Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Camille Kolu, Ph.D., BCBA-D, CEO of Cusp Emergence, located in Berthoud, CO, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Essentially, my business teaches passionate professionals to level up their own practices. My business Cusp Emergence University serves teachers, parents, caregivers, and other behavioral scientists. My customers are often skilled in their everyday jobs, including parenting, teaching, supervising others, or helping folks learn new skills. But if they're coming to me, they all have one thing in common… they want to learn how to be more trauma-informed in their practices with other people. I offer public speaking, consultation, supervision, and, most of all, continuing education and coursework, helping folks better integrate an awareness of trauma and history in the work we all do with other people.

Tell us about yourself

I absolutely love the field I practice in - I'm a behavioral scientist who really enjoys learning about people and then applying that information to help them be their best selves. I started as a behavior analyst when a young lady with Rett's Syndrome needed a helper and someone to assist her parents daily. I cared about her deeply, and when she passed away, I jumped into the field of behavior analysis and got a Ph.D. to understand more about the brain and some of the differences that can happen as a result of things like our brains, our upbringing, our ancestral experiences, and our environments. I enjoyed my work, whether in schools, autism centers, nursing homes, universities, or hospitals.

Then one day, several years ago, folks were having an online argument about the relevance of history: does it matter that a client has gone through abuse, war, repeated foster care placements, and so on? Many on that online thread said, "no, you just need to treat the behavior… if the child is acting out for attention, make sure you turn off that attention until he's being "good" again." At the same time, people in the autism community began sharing that some behavior analyses had actually harmed them and that scientists were actively ignoring their cries for help and their stories of harm. What!? I could never live that way, and I noticed that everywhere around me, clients were being turned off (and turned away!) by an approach that looked only at the "acting out" and not at the human being and history behind it. I wrote a blog post about how it was absolutely possible to treat behavioral needs AND at the same time to be human, compassionate, kind, and supportive… and Cusp Emergence's focus on trauma was born. Now, instead of sitting and working with a child on his reading, I'm working with the company's owner to give them a new direction, focus, skills, and how they will treat EVERYONE they support. This continues to motivate me every day to be able to change the lives of life changers.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Moving to a model of generating primarily passive income has been my biggest accomplishment. As I began a family through an arduous and time-consuming process of treatments focusing first on my own health, I realized that huge changes would be needed in my career if I were to facilitate growth in both my fledgling business and a hoped-for family. There was a time when I commuted two hours one way in Denver traffic to lead a company doing great things, but that time had passed, although I remained quite passionate about my work. I set a goal for five years in the future when my work would move primarily online. I would be able to be more self-sustaining, building and selling on-demand courses that still rewarded passionate behavior analysts, teachers, and caregivers with great content they needed and wanted to pay for. I am proud that I put my plan into action and accomplished this goal!

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

You must hear the word balance from everyone, but it's close to the truth! Finding balance is hard. But I think the hardest part is dealing with change. Of course, we get great at different times in life at keeping a personal wellness practice alive while running a business. What happens when a parent ages or someone passes away, COVID hits, the kids come home for the summer, the dog needs surgery, or the funding streams dry up… there are a million possibilities. Can we plan for them all? Should we? How can we retain balance? My personal answer is that one of the hardest things that comes is also one of the most meaningful things we can master. Truthfully, this is the case whether we own a business or not: Flexibility is one of the hardest but also meaningful things we MUST embrace. Fortunately, both flexibility (and distress tolerance!) skills can be learned. They change the hardest thing to one of the most meaningful ones and can transform your life and business!

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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