August 23, 2022

"Ok, But How" with Founder Kelsey Joson of InControl

We talk to Kelsey Joson about how the Covid-19 pandemic pushed her to launch her company, InControl


Elyse Ash

Elyse: What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Kelsey: When I was little I always wanted to be a teacher; I loved influencing and teaching people and I practiced often with my younger siblings. As I grew older that turned into a sports broadcaster as I began to develop a love for sports, being social and getting to know people. I really had no idea I would become an entrepreneur until the age of 18. Life always has a way of working together for your good.

I now see that all of the things I was passionate about are incorporated in the work I do in such a beautiful way.

Elyse: How did you get the idea for InControl?

Kelsey: The idea for InControl evolved over a span of seven years. It started when I was 18-years-old while working as a part-time bus aide for routes that would take students with disabilities to summer school. I got super attached to the students on my route and they were turning 21 that year. I began to ask what they would do once they turned 21? The response was to work, attend day programs, live in group homes or live at home with their family.

I began to ask more questions like, who keeps them active? How do they focus on their health? Who teaches them how to live well? The answer was disappointing. I was told if their guardians/caregivers were passionate about wellness then they would receive the wellness they deserve. That did not sit well with me and it was at that moment that I knew I needed to do something about this problem, because adults with disabilities deserve to live well. 

Our company slogan is, “Believing you can do all things.” This is a faith-based slogan that means wellness is a very personal, ever-changing journey for everyone. Therefore the definition of “all things” looks different for each and every person. We believe our clients can do all things (however they define it according to their needs) and we provide the support, guidance and encouragement they need until they believe it too!

CEO and Founder, Kelsey Joson, posing and smiling with an InControl client

Elyse: Ok, but how did you start building InControl? What pieces did you build first? How did you fund those first phases?

Kelsey: Before I started building InControl I decided to go to school to receive the education I needed to work with people with disabilities. I got my masters degree in physical education, health education, and adapted physical education.

After three years of teaching I decided to start working part-time as a teacher and part-time on InControl, because I was addicted to perfecting the craft (what I was going to sell) before I launched the business. At the same time I was doing this, I was accepted into the start up cohort at Women Venture. It was there that I developed the business plan and concept for InControl. 

What actually pushed me to launch my product was our lockdown during Covid-19. All of these adults in the disabled community were now isolated and stuck in their homes with little to no support with wellness.

I began creating a free newsletter that I would blast out to group homes that included activities they could do in the house for four different pillars of wellness: physical wellness, spiritual wellness, nutrition education and social wellness.

This concept actually required me to pivot my initial business plan and meet my target population where they were: at home. This was the birth of our current program.

The funding for all of this came out of pocket and through a credit card. I totaled the cost for the Women Venture program and registering my business with the state, charged it to the credit card and worked extra shifts at multiple part-time jobs to pay it off. Everything was out-of-pocket up until last year, but it was all a financial sacrifice I needed to make in order to grow.

Elyse: When did you decide to pursue InControl full-time? When were you able to start paying yourself a salary and how did that feel?

Kelsey: I began to pursue and InControl full-time June 2021. Teaching over Covid and working on this part-time was extremely stressful and overwhelming. I hit a point where I had to decide between teaching or InControl. It was a huge leap of faith but I felt like the Lord told me that it was time to pursue what I was called to do. It has been the greatest blessing and greatest hardship I have ever endured. 

I was able to start paying myself a salary two months ago. There is no greater feeling than all of your sweat, tears and passion now funding your lifestyle.

I have never felt like I have been in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, and what I was called to do more than now. It is very liberating.

Elyse: What has been your biggest success with InControl?

Kelsey: The biggest success that InControl has experienced over the last year has been securing the most wonderful staff that loves our clients and loves what they do. The program would not be as successful as it is without them. Our clients and families feel so loved every time a staff member leaves their home and that is true success. Because of this, we have been steadily growing every month and our clients continue to refer other people to our program. I truly believe that the way our staff cares for our clients, contributes to the success that we have had this last year. 

6 InControl clients standing outside posing for the camera and showing their muscles

Elyse: Where or how have you gotten stuck growing InControl?

Kelsey: The most consistent thing that we  get stuck on is securing funding to scale. There are some initiatives that require capital upfront and it has been very hard to secure funding. As a new business, there are many roadblocks put in our way. Oftentimes the odds are not in our favor when working to secure business loans, lines of credit and even credit cards.

This can become exhausting because it continuously requires you to pitch your company to investors/banks and hope and pray you say the right things, have the right numbers and demonstrate the perfect amount of passion and grit for them to take a chance with you. It can be very defeating, but I am so passionate about serving adults with disabilities.

Every day I encounter some systemic barrier that prevents them from living a life they deserve and this fuels me to keep banging at the door until it opens. 
An adorable little girl smiles at the camera while wearing a gray t-shirt that says, "I can do all things" with the InControl logo

Elyse: What are some challenges that come with being a solopreneur? What are some of the benefits?

Kelsey: The biggest challenge that comes with being a solopreneur is that you are everything to every piece of business. Especially in the start-up phase if you go down with a cold or want to take a vacation? Business stops.

It becomes very taxing and if you do not have proper boundaries in place you will find yourself working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I did this the first few months because I was so excited to be a full-time entrepreneur, but I quickly learned that I was suffering in many other areas of life. 

The greatest benefit is that your work life is no longer governed by rules someone else put in place. You are allowed to innovate to your heart's desire. You are allowed to change as many times as you see fit and you are allowed to create freely without restrictions. I really struggled in previous jobs not having the space to create change to the degree I felt necessary. So for someone like me, this is true freedom.

Kelsey Joson wearing a white sweatshirt that says, "Minding My Black Owned Business"

Elyse: What advice do you have for first-time founders in general? What do you wish you could tell younger you?

Kelsey: I have two pieces of advice for first-time founders.

The first piece of advice is to make sure that you are passionate about what you’re pursuing. Being a first-time founder might be one of the most difficult and lonely jobs in the world.

You have to have something that drives you every single day, that gets you out of bed, that ignites a fire inside of you to push past difficult situations, obstacles and your own self-sabotaging thoughts that come and go throughout the process. If you are passionate and have purpose behind what you do, you will have the intrinsic motivation to keep going. 

The second piece of advice is to never be too proud to ask questions that you don’t know the answer to. One of the hardest things of entrepreneurship is all of the things you don’t know and all of the questions you don’t know you should be asking.

Have a group of people that you trust and allow them to help guide you through the process.

If you don’t know anything about bookkeeping, find a bookkeeper. If you don’t know anything about insurance, call someone who works in that industry. If you don’t know anything about employee benefits, call someone in HR. Do not try to become an expert in everything, because this actually slows the growth of your company. Seek help from people who spend their whole lives doing what you’re trying to learn.

I would tell the younger me to not get so discouraged at the first “no”. What I have learned, is that a NO for one opportunity does not mean stop and shut down, it just means find an other route.

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Elyse Ash is a marketer, creative, writer, speaker, founder and loud laugher. In her free time she enjoys playing with her kiddos, going to new restaurants, reading and pretending she’s into yoga.