Lauren Legere, Latitude Counselling, Vancouver
Lauren Legere tells it true when she says the road to opening her own business, Latitude Counselling, in February 2020 was a wild ride.
Starting out as an academic, Lauren’s passion for supporting people and building genuine community connections was realized during her 10 years in corporate sales. Responsible for facilitating and nurturing relationships with customers, clients and employees, she saw that everyone comes with a unique experience, with their own personal struggles. Lauren wanted to provide her support in a different, more focused way by recognizing and assisting people doing really difficult work. It was this that led her back to school to finish her Master’s in Counselling Psychology and ultimately lead to her opening her own counselling business.
“There is something magical about being able to bring people together and create that sense of belonging, connection and making people feel seen.”
She launched her business in February 2020, and shortly after opening the doors, the global pandemic hit. Unable to open her offices during the height of the pandemic in 2020, Lauren was forced to re-assess whether owning her own business was a good idea.
But she knew that a global pandemic created even more need for counselling services for those dealing with anxiety, depression, trauma, relationships and other issues that impact their mental health.
Lauren decided not to give up but instead to adapt to the changing environment. She reached out to the Unity Women Entrepreneurs Program, a partnership between Vancity and Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC) that provides financing from Vancity with free wrap-around services from WEC.
“It allowed me to keep operating Latitude to support clients who lost their jobs or loved ones as a result of COVID-19, and to offer services for free to those who really needed them.”
Through this program she was able to take advantage of Women’s Enterprise Centre Business Advising Services. She was connected with Dawn McCooey who reviewed Latitude Counselling’s business plan and helped to clarify areas of the business that Lauren was unclear about. The funding she received from the program allowed her to give up her physical location and pivot to a completely virtual online practice.
“Tara Lamond, Small Business Advisor at Vancity was such a huge support when I first started out. She believed in the work I was doing and the vision I had and became an advocate in such a big way. I am immensely grateful to both her and Cigdem Gogtas, Vancity, Business Account Manager, for all their support and assistance as we have grown to the organization we are now.
I had the absolute pleasure of working with Dawn McCooey, Business Advisor at Women’s Enterprise Centre. I cannot recommend her enough to new folks looking for some support. Dawn was kind, clear and such an advocate for the work she is doing. You can tell how passionate she is about helping other women!”
Looking to the future, Lauren hopes to hire more therapists specializing in various issues and using different approaches to help support those that find their way to Latitude.
“As the team continues to grow, so will our ability to give more back to the community through counselling, workshops and financial donations.”
Q. Why did you choose to start Latitude Counselling?
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that one of the characteristics I value the most is authenticity. When we show up as our authentic selves, we are able to attract people who align with our values and who we are.
When I started Latitude, I wanted to create a place for therapists to show up as themselves, with tattoos and funky hair, with different approaches and big laughs.
We are in the business of helping people, not in showing up and being exactly like everyone else. I knew that if I could create a space that allowed those doing the hard work of helping others to show up authentically themselves that our clients would reap the benefits.
Q. What do you feel is your greatest strength?
My greatest strength is the ability to handle change.
I worked in corporate sales for a long time and we always said the one thing that is always constant is change. In my corporate jobs, I don’t know that any of the companies I worked with ended the year the way that they had intended at the beginning.
The ability to be agile and to pivot when you need to has allowed me to be more resilient and adjust the business as the environment around us changed.
Q. What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
A global pandemic to start(!); there were a lot of things that the pandemic threw at me early on. I had to learn how to navigate a commercial lease when everything went into lockdown. I had hired a marketing agency to help me start promoting Latitude Counselling and had to end our professional relationship. I didn’t have clients coming in for the first few months of the pandemic because folks had been laid off, lost their jobs or their benefits or were scared to do virtual counselling. There was a time at the start that I really had considered if having my own practice made sense.
In all of these situations, the thing that got me through was the humans I had in my corner. I connected with a friend who was a lawyer to help me understand more of my rights. The owner of the marketing agency, Kate Fisher, became my business bestie and we leaned on each other through all of our growing pains as new businesses (with the added benefit of some marketing assistance). I consulted with a friend who is in human resources to help me create contracts and understand my role as an employer in a deeper way and I still consult her when I have questions.
Creating a sense of community is what allowed me to overcome all of the challenges I have faced so far and it’s something I really encourage all new entrepreneurs to find when first starting out.
Q. Have you had a mentor who provided guidance in your life?
Towards the end of my time in corporate sales, I was burnt out. I was struggling to be excited about the work I was doing and had reached out to one of my previous managers to talk through what I was feeling.
Jenna Franze had recently left to pursue her passions in real estate and had always been known to be a straight talker, even when it was tough to hear. She gave me the push I needed to go back and finish my Master’s and to this day, I am so incredibly grateful for her. She is still one of the people I call to bounce things off of and to have those real conversations that can be hard to find.
In my life, I have been incredibly fortunate to have had some great mentors who have taught me how to persevere when things get tough, how to adapt and pivot when changes inevitably come, how to make connections and to always show up in a way that represents the real you.
Q. If you could give one piece of advice based on your experience, what would it be?
Find your community. If you have decided to become an entrepreneur, chances are you have a lot of the skills you need or you can learn them as you go.
Having people to bounce things off of, to debrief after a long day and who get the struggles and tribulations you are going through is going to be your life raft on the days when you feel like you can’t go on.
Q. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned while being in business for yourself?
There is this belief that being an entrepreneur is super glamorous and everyone is thriving with all this freedom.
In reality, it’s lonely and while there is a lot of autonomy, there is also a lot more responsibility. I went from large teams that would have social outings, team events and activities; where people were always calling each other to check in or share what was happening for them with customers on the road to being a solo entrepreneur.
Counselling as a whole can be lonely because we aren’t able to share what is happening in our sessions (nor do we want to). Coupling that with building a business yourself, adds to that loneliness. There isn’t someone to bounce things off of or to brainstorm with when you get stuck in the thick of it. You can talk to friends or family but unless they also have gone through the same process, it can be really hard for them to understand the obstacles or challenges from the outside looking in.
One of the things I am the most thankful for is the community I have been able to build that I can go to, to share wins and lessons, to brainstorm how to overcome something and have difficult conversations about what it means to be an entrepreneur.