Lady Bosses I Love: Courtney Gessin
Courtney is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We grew up together, which means we've gone from having sleepovers and talking about boys, to launching businesses and having daughters of our own (who have become friends!). Courtney has a pretty incredible professional story that started back when we were in high school. Courtney was recommended by the principal of our school to work with a young woman who had experienced a stroke and lost much of her speech function. Their work together sparked something for Courtney, and she pursued a degree in speech therapy in college.
I've watched her chase this dream since we were 18, and it's been so incredible to not only watch her achieve her goals, but surpass them. She's built a warm, wonderful speech center in Manhattan called Communication Clubhouse. She works with children of all ages, specializing in helping kids develop confident communication and social skills
Courtney Gessin: Communication Clubhouse
What is the name of your company and what do you do?
I am the proud owner of Communication Clubhouse, a boutique speech, language, and learning center in Manhattan. I am trained as a speech-language pathologist, specializing in the development of effective communication skills, including articulation of sounds, conversation skills, verbal expression, comprehension, social skills, and academic readiness. I work with children, parents, and teachers to provide strategies and direct instruction to establish and enhance confidence and skills.
How long have you been in business?
Communication Clubhouse, LLC opened its doors in Manhattan in 2012. Before the founding of this space, I was a traveling clinician. Through my work in the NYC Early Intervention program, consulting and providing therapy to children within preschools and elementary schools around the city, working with children and families in their NYC homes, and helping to launch a special needs middle school, I met so many wonderful people who ended up supporting me when I chose to take my career to the next level.
How did you decide to launch your own business?
Launching my own business was a bit of an organic decision. I was starting to burn out traveling between clients, making all those home visits and the dream of having my own space was the springboard that launched Communication Clubhouse into reality. The fact that my therapeutic toys and books were overtaking my apartment, probably factored in there too! I would often find myself daydreaming of what my “office” would look like: dozens of books, a cozy tent, tons of arts and crafts supplies, games and toys organized just so, and a huge dry-erase white board. Plus, with all the time I could save by having kids come to me instead of jetting all over the city meant that I would actually be able to help more children in the long run.
What challenges did you face in the process of launching your business?
I wear all the hats for the business, which is a challenge I gladly accept. My primary role as educator and therapist sits atop my other roles as secretary, schedule coordinator, invoice specialist, and clean up crew! I have been the most resistant to the role of billing, however, which involves creating, sending, and following up on invoices. Because I find so much enjoyment in the hands-on, clinical component of my job, I sort of push this less desirable aspect to the wayside. A wise teacher once preached, “Don’t fight it, just accept it.” Though his advice was related to trigonometry, it rings true in many circumstances. I’m working on accepting the parts of business ownership that are less joyful for me.
Did you feel as though there were resources available to you, specifically as a woman business owner?
I’ve been lucky to have both of my mothers-in-law serve as resources for me throughout the process, as they both achieved independent success in business. Rona (my husband's mother) is a jewelry designer and manufacturer and Marilyn (my husband's stepmother) is a property manager, and they both understand the experience of starting, and running, your own business. Just recently, Marilyn was recounting how her own mother, upon hearing about her daughter’s new job, asked: “So, how are they treating you? How are they paying you?” And the response, of course, was, “There is no ‘they!’ It’s me!”
I have to admit that my husband, Chad, has been an invaluable resource for me, supporting me in all the aspects of the job that are outside my areas of expertise. There would be no Communication Clubhouse without his loving support and business acumen. Additionally, the mentorship of all the dedicated educational professionals who guided me throughout the years has served as a deep resource of confidence.
Do you have a mentor?
I find daily mentorship in the huge online community of Speech-Language Pathologists, teachers, and therapists. By sharing creative therapy ideas, motivational quotes, resources and success stories, I feel continuously connected and inspired.
Books you recommend?
I constantly return to How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, by Adele Fabre and Elaine Mazlish. I think their message is as profound now as it was when the book was published 30+ years ago. It all comes down to connection and empathy. Get down on the same level as your child, look them in the eye, and listen! Keep your expectations in check. As a parent of an almost 4-year-old girl, I have found so many excellent strategies in the follow up book, How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen... written by Adele Faber’s daughter and her childhood friend, Joanna Fabre and Julie King. These lessons will not only improve your communication skills with your children, but will help you take a closer look at your interpersonal communication skills in general.
What do you love most about running your own business?
I love being able to make my own schedule! I am so grateful for the special mornings I get to share with my daughter as well as the time I carve out for fitness (I love Pilates, strength training, yoga, and I’ve recently taken up running). I’ve also tremendously enjoyed creating the physical space that is Communication Clubhouse, curating all the toys, books, and furniture in my own style.
What is your least favorite aspect of running your own business?
Due to the fact that my business is just me, it’s hard having to turn potential clients away because I have no time left in my schedule.
What is your best piece of advice for other women who are thinking about launching a business?
I feel like I’m talking to myself right now, as I’m getting ready to take Communication Clubhouse to the next level (stay tuned!). For me, the word “launch” connotes a powerful action. In fact, one of the definitions for this verb is: to burst out boldly into action. Wow, right!? To all you women out there thinking about LAUNCHING a business, I say, spread your wings and fly! If not you, then who?!