Angela Ficken is an entrepreneur and psychotherapist based in Boston. She operates the full-time private practice, ProgressWellness.com and specializes in anxiety and stress management, OCD, and eating disorders. As an expert, Angela has been featured in countless media outlets, including Oprah Magazine, Bustle.com, PopSugar.com, and contributed her expertise to ThriveGlobal.com, HuffingtonPost.com, Today.com/Parenting, Marriage.com among many others.
When did you decide it was time for you to start your company?
After years of being in my full-time private practice, I kept hearing from clients that it took many searches and calls to get to a therapist like myself. They could easily find any therapist, but not one who would teach them skills and strategies to manage stress and anxiety effectively. When clients finally found me, they shared that they noticed significant improvement and that they wish they had found me much sooner! That’s when I started thinking about ways I could reach more people who were having this challenge.
I wanted to find a way to share my expertise, reach people who were having difficulty finding help who might not be in Boston and able to come into my office. This was the first time I realized that my reach could be further than just in my office. That’s when I started dabbling in the digital sphere with info products.
What is your background and what was it like finding a team to complement your skillset?
My academic background is in social work; I have a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from Boston College and have spent my career working with people who struggle with stress and anxiety.
Building my team was not that difficult. There were plenty of hard things for sure, but I was fortunate to find a team where each member understood what I wanted to do and challenged me to think outside-the-box on how to get there.
My main team members are all amazing, accomplished women. My PR manager wears so many hats for Progress Wellness. I honestly have no idea what I would do without her. I also have a remarkable editor who helps with all written projects–from monthly newsletters to guides to online courses. I also have a business coach I connect with periodically to discuss long-term goals and brainstorm ideas on how to get there. The Progress Wellness team is a small one, and the hope is that over the next year, we can grow the team as the brand expands.
What problem were you initially trying to solve, what problem did you eventually solve? and why?
I tried to find a way to reach as many people as I could who were struggling with stress and anxiety and finding it difficult to either find time to get to a therapy appointment or find a therapist who could help them. Through this process, I have written an extensive online stress management course, a CBT workbook to help stop negative thinking, and I am currently working on a stress buster guide (coming spring 2020). Everything I teach in sessions is now available online for anyone to purchase for a fraction of the price of working one-to-one.
What does your company do?
Progress Wellness has evolved into a wellness brand. As the founder and a trained therapist, I teach people anxiety and stress management skills that ultimately improve their overall well-being. We can’t get rid of stress and anxiety definitely, but we can learn how to manage it and feel more in control, especially during uncertain times! By offering online courses and workbooks, people no longer have to struggle to find help. They don’t even have to leave the office or the comfort of their own home to have access to what I teach in my individual sessions.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a new online package called The Stress-Busting Guide: How to Enhance Your Mood and Shift Your Mindset. This online package includes several printables making it easy to carry around wherever you are. The package also includes 75 stress management skills, a calendar that is specifically designed to help you stay mindful and focused, and other tools that encourage self-care and mindfulness. I am very excited about this package because it’s compact and easy to use.
What did you do right and what did you do wrong?
The most important thing I did right was finding the right team to help me build and navigate my way through something I have never done before–building a business outside of my office walls. I have no clue how to do that and without my team’s expertise and guidance, my business would not be close to the level it is today.
I am sure there is a long list of wrongs I have done, but I do see those mistakes as opportunities for learning. I think one wrong that took me a while to figure out was that I needed a new way of scheduling tasks because my old way of doing it was no longer cutting it.
As the business grew, there were naturally more demands on my time outside of my office hours. The calendar system I had was no longer an effective tool for me to stay on track and meet deadlines because the amount of work and type of work was changing. I knew what I was using was not working but felt too busy to try something new. I just kept trying to fit new demands into an old system. Now that I have corrected that, I can’t believe how much time I wasted using a bad system. But I learned!
If you could do something all over again what would you do? What were some pitfalls that you did not expect to come across and how did you move past them?
I would have built a team from the beginning, rather than waiting a year. I just didn’t know what or who was out there for someone like me, which is why it took me so long to figure out “Oh, you mean I don’t have to be alone in this?” It takes a lot of time and energy to create an online presence, draft articles and content, and understand how to do all of that while having a full-time private practice. It seemed impossible to me at one point. If I had my PR manager and editor at the starting gate, it would have significantly reduced the amount of floundering I did.
A pitfall I did not expect or really anticipate was understanding that marketing and branding work, in general, is an art form and you can’t force outcomes or predict what will work and what won’t. I set myself up for disappointment and felt very discouraged at times. It might seem obvious to some, but when you don’t have a background in marketing or building a business, you as a customer, just see the end product, not all the hard work and fails that occurred to get to the endpoint. What helped me was using some of my own coping skills to manage disappointment and expectations, and I now see the process as a fun puzzle.