The Challey Institute for Global Innovation & Growth and Emerging Prairie worked together this past year to empower 10 New American entrepreneurs as part of The Challey Institute’s New American Entrepreneur program. The six-month program aimed to accelerate their growth in the Fargo-Moorhead area by connecting them to capital, community and technology resources. In order to further champion the program’s participants, we will be featuring members of the program and their stories.
Similoluwa Kasakwe founder of Motherland Health, a company working to increase access to mental health care started her company in August of 2018. Her journey to entrepreneurship started much earlier in Nigeria. We sat down with her to learn more about why she does what she does.
Tell me about Motherland Health.
Motherland Health is my passion project and something I’ve always wanted to do. I struggled with mental health as a child and my family struggled more with finances and I never felt like my mental health was worth my mom having to choose between that and feeding me and my siblings. I felt like nobody should have to make that choice.
What was going on in your life when you started the business? Was it a snap decision or was it something you were building to?
I was definitely building up to it. When things were coming together, I was on maternity leave from work so I was able to focus on getting things set up, filing the right documents, begin thinking about who I wanted on my team, and start working on spreading the word about the project.
What did you do prior to starting the business?
Before, and currently, I work for the State of ND.
How did the lack of access to mental health services affect your family?
The lack of access to Mental Health was crippling for me as a child. I found solace in a school counselor that saw me before I ever saw myself and told me the things I needed to hear about in order to better myself. With working with someone in the school system, I didn’t need to bring my family into it unless I was ready. It gave me time to figure out what I needed to say and to be comfortable with the process of seeking professional help. By the time I got to college, I was able to do it on my own. My high school counselor saved my life.
One of your dreams is to have an office open in rural North Dakota and Minnesota, why is it important to you to support our rural areas?
There is so much focus on bringing much needed help to populated areas because of the misconception that small towns don’t need that much help. We think because they have a population of 500, one of every specialty should be sufficient. But rural areas need variety just as much as big cities, if not more, because they are miles away from bigger towns and might feel trapped. That can do a lot of damage to mental health