche?
CC: I was an undergrad and looking for some extra funds at the time. I started working for the company I used to work for part-time on the weekends. I grew up in the company. I was working in providing direct care for what is considered a community and home-based service company.
I grew from being a part-timer in direct care support, to being the COO of the company. I was going back to school and got my MBA. Then I went back to school to get my master’s in psychology so I could not only utilize my skills, but combine them with education.
MSR: How does your business impact the community?
CC: My slogan is “Pinnacle of Success,” so that’s helping businesses as well as individuals reach their success points. I would say 95 percent of my clients are African American small-business owners who are just trying to make a living for themselves and their families.
My company offers audit and compliance services to these companies so that when DHS comes out, they are in good standing and they remain in business.
MSR: What has been your biggest challenge in owning a business?
CC: My biggest challenge I would say is capacity. There’s been times where I had to pause taking on new 245D clients [DHS designation for home and community-based providers], because I just didn’t have the manpower. It’s just finding resources and finding people that qualify to assist me in the work.
MSR: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your business?
CC: The most rewarding part of my business is seeing other businesses succeed. I tell my clients who I work with that it is a win-win situation, because when they win, I win. Ninety-nine percent of my business is word of mouth.
MSR: What are your goals for your business?
CC: I would love to continue to help other small businesses. They are making a difference in the community by helping individuals with disabilities. They also employ people in their community. I would love to see it continue to grow and expand.
MSR: What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
CC: I would say to take that leap of faith. I can say I never aspired to be an entrepreneur myself. When I started my business in 2016, I went back into the corporate world and I was working for Thor as a consultant. My job or my role, I’ve thought, was propelling others. So when Thor closed, it was my push to say okay, you can do this on your own.
So just believe in yourself. Believe in the process. Take that leap of faith.