Business Support
from people who
have been there

Business Support from people who have been there

Build Relationships in our community.
Increase Skills through our courses.
Gain Knowledge with our library.

Vision

We envision a world where people who face barriers to employment achieve personal, economic, and collective empowerment through self-employment.
Reclaiming Employment is currently available through a research study. The research study will use a randomized controlled design to evaluate user experience and outcomes. You can see the report from our  Pilot Study Here.
Reclaiming Employment provides self-employment education and support for people who have experienced mental health-related challenges around work. Our interactive virtual platform offers:

  • Flexible, self-paced courses
  • A library of curated business resources
  • Community forum for mutual support
  • Peer business coaching NEW!
Self-employment can be empowering. The benefits include making your own schedule and having greater choice and control over the work you do. But people need support to get there, especially when challenges like trauma, discrimination, and difficult work experiences related to mental health are part of your reality.

Reclaiming Employment uses real-world wisdom, peer support, and the science of online learning to help users achieve their vision of small business success. Our startup resources were designed by people who have been there: our staff and consultants have had a range of personal experiences with mental health and business ownership.

At Reclaiming Employment, our goal is to help prepare you for both the logistics and the emotional ups and downs of business ownership. We designed it to help you start and sustain self-employment.

Values

Inclusion
Disabled persons at deck party

Our platform is welcoming, accessible, and designed by and for diverse self-employed people in all kinds of businesses.

Our live events connect you to others who understand your vision. Stay tuned for dates!

Peer support

We believe that mutual support can help overcome loneliness and other common challenges of self-employment.

Our community connects aspiring and current business owners who’ve struggled with mental health.

Empowerment

We want you to become stronger and more self-sufficient, so your business can work for you.

Our library provides vetted, free resources to improve your knowledge, skills, and reach.

Self-Determination

There is no one size-fits all when it comes to self-employment. Go for the goals that matter to you. 

Our courses meet you where you are, so you can get where you want to be.

The Community

The goal of the Reclaiming Employment community is to create useful, supportive, respectful spaces that help people create self-employment opportunities. Bring your authentic self while keeping in mind our purpose: Focused discussions about networking, finding resources for building your business, thinking together, problem solving, and celebrating progress. We encourage you to talk about your business but ask that you don’t directly try to recruit or solicit other members.

Meet the team

Reclaiming Employment is run by Live & Learn, Inc, a social enterprise that performs research and consulting in the behavioral health field through partnerships with community organizations and universities. Reclaiming Employment is funded by a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.

Core Team

Laysha Ostrow

LAYSHA OSTROW

Project Director, Co-Creator

Laysha Ostrow, PhD is the founder and CEO of Live & Learn, Inc. and the co-creator of Reclaiming EmploymentTM. Laysha has been self-employed since 2013. She conducts research on entrepreneurship, employment outcomes, and peer support. Laysha is passionate about strategies to promote decent work for people with disabilities and financial and personal empowerment for marginalized workers. As a person who successful transitioned from special education and SSDI to higher education and business ownership, Laysha’s research and personal experiences informs the design of Reclaiming EmploymentTM.

Pat Nemec

PATRICIA NEMEC

Instructional Lead Emeritus, Co-Creator​

Patricia Nemec, PsyD, CRC, CPRP is the co-creator of Reclaiming EmploymentTM. Pat is the sole proprietor of her consulting business and has extensive curriculum design and workforce development experience. Formerly, Pat was a professor in the Boston University program in rehabilitation counseling, and for more than 30 years has taught in the classroom and online in academic settings and direct service provider trainings. She is passionate about recruiting, teaching, and supporting learners with psychiatric disabilities and received the Award for Educational Innovation from the Annapolis Coalition for Behavioral Health Workforce Education and the RSA Commissioner’s Award for Graduate Education.

Kila Robinett

Research Assistant

Kila Robinett joined Live & Learn, Inc. as a research assistant in 2022. She recently completed a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at California State University, Sacramento. Kila relocated from San Diego to San Luis Obispo County in 2019 where she resumed her education. In San Diego she focused on creative entrepreneurial ventures while prioritizing raising her two children.

Matthew Hubbard

MATTHEW HUBBARD

Web Development

Matthew Hubbard is in charge of business administration and technology at Live & Learn, Inc. Matthew is the lead web developer for Reclaiming EmploymentTM, and is responsible for implementing content on the platform and ensuring it is compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and the ADA. Matthew spent the early part of his career in environmental sciences, gaining expertise in areas such as regulatory compliance, protocol implementation, and quality control.  Matthew’s core values of helping disenfranchised communities has allowed for a seamless transition into public health.

Consultants

Joana Archangel

Consultant

Joana Archangel (she/her) is a parent, writer, peer supporter, trainer, consultant, and disability rights advocate. She values finding ways to explore and honor neurodiversity, creativity, and resiliency. Her career journey includes previously managing a peer-run respite home in California. Joana co-facilitated the first national peer respite leadership retreat in November 2023. She has also worked within a transitional age youth (TAY) peer program that focused on career & education exploration and financial literacy. She is a Community Resiliency Model (CRM)® Certified Teacher, Master Trainer of the Honest, Open, Proud program, and Master Facilitator of Core Gift Discovery.

