Since Michea Rahman was a child, she always knew that she wanted to one day work with children. She idolized teachers, adored Sesame Street, and, unsurprisingly, grew up to become a middle school arts educator in her hometown of Houston, Texas. One day, a fellow teacher asked Michea if she’d be willing to work with her autistic students on a theatrical performance. It was a life-changing experience. Michea got to know the students’ speech therapist, and, long story short, she fell in love with it.
The experience filled Michea with excitement and led her to alter her career trajectory. The Howard University alumna enrolled in a graduate program at Texas Woman’s University (TWU) and set out to research what would be the most effective way to blend language and services with children with autism and language delay. It was through her clinical placements at TWU that Michea discovered that she had an innate talent for working with young children as a speech-language pathologist.
While she continued to gain skills and learn techniques in early intervention clinics for medically fragile children, Michea realized that there was a tremendous need in her community: kids from underserved and underrepresented neighborhoods didn’t have access to quality services where they lived. Instead, they had to leave their neighborhoods and travel to more affluent parts of Houston to see a speech pathologist, which placed pressure on parents who were already strapped for time and resources. “There was this need,” Michea said, “and I thought there has to be a way to bring convenient, quality services to children where their families don’t have to leave their neighborhood and sit in traffic and get stressed out to be there on time.”
In late 2018, with the support of her husband and 13-year-old daughter, Michea opened the Children’s Language Center, where she could offer sensory-based play to children with language delay and autism at price-per-sessions much lower than elsewhere in the city. For Michea, she wanted to prove that she could blend quality care and affordability in a clinic located in the same underserved community where she was born and raised. “Personally, if I want other people to make investments in my community and to respect my community and to make these kinds of services more accessible,” she said, “I felt like then I needed to do it too. You need to practice what you preach.”
We’re In This Together
Whereas Michea admits that it took some time for her clinic to get up and running, February 2020 was easily her best month. Within a month’s time, however, her business ground to a halt. As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, Michea was faced with cancellation after cancellation until the lockdown effectively shuttered her business. According to her, she was woefully unprepared.
That’s when Michea saw an advertisement for TruFund about a business resiliency course. TruFund is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that invests in small businesses in New York, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. CNote partners with CDFIs like TruFund in communities across the country, funding loans to small businesses, and empowering local entrepreneurs like Michea.
Although Michea thought that it would be ironic to take a class on business resiliency while at the same time thinking about closing her clinic, she signed up. During the first session, Michea was so stressed and nervous, that she put on her headphones and began to clean her house while listening to the call. By the end of it, however, she was sitting on the chair in her bedroom crying. “They weren’t sad tears,” she said. “That call gave me so much hope. Until then, I felt like the only one going through the pandemic and that I was losing everything. But TruFund was saying I wasn’t alone, and that was beautiful.”
That night, Michea sent TruFund an email. Like other entrepreneurs enrolled in the CDFI’s resiliency class, she was able to receive real-time information about PPP loans, and she was able to get everything that she needed in order so that when the time came to apply for assistance, she was ready to go. In the end, Michea received her PPP loan from TruFund, and although the amount wasn’t much, it was enough to give her business the momentum it needed to survive.
Another source of motivation, however, was her teenage daughter, who dealt Michea the tough words that she needed to hear in those trying times. “I told her that I thought I’d need to close the clinic, and she said ‘if you’re going to give up and it’s that easy for you to give up, then call all of your playmates and tell them you just gave up and they have nowhere to go after this,’” Michea said. “It was hard to hear from a child because of course, I don’t have the courage to make that phone call, but I raised her like that, and I was proud of her for giving me that swift kick in my emotions and reminding me that failure was not an option.”
With the financial support and resiliency plan from TruFund, along with the tough love from her daughter, Michea pushed forward into 2020 with a renewed sense of purpose. Because she couldn’t provide her services online, she secured the personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies she needed to safely reopen her clinic. After the resiliency class ended, Michea took a marketing class through TruFund, which helped her to begin to grow her business. Additionally, because so many people lost their jobs in the early months of the pandemic, families who didn’t live around the Children’s Language Center came to Michea’s clinic, because hers was the only one in Houston that they could afford on a single income.
Today, Michea’s clinic is not only thriving, it’s doing better than ever before the pandemic started. She is both hiring her first full-time staff member and looking for a larger space so that she can expand and serve even more families in her community. “I’m just so fortunate,” she said, “and I feel proud and excited. I really have TruFund to thank, because I was drowning in the ocean, and they saved me.”
Going forward, Michea wants to continue to grow the Children’s Language Center and expand into other underserved areas in Houston — and beyond. She’s driven, in part, by the same sense of togetherness and camaraderie that she received from TruFund.
“If we can’t give parents hope, then what are we here for?” Michea said. “I tell parents that we’re in this together and that I’m invested in their child’s growth, because their growth is my growth and Houston’s growth, and our city gets better when our children get better.”
- Children’s Language Center has a mission to provide quality pediatric speech therapy services to children while bringing hope to families and strengthening our collective communities.
- TruFund – is a 501 (c) 3 certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) headquartered in New York City with field offices in Alabama and Louisiana. TruFund tailors its financial and technical assistance to the unique needs of each site—from contractor mobilization lending in New York and Louisiana to rural Black Belt initiatives in Alabama.
- CNote – Interested in helping create another story like Michea’s? CNote makes it easy to invest in great CDFIs like TruFund, helping you earn more while having a positive impact on businesses and communities across America.