By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
When she opened her counseling office in May, Jessica Bolin Edwards said she worried that it might not work out. “I felt like I would fail,’’ she admitted.
Eight months later, Edwards has 50 clients and a waiting list, has moved into a larger office in the Cumberland Business Incubator operated by Roane State, and hopes to hire another therapist this year.
“I knew I was a good therapist, and I’m learning to be proud of myself,” Edwards said.
She’s the owner of Focus Forward Counseling. She advises clients coping with depression, trauma, and anxiety.
A Roane State graduate, Edwards said the community college and the help she received years later from CBI director Holly Hanson made all the difference.
“I loved Roane State,” she said. “I felt very supported when I needed help.” A general psychology class at the community college was inspirational, she said. “It was when I decided counseling was what I was going to do.”
Hanson in turn describes Edwards as a “rock star RSCC student to CBI entrepreneur success story.” The CBI, which nurtures startup businesses and offers workshops for fledgling entrepreneurs, is next door to the community college’s Cumberland County Campus on Cook Road.
Edwards’ path to success wasn’t easy. She was pursuing a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Lincoln Memorial University when her husband died by suicide, leaving her a widowed mom to three young children. “I really, really struggled,” she said.
“A lot of people supported me who wouldn’t let me quit,” Edwards said.
After earning her master’s degree, Edwards worked for mobile crisis and a few agencies in Tennessee. “Each place I worked for was very rewarding, but it was also impossible to balance with being a single mom.”
Edwards has since remarried and is a mother to a blended family of six. After completing the long process of obtaining her counseling license, Edwards knew it was time to try something different. She said her late husband’s dream “was for me to own my own business.” She said she asked on social media about offices to rent in the Crossville area and a respondent suggested contacting the CBI.
Edwards met CBI Director Holly Hanson in early May. “I walked into her office and told her I don’t think I can do this, but my family was pushing me to try.”
“Holly told me what I needed to start,” she said, and a week later, she was in business. Edwards still gets advice on a regular basis from Hanson, and local businessman Michael Meaney donated time to be a mentor. “They helped walk me through what could make me successful.”
If asked about starting a new business, Edwards has this advice: “Take the jump,” she said. “There’s so much support here (at the CBI), I don’t see how a business can fail.”
For more information on available services through Roane State’s Cumberland Business Incubator, visit roanestate.edu/CBI or cumberlandincubator.com.