Sparq-ing Entrepreneurs: Meet Aleigh Miranda, Advocate for Personal Evolution

10 minute read

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If you don’t know Sparq, it’s a startup and small business launch pad located in the heart of Innovation Quarter at Bailey Power Plant, providing space and amenities to help companies that are getting their start. This series explores the diverse endeavors that get a “spark” from this iQ resource.

These days, Aleigh Miranda describes herself professionally as a “party of one,” which is a very welcome change.

Miranda is a licensed mental health counselor, who runs her own private practice out of Sparq, providing therapy for clients struggling with relationships of all kinds–romantic, familial, and friendly–or working through their own particular brands of anxiety.

She didn’t always work for herself, however. In fact, therapy is not even Miranda’s first career.

Originally from Winston-Salem, Miranda spent more than a decade living in New York City after graduating from college. In a not unfamiliar storyline, she moved back to Winston-Salem when she and her husband were expecting their first child. She was looking for a core support system that she could call on, or what Miranda calls her “emergency team.”

“And we are so glad that we did,” Miranda says. “It made the transition to becoming parents so much easier, and we’ve had to pull the emergency brake so many times!”

Those years in New York City featured a turning point in Miranda’s career, one that would launch her into a completely new industry–and into entrepreneurship. Miranda shared how she made a risky career pivot and found the right fit for her passions and her family by taking the leap into private practice and being a small business owner.

Q: Did you have a different gig before getting into therapy?

A: I first worked in advertising when I lived in New York, including roles in account management and strategy. I found that advertising wasn’t–to put it in a soft way–as fulfilling as I wanted it to be.

My mom was my catalyst to become a therapist. In her 50s, she sought therapy out as a second career. She had worked in the business world and felt disillusioned and unfulfilled, feelings that I deeply related to. So, she made a change and became a therapist. The more I talked to her, the more intrigued and fascinated I became with the work she was doing. I started to speak with therapists directly, and the more conversations I had, the more I felt like I was talking to my people. I decided to make a massive pivot and take on the risk and challenge of graduate school. On the other side, I can say that it was worth it. I love, love, love the work that I’m doing now.

Q: Why did you decide to start your own practice?

A: When you start a second career, you have the benefit of lessons learned from the first one. I feel like a person who was born to be their own boss. Being in control of my time at all moments is an excellent match for my personality and desires, as I’m sure it is for a lot of entrepreneurs

Q: What are the areas of therapy that you focus on?

A: Relationship dynamics are the bread and butter of what I do. I work with individuals, couples, and families on relationships of any kind: romantic partners, family, and friends.

I also work with people struggling with varying degrees of anxiety. Anxiety can show up in a lot of different forms; there are many different brands of it. I help anxious people feel less anxious in a really challenging world.

Q: In your opinion, what does it take to be innovative as a therapist?

A: The reality is that the world is always evolving, so the human experience is always changing, and therapists have to adapt with it. Innovation is keeping up with how the world is affecting people and adjusting your approach.

For example, we didn’t always live in a 24/7 news cycle. Now we do. Not that long ago, social media didn’t exist. Now it does. All of a sudden, the human experience is massively impacted by the things that we are consuming and the speed at which we’re consuming them. You might think that these things would be outside of the therapy realm, but I see them impacting people in really raw, intimate ways on a day-to-day basis.

As a therapist, I have to understand how to help people counteract those negative impacts and adjust their behavior so that they can feel more calm and at peace, even though these influences are making that more challenging. It’s not what you might think of as traditional innovation, but I think it’s what innovation looks like in my work.

Aleigh Miranda’s practice is completely virtual at this point and long distance, as her clients are still largely New York-based. She explained how she started working out of the iQ and some of the things that she’s learned from striking out on her own and becoming an entrepreneur. 

Q: What “Sparq-ed” your interest in the Innovation Quarter?

A: Both my husband and I work from home. When we moved to Winston, we wanted to be able to work around people and experience the city, so we sought out a coworking space. We toured Sparq and thought it was the best-designed coworking space in Winston. We love the iQ area and the access to Bailey Park, so we rented an office in Sparq and now we tag-team going into our office on different days. 

Q: What resources have really helped you as an entrepreneur and small business owner?

A: You would probably hear this from a lot of small business owners out there: networking is critical. Networking, word-of-mouth, and colleague referrals are how you generate business. It’s kind of weird to call it “business,” as a therapist, but it’s true. You need people to know that you exist and that you are a great therapist, and a lot of that happens through friends and colleagues who can attest to your work. Most of my clients come through people that I’m currently working with or colleagues that I know, so staying in touch with your network is critical in trying to keep the business thriving.

Q: What is your favorite spot or activity in the iQ?

A: I think that Six Hundred° is one of the best restaurants in Winston. I became a big foodie, basically, by living in New York for a decade and being married to one. We miss the food culture that New York offers, but Six Hundred° is not just delicious–it’s  inventive. I appreciate their commitment to creativity and craft.

Q: What is your favorite bit of advice that you give someone who is thinking about entrepreneurship?

A: I’ve had an amazing experience being an entrepreneur. I think it’s an incredible way to work, especially after becoming a mom. It’s a great resource for my family. It gives me some flexibility to meet the needs of my family that doesn’t come with other jobs, so I would generally advise people to take a risk and do it.

But Miranda is a therapist first, so she adds:

Keep in mind, however, that people have different brands of anxiety. Everyone’s risk tolerance is different. Running a business isn’t something that makes me particularly anxious. My advice to people thinking about entrepreneurship would be to consider your risk tolerance, and then take the leap once you know your limits.

Since therapy was a second career for Miranda, we asked about her dreams and aspirations–not just for her future, but also from the past.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?

A: I don’t think I knew. I didn’t have a lot of direction, so I fell into a career that was absolutely not a match for me. The decision to change careers led to spending three years of my life in graduate school, while also working a job I despised. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I’m ecstatic, but those three years of misery remain seared into my brain. 

If I could go back to my younger self, I would say, “Be thoughtful and considerate about what you enjoy, what you are interested in. It will save you a great deal of suffering.”

Q: Onto your current dream job: In five years, where do you see your practice?

A: For me, the business model I have now is sustainable for me, and I hope to be doing this exact same thing for a long time. I think it’s rare for people in this world to feel that way; I consider myself incredibly lucky. However, if there’s ever a point where I want something more dynamic, where I want a new challenge, I can imagine taking on a supervisory or mentorship role, bringing on interns or employees to mentor. 

As a therapist, you learn so much about the human experience every day, and I feel like I have a lot to say, just not the time or vehicle for saying it. In five years, maybe I’ll be in a place where I have the time to write some essays and get them out into the world. Maybe not in five years, but sometime in the future, I’d also like to write a book. 

Q: If you were going to write a headline about your company, how would it read?

A: Therapist Artfully Pushes Clients Toward Evolution

This is why I would pick that headline: I have a lot of clients come to me and say that they had therapists who were really gentle and kind, and they were able to achieve catharsis by laying out everything that was happening in their lives. The clients would also say that nothing really ever happened as a result.

I believe that it is important to challenge the rationalizations that we have in our own heads for the behaviors we’ve been stuck in for a long time. Those rationalizations exist to protect ourselves from something that is scary to us, but until we challenge our rationalizations, we stay in the same place, we stay in homeostasis. I want to help my clients really work toward change, whether that means feeling better, breaking patterns, or ending some negative cycles. I am extremely committed to making that happen. 

To learn more about Aleigh Miranda’s practice, you can visit her website for more information. 

You can also check out Sparq  and its amenities online, and stay tuned for more conversations with Sparq entrepreneurs.