Alumna creates online community for occupational therapists of color
June 14, 2023
June 14, 2023
Maynard is the founder of the Occupational Therapy Entrepreneurs of Color Community; a dynamic online community where occupational therapists of color can learn from each other and connect to support their business enterprises.
“I didn't realize it when I was stepping into the occupational therapy field, but only 5% of practitioners, out of all occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants in the United States are Black/African American,” said Maynard.
Maynard began her professional occupational therapy career in 2011. In 2017, she embarked on her first entrepreneurial journey, launching Maynard Milestones LLC as an independent contractor. Based in Jersey City, New Jersey, her mobile business provides occupational therapy services for children and their families, based on a holistic approach.
In 2021, Maynard decided to continue pursuing her educational journey with Quinnipiac’s post-professional occupational therapy doctorate program.
“I wanted to go back to Quinnipiac because I didn’t feel as though I was ‘othered’ in the occupational therapy program,” she said. “I was one of maybe a handful of students of color in my cohort; but they didn’t treat us any different than that next person. I felt included and I really liked that about the program."
When Maynard came back to Quinnipiac during her doctoral residency week, it was a memorable experience, she added.
“Initially when I was at Quinnipiac, there was only one campus and all my classes were at that one campus,” said Maynard. “Now, everything in the program is at the North Haven campus. It was nice to see that change and to experience seeing all the state-of-the-art equipment that they have and to stay in the new dorms over by York Hill campus.”
Maynard designed and launched her networking platform as her capstone project based on a need she noticed during the pandemic.
“When the pandemic occurred, I decided to network a lot online with other occupational therapy practitioners outside of New Jersey and that’s when I realized I was basically in a bubble where I am located,” she said. “Because of how diverse it is here, I come across a lot of diverse populations of clients who look like me and of families who look like me, which is rare for a person of color who is an occupational therapy practitioner in other parts of the United States.”
As she began to network with outside practitioners, Maynard also noticed a trend.
“Therapists were shifting gears and wanting to start their own private practice or their own therapy-related business, and I noticed there was not a specific online community that had occupational therapy practitioners that look like me, Black African American, or a person of color,” she said. “There wasn’t a community where those who were entrepreneurs, or who want to be, could network and have resources available.”
As a Quinnipiac undergraduate, Maynard had helped foster communities for students of color on campus. She served as secretary of the Black Student Union and was a founding member of Quinnipiac Dance Fusion, the university’s official hip-hop dance team.
“At the time, it was one of the most diverse performing arts groups on campus,” said Maynard. “I was very active in that space and with a lot of mentorship programs that we had and was a member of the board of the Black Student Union.”
Fast forward to 2022, Maynard founded the Occupational Therapy Entrepreneurs of Color Community while undertaking her Quinnipiac doctoral work.
“Our experiences as occupational therapists of color are very different from anyone who is from a non-person-of-color background,” she said. “I wanted to make sure we had that close-knit type of connection and to be able to bounce ideas off one another. I saw a need, and I answered the need.”
Maynard launched the platform with a successful two-day webinar, the Occupational Therapy Entrepreneurs of Color Conference, in May 2022.
“For panel speakers, I reached out to many different occupational therapy practitioners who have their own businesses with a variety of different backgrounds and years of experience; so that occupational therapy practitioners of color interested in going the entrepreneurship route, or who are already entrepreneurs, could hear from them and learn from their experiences,” she said.
Based on the success of the platform, Maynard is currently gathering panelists and participants for the next two-day webinar, planned for October 2023.
“I knew it was a hit and that I was on to something because of the amount of feedback I received from attendees and even from panel speakers that were able to network with other panel speakers they hadn’t been aware of,” said Maynard. “It was an amazing opportunity.”
Maynard has continued sharing resources and plans to develop more events for a growing community of members.
“Honestly, I didn’t do this on my own,” she said. “It’s really been with the help of the network that I created, not realizing so many people wanted this. It’s been a delight, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here."
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