Moneefah Jackson found business success with her nonprofit by leaning into her community. Here are the key lessons she's learned along the way that have contributed to her sustained growth.
From a young age, Moneefah Jackson always had a big heart and the deep desire to help others in need. She was born in the British Caribbean, but later relocated with her family to New York. As an adult, she moved to Easton, Pennsylvania. Growing up, Moneefah had friends who experienced emotional and financial challenges, but were overlooked by the existing social services system. Not getting the care and attention they needed, she witnessed first hand the hardships and struggles that her peers dealt with on a daily basis, and knew that somehow, she wanted to make a difference.
These experiences left a strong impression on Moneefah and eventually led her to pursue a career in social work while attending Fordham University. Moneefah worked in the social services field for over a decade before starting her own business. Her life-long goal of serving her community and providing personalized care to those in need truly became a reality in 2019 when she opened New Day – In Home Treatment & Supportive Services, Inc. (New Day).
This organization utilizes skills-based intervention, enabling individuals and families to make positive changes in their lives. “Talk therapy may not work for everyone,” Moneefah says. “I make sure that I’m listening to my clients. By focusing on the tools and skills they can use in their daily lives, I’ve found that many of the clients I work with are better able to help themselves.”
New Day currently offers a wide range of mental health services, including counseling, in-home services, substance abuse services, and training to help parents build their children’s inner wellness in the home.
With three years of success as the executive director of New Day, here are Moneefah’s lessons for aspiring and established small business owners.
Moneefah’s 3 Strategies for Success
While the specific requirements for running a nonprofit like New Day are quite different from other types of small businesses, Moneefah stresses three important lessons that can benefit any business owner.
1. Focus on Helping Others
It’s clear that Moneefah has always been driven by a desire to help others. Since starting her business, Moneefah has dedicated her time to serving anyone in need, regardless of their financial situation. Sometimes, this means that the clients she works with are unable to pay her immediately. Moneefah still gives them the same care and attention that she provides to all of her clients, and offers support and counseling to help them overcome their challenges.
“I don’t believe in turning people away,” she explains. “I’ll take in new clients even if they don’t have the money to pay.” By prioritizing the needs of her clients above all else — even over short-term financial gain — Moneefah has built the trust among her clients and in her community that is foundational to long-term business success.
The same principle can be applied generally for businesses and organizations of all shapes and sizes. Focus your energy on building relationships and solving a genuine need for your customers with great products and services and the money will follow.
2. Prioritize Business Planning
Rome wasn’t built in a day — and neither is small business success. “It’s all about planning, writing down your agenda, and focusing on your goals,” the executive director of New Day tells us.
And she certainly walked the walk when it came to building her own business. Prior to launching New Day, Moneefah did extensive research and strategic planning on her own based on her years of experience in the social services field. Knowing full well the industry challenges and the work it would take to gain the trust of new clients, Moneefah used her knowledge to establish realistic goals and craft a written plan that would provide clear direction for her business.
She also got in touch with local small business support organizations and business lawyers for advice. But she had done so much work already to lay out her business plan that her new advisors asked her, “What are we supposed to do with you? You already did everything!”
Moneefah may have had a decade-plus of industry experience to draw on for New Day, but the emphasis she placed — and continues to place — on business planning can apply to any business owner at any stage of their journey. Having a clear vision of where you want your business to go and creating a plan for how you will achieve your objectives in the months and years ahead will serve you well no matter where your business stands today.
3. Get Involved in Your Local Community
Any successful small business or organization needs to be woven into the fabric of its local community. Moneefah stresses the importance of networking with key players in your local area, including lawyers, community groups, small business organizations, and the general public. This can be a great way to develop connections with potential clients and enhance your business’s image.
“You can’t have a successful business without knowing your community,” she says.
In addition to networking, Moneefah also gives back to others through donations, charity, and volunteering. Since moving to Pennsylvania, she has volunteered for the Red Cross, worked as a disaster response counselor, and is always looking for new ways to help people in need outside of her nonprofit activities.
Adapting in the Face of Adversity
The pandemic hit small businesses hard, especially the companies and organizations that primarily serve customers and clients face-to-face. To continue providing mental health services during the early days of pandemic lockdowns, Moneefah started offering telehealth services to all of her clients.
Moneefah also had to pivot her charitable practices. In addition to mental health services, New Day provides food and supplies to needy families. To continue making sure her clients had the resources they needed, New Day began ordering deliveries or dropping off supplies at the doorstep of clients.
Finally, New Day had to deal with another common struggle of small businesses during the COVID era: labor shortages.
After in-person home visits resumed, many of Moneefah’s employees didn’t feel comfortable performing these visits due to health and safety concerns. Again, Moneefah showcased her tenacity and willingness to put others first by performing these home visits herself to make sure her clients received the counseling they needed when they needed it.
Read More: How to Retain Staff During a Labor Shortage
Like many other small businesses across the country, New Day had to get creative to survive in unprecedented times and ultimately thrived because Moneefah was willing to adapt to changing circumstances and the evolving needs of her clients.
Moneefah is currently working full-time as an assistant to the director of another counseling organization to financially support her nonprofit. She doesn’t take home a paycheck from the proceeds of New Day. Instead, she focuses on serving the needs of her clients and employees.
Moneefah is starting law school in August of 2022. She hopes to transition to New Day full-time in the future, and use those skills to better advocate for her clients.
As she continues to grow her business and open new doors to expansion, her primary focus remains on the clients and community she serves. “If I can help just two people, that’s what makes me feel good for the day.”
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