During National Black Business Month, Regions Bank is highlighting the powerful difference Black entrepreneurs make in our communities. We recently shared Regions’ longtime support of the National Urban League Conference. Here, we spotlight a Texas entrepreneur helping others to begin healing thanks to support she received from nonprofit PeopleFund. Read more about the ways Wayneisha Walker is promoting mental wellness and how the Regions Foundation, a nonprofit initiative primarily funded by Regions Bank, is elevating small-business owners like her.
“Just show up and deliver hope – one day at a time, one session at a time.”
It’s the compassionate approach Wayneisha Walker followed when caring for dialysis patients. And it’s the same philosophy Walker brings to therapy clients at her own business today. Inherent Wellness is a mental health counseling center Walker founded in Houston, Texas.
“I always knew I would work with and help people,” said Walker. “It’s been my life; it’s always been in my heart.”
The mental wellness field proved a natural fit for Walker long before she became a licensed social worker. Her informal counseling role began growing up in a blended family of six siblings.
“I was the one to be in the mix; I’ve always been that person,” she said. And she’s the one people felt comfortable with when it came to sharing their troubles.
“People talk to me everywhere,” she said. “I’ve talked to so many complete strangers.”
Those one-on-one conversations come naturally, but the idea of pitching a business expansion plan for Inherent Wellness to a group of financial and management experts? That was a slightly different story.
“I got anxious,” she said. “But when I did it, it just came naturally. I believe in this vision.”
Walker learned PeopleFund also believes in her vision. The community development financial institution (CDFI) supports underserved small-business owners across Texas through educational programs, technical resources, and loans.
Walker graduated from the eight-week program in June. Delivering that pitch was the last step after developing her business plan.
“Launching a small business is challenging; scaling one to the next level can seem impossible, but the message is there are people and organizations who are invested in helping you succeed,” said Marta Self, executive director of the Regions Foundation. “PeopleFund’s Small-Business Accelerator is truly leveling the playing field, connecting entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds with amazing resources.”
Walker discovered PeopleFund while grabbing her morning smoothie. After learning about the BIPOC Accelerator, the Las Vegas native decided to take a chance on applying, hopeful PeopleFund would do the same on her.
“I literally completed the application on my phone in the car,” Walker said. “I then went about my days. When I learned I’d been accepted, I thought, ‘Oh, the thing!’
She quickly realized just how transformational ‘the thing’ could be for her business.
“This is such an excellent program, I couldn’t believe that it’s free,” said Walker. “The only thing I’m giving is my time. And I decided that even though this will take time, they want me.”
Walker has always considered time a precious commodity. She opened Inherent Wellness in January of 2020. Along with launching the business, she continued to work in the medical field during the pandemic’s early days. Being a caregiver in both roles wasn’t easy.
“We had some of the most fragile people already,” she said of her dialysis patients. “People needed help. It was a struggle.”
Walker’s therapy clients were also experiencing struggles due to COVID.
“When the pandemic began, people’s mental health really plummeted,” recalled Walker. “We saw anxiety, depression, financial insecurity due to job loss, and family and relational issues.”
Walker even faced her own struggles after contracting the virus. But she continued seeing clients virtually.
“This is God’s work,” Walker said. “I’ve come to work on days when I’ve been at my lowest and put my ‘whatever’ on pause because people need it.”
Walker’s sessions with Inherent Wellness clients often explore growth. Walker’s journey during the BIPOC Accelerator was focused on the same for Inherent Wellness.
There to support Walker? Anthony Lopez, a small business specialist with PeopleFund.
“Wayneisha wanted to expand her business, but she had trouble trying to take the next step,” said Lopez. “We helped her identify her current business model, and once it was defined, it was easy for her to do so.”
“Anthony asked me, ‘What’s the problem you’re going to solve?’” said Walker. “I knew what I was trying to do. There were times where I was like, ‘Oh, I missed a step.’ If I had known about this sooner, I wouldn’t have had to go through that.”
Lopez was also there to offer encouragement during any moments of doubt.
“Anthony is really reassuring; he’s like a bright spirit,” said Walker. “He has an interest in me doing something great. When things came together and I was able to present my plan to Anthony, he was really affirming and proud of me. I didn’t know I needed that.”
“We had three business advisory sessions to discuss her plan, and I could feel Wayneisha’s confidence level grow with each session,” added Lopez. “Once she defined her business model and goals, she became very confident in herself and her business.”
“I learned that I’m courageous because I’m willing to take risks,” Walker summarized. “I’m willing to try things. I don’t know what it looks like but I’m going to try it.”
Walker’s confidence is taking her and Inherent Wellness to new heights.
She’s currently earning her doctoral degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She’s also been approved for a PeopleFund loan to expand her practice. Walker’s plans include evolving it into a “wellness collective” offering various avenues of healing beyond therapy, including yoga, massage and Reiki operating under the slogan, “Let’s heal.”
And Walker is wide open to other possibilities as well.
“Maybe one day I’ll be able to be a speaker for PeopleFund,” she said.
If Walker has that chance, one thing’s for sure: she will show up delivering hope to program participants, one session at a time.
Read additional stories highlighting the Regions Foundation and Regions Bank’s commitment to supporting Black business owners.