In honor of Carolina Assessment Service’s 3 year anniversary, we decided to reminisce the amazing journey of growth and love that has made this private practice what it is today. And what better way to do that than interview the amazing women that founded this thriving business, LaNita Jefferson and Ashley Wattington.
We hope that through this interview you can gain some amazing insight on what it takes and means to create a private practice, the hardships of business, but also inspire our readers to take the leap in whatever endeavor they might be questioning. With grit, perseverance, and confidence, you can accomplish anything.
How do you think your experience building CAS from the ground up has changed you as a person?
LaNita: One thing I would take away from this whole experience is I’m able to see people for who they are and accept them for who they are and it doesn’t phase what I want to do in my life.
Ashley: Going off of that, I’ve learned there’s enough room for everyone and their personalities and thoughts. Also it’s important to find a partner that is a yes man or yes woman *she laughs*. Before this all started, I pinkie promised LaNita I’d do the PHD program with her and there was an unspoken condition of *only if you open a business with me*. We’ve always kind of wanted to open up a private practice, but we didn’t see the capacity for what it could be back then. LaNita and I started with nothing and in three years we have grown so much not just space wise, but people wise, money wise, clientele wise, education wise, we’ve done all the wises *lol* and are still growing.
Did you ever think you’d get here when you started?
LaNita: I was confident we would be successful, I just didn’t expect it to be this big. In my head I always imagined it being me, Ashley, and someone answering the phones.
Ashley: I felt the same way, at first it was scary because you’re thinking wow I can have a space and people are going to come to me for a service? I’m enough for that? There’s a lot of imposter syndrome owning a business.
LaNita: It was definitely hard at first, but we did dive right in. And I think that’s important about a business partner. It’s important that Ashley can correct me, but also I know she believes in everything I put out there. If I said I wanted to be superman, Ashley would help me come up with a plan to do that.
Ashley: And we do have a lot on our plates, but don’t you dare tell us it’s too much. I’m confident that LaNita is the only person that’s never questioned one word that’s come out of my mouth. If I said I was going to adopt 72 chickens and own a farm while being LaNita’s partner, I know she’d support me.
LaNita: Oh no doubt I’d buying up all your eggs.
So after the initial plunge, what was the process like bringing people into the CAS family?
Ashley: So let’s give you a nice storyline for Carolina Assessment Services. So our overnight decision for the LLC happened in June of 2019. We sat on the license for a while. And in October of 2019 we bought our first shared space together. We weren’t even there at the same time because we couldn’t afford it. COVID then started to happen in the beginning of 2020. Surprisingly, we decided to move offices because we had so many clients that we weren’t able to share the same space at the same time anymore.
I’m curious how you cultivated your clientele even during the pandemic?
LaNita: So we did already have a good reputation with our previous jobs and some of our clients came with us to our new practice, but I do want to point something out. One of the biggest reasons I think people are hesitant to start a private practice is because they think they need to open up with a certain number of clients. I mean rightfully so it is about money, BUT just one client is going to lead to so many more. When I look at my planner sometimes I’m like holy smokes I’m seeing over 20 clients a week… where did that come from? I was once so afraid to start a business because I didn’t have one client that I felt would pay me for my services. And that goes back to imposter syndrome and feeling like it’s out of reach. But I promise it will happen, and it will happen fast.
Ashley: During COVID though we did take 8 weeks off to work strictly from home and realized hey this isn’t us, we need a bigger space, so we found the space we’re in now in June of 2020. We started our PhD program in August of the same year. At that time, I had a student in one of my classes reach out to me about being an intern at our new practice, and that was Mandy who is still with us. She was our first hire and she’s now about to work full time for us, so it’s come full circle. Then Mandy explained she had a few colleagues that were having trouble getting direct hours, and asked if we could take on a few more people? Those people were Stephanie and Calvin who are also still with us! Katie came in last January, and by November of 2020, we expanded our space backwards and knocked the wall down to get our conference room and our kitchen. Now we have 8 offices, 2 waiting rooms, a conference room, a multipurpose room and a kitchen in a span of three years. So the timeline has been quick.
Wow. With that insane timeline in mind, tell me about the future for Carolina Assessment Services.
LaNita: My hope is that CAS continues to be a training site, but also evolves into a wellness center. I see that happening very soon.
Ashley: We’re definitely looking to get more space and that’s on the horizon.
Tell me some of your major takeaways from this entire experience.
Ashley: Take the damn risk. Because you will never know what’s on the other side if you never say yes. Bet on yourself. If you’re a hustler, you will make it work.
LaNita: Don’t focus on the glitz and glamor, but focus on how you’re going to build your foundation. It’s okay to start small.
Ashley: You can’t compare our year three to your not open space. Start where you are. We also make it clear to all our employees that if you want to leave and do your own thing, we will always help you do it. We don’t want to force you to stay here forever. This is a stomping ground.
Finally, In honor of the entrepreneurial highs and lows, I had to add this hilarious meme that Ashley and LaNita showed me after our interview.
I hope you enjoyed this insightful and celebratory collection of advice, memories and thoughts! We are so proud of our Carolina Assessment Services Family and all the hard work and love that has been put into this practice. Above all, we want you to remember to bet on yourself, take the leap, and stay dedicated. It will all pay off.
This blog was written by Lilly Hart, a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina. She currently has her bachelor of arts degree in psychology, with a minor in counseling. She has a deep passion for mental health awareness and plans to further her career in graduate school. She is now the new Administrative Assistant and Community Outreach Coordinator at Carolina Assessment Services, LLC, and can’t wait to produce new and insightful content for our readers.
If there are any other topics you’d be interesting in learning about, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always appreciative of new ideas to delve into on the blog!