Giovan Bazan

GIOVAN BAZAN

GB International

Giovan Bazan is an international motivational speaker and mental health consultant. He helps people enhance their mental wellbeing so they can create the life experience they truly desire. His positive energy and joyous personality has inspired people around the world. His ability to translate his lived experiences into a powerful message, resonates profoundly. He’s small in size but big in wisdom. Giovan provides expertise in outreach and marketing to Reclaiming EmploymentTM

Lynnae Brown

LYNNAE BROWN

Lynnae Brown LLC

Lynnae Brown is a consultant and leading expert of peer workforce training, supervision and development in the country. With 10+ years of experience, her work is featured in BRIC TV’s #BHeard Series: Peer To Peer. She has presented keynote speeches, workshops and served as a panelist in numerous conferences across the country in promotion of peer support, employment and supervision. Lynnae has served as consultant with Live & Learn, Inc. since 2020 on various projects and has been fully self-employed since January 2023. Lynnae provides expertise in curriculum development and training to Reclaiming EmploymentTM.

VINCENT CAIMANO

HeyPeers.com

Vincent Caimano is the Co-Founder and CEO of HeyPeers.com. He is a recognized expert and pioneer in the area of behavioral health technology. HeyPeers serves people who live with behavioral health, chronic illness, and rare disease challenges. Vince has been President of Human Performance Consultation, Inc., a Human Capital Architect at Accenture and Practice Director at Watson Wyatt, Towers Perrin, and Opinion Research Corporation. He earned his PhD in Organizational Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. Vince is a past Executive Board Director for the National Association for Peer Supporters.

Iden Campbell

IDEN CAMPBELL

Campbell Center

Iden Campbell is currently living in the Portland Metropolitan and Southern Washington area. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York and has lived in DC for his entire adult life. Iden has been a long-time professional activist, first as an advocate for those with Intellectual/Developmental disabilities and then moving to suicide prevention and mental health activism. Iden is a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner/CPRP and was the first certified Peer Specialist in DC. Iden has served in an advisory capacity to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and HRSA/Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP). Iden provides expertise in peer support and community forums to Reclaiming EmploymentTM.

Rita Cronise

RITA CRONISE

Rutgers University

Rita Cronise, MS, ALWF is an instructional designer and certified peer specialist with lived experience of a major mental health diagnosis. She is an advanced level WRAP facilitator and peer specialist trainer in the VA and led the development of a SAMHSA-funded Recovery to Practice advanced peer specialist training. Rita was the acting director of operations at the National Association of Peer Supporters where she coordinated the National Practice Guidelines for the peer workforce. Rita is on faculty at Rutgers University and leads instructional design for the online Academy of Peer Services for New York State. Rita provides expertise in curriculum development to Reclaiming EmploymentTM.

Chris Hansen

CHRIS HANSEN

International Peer Support

A  New  Zealander  by  birth,  Chris  Hansen  is  the  Director  of Intentional   Peer   Support,  and has been co-teaching and developing Intentional Peer Support in the United States and in other countries for almost two decades. Chris has served on the board of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry and has played a key role in the development of several peer-run crisis alternatives. Intentional Peer Support is a social enterprise owned by Chris Hansen and Shery Mead, working to develop into cooperative structure. Chris provides expertise in peer support and curriculum development to Reclaiming EmploymentTM.

Leah Harris

LEAH HARRIS

Shifa Consulting

Leah Harris, M.A.is a mad, queer, disabled nonbinary writer, speaker, and workshop leader/facilitator. Leah has owned a training and consulting business since January 2016 and made the leap to 100% self-employment in 2020. Leah has worked in peer-run mental health care and substance use recovery, HIV care, juvenile services, vocational rehabilitation, housing, and other social service settings. Their areas of expertise include social justice-oriented approaches to resisting worker burnout; trauma-informed supervision of peer workers; trauma-informed and healing-informed approaches to care, service provision, and administration; and more recently, navigating grief and loss.

Ke Kai Kealoha

Aloha Chicks

Ke Kai Kealoha was born and raised on the Island of Oʻahu, Hawaii. Her life and work are shaped by traditions of family and heritage. Having lived, worked, and studied in Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand, Micronesia and across the continental U.S. I bring a wonderful tapestry of intercultural and Western perspectives to people, place, and things.

Experienced person of action with a demonstrated history of successfully working in Marketing, Commercial Real Estate, Property Management, Construction, Operations, and Entrepreneurship industries. Skilled in Task, 1:1 Collaboration, and Results Driven Management, I find the most helpful tools are Intercultural Communication, Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe and other graphic driven platforms, Management, and Project Management mentors. Valuable Experience has developed a strong Lead by Aloha Example Work Ethic and Professional Acumen.

Philip King

King Consulting

Phil King joins Reclaiming Employement as a consultant project manager, making sure that the project stays on track. Residing in the UK, he brings a wealth of experience from working with a Big 4 Professional Services firm, leading critical engagement projects at a top-flight third level institution, and managing the day to day operations of a professional mental health tech firm. When not working, he voraciously reads, often while trying to perfect the ultimate cup of coffee.

CHACKU MATHAI

Chacku Mathai Consulting LLC

Chacku Mathai, MLS is a long-time activist in the human rights movement for people with psychiatric histories. He currently works as the Director for the SAMHSA Healthy Transitions Initiative with the Center for Practice Innovations at Columbia University. Chacku has over thirty-five of experience in behavioral health systems in a wide variety of roles such as youth leadership and community organizing, executive and board management and behavioral health infrastructure development. Chacku provides expertise in community outreach and marketing to Reclaiming EmploymentTM.

Daryl Mcgraw

Formerly, Inc.

Daryl McGraw is the founder of Formerly Inc, Connecticut’s first criminal justice consultant agency which is predominantly staffed by formerly incarcerated individuals. His journey to creating Formerly Inc. began when he walked out of a Connecticut prison in 2010 equipped with nothing more than his GED and six composition notebooks filled with what he called his 5-year plan to successful community reentry. This led him to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Management and Leadership as well as become a Certified Addictions Counselor, Recovery Support Specialist, and Criminal Justice Professional. Through his work he advocates for a better reentry process for returning citizens and a better connection between communities, law enforcement and encourages police transparency and accountability. 

Emiley Morton

Reclaimed Divergence

Emiley Morton is the co-founder of Reclaimed Divergence- a practice that exists as a a haven for identity-based care in mental health, specifically supporting self-employment opportunities for neurodivergent practitioners to provide mental health services to neurodivergent patients through private practice. Her personal experiences navigating the workforce as an autistic practitioner led to her passion to create Reclaimed Divergence to empower other neurodivergent practitioners to become successfully self-employed. She completed her doctorate in social work from the University of Southern California. In addition to her work at Reclaimed Divergence, she runs another behavioral health group practice that she founded in 2018, and provides training support to self-employed autistic therapists across the United States that seek to effectively manage and scale their businesses.

Morgan Pelot

MORGAN PELOT

Doctoral Student at PSU

Morgan Pelot graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a double major in Psychology and Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology and is currently a doctoral student in Psychology at Portland State University. She worked with Live & Learn, Inc. (2018 – 2023) as the Project Manager for Live & Learn’s CPS Career Outcomes Study and led the biennial Peer Respite Essential Features survey. Morgan has trained and served as a peer counselor at Second Story Respite House and has worked with adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, providing job coaching and education about mental and emotional health. Morgan coordinates the user research component of Reclaiming EmploymentTM.

GARY SHAHEEN, PHD.

Consultant

Gary Shaheen, PhD. For over forty years in the public, private, and academic sectors Dr. Shaheen has led numerous social entrepreneurship and mental health recovery projects throughout the US and internationally. During his tenure with the NYS Office of Mental Health in the 80s/90s, Dr. Shaheen directed the ‘BUY OMH’ initiative that established a network of social enterprises throughout the state employing people with mental health challenges. Subsequently he led the multi-year USDOL/ODEP-funded StartUp NY project to create entrepreneurship education and training in Onondaga County, NY for people with disabilities and others with low incomes including Veterans. He was co-PI of a social entrepreneurship initiative serving people with mental illnesses in American Samoa that was funded by the Administration for Native Americans and taught a summer session on entrepreneurship at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. While serving as Senior Vice President of the Syracuse University (SU) Burton Blatt Institute (BBI), Gary was co-PI for New York State’s $5.9 million per year Medicaid Infrastructure Grant, developing multi agency collaborations to improve employment and entrepreneurship outcomes for New Yorkers with disabilities. For over 5 years, he developed and taught curricula in support of the SU Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities at SU and other affiliated universities. Dr. Shaheen was Senior Evaluator for the ODEP Employment First, Disability Employment Initiative, and Pathways to Careers projects. These projects supported competitive, integrated employment and access to post-secondary education and career development for youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and substance use disabilities. He also co-led a 5 year federally- funded Ending Chronic Homelessness project to provide training and technical assistance to five cities to improve the rate of integrated, competitive employment linked to Supportive Housing for people who were chronically homeless. He served as advisor and expert trainer for the Veterans Administration on Customized Employment, and developed and led the first-of-its-kind National Summit on Women Veteran Homelessness in 2013. Before rejoining BBI in 2022, Dr. Shaheen facilitated a series of roundtables to improve employment among persons with substance abuse and mental health disabilities sponsored by the US DOL Office of the Chief Evaluator. Dr. Shaheen currently directs the evaluation of a project to develop and implement psychiatric advanced directives (PADs) across 7 California counties. He is also a trainer/consultant with the Mayo Roscommon Local Area Employment Service (Ireland) to assist members of the Traveler Community to start their own business ventures.

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