IMPORTANT! Reclaiming Employment will be closed to everyone on 5/29/2023. We are undertaking improvements and hope to open up again in the future. Thank you for your support!

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.


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 invitation only. The team will be evaluating user experience and outcomes in an upcoming research study. Head on over to our  Research Page for more information.
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
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 designed help you start and sustain self-employment.


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.


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.


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


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


Instructional Lead, 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.

Leah Harris


Engagement Specialist

Leah Harris, 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.

Kila Robinett

Research Assistant

Kila Robinett is a Research Assistant with Live & Learn, Inc. 

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.

Morgan Pelot


Project Manager

Morgan Pelot graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a double major in Psychology and Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology and has worked with Live & Learn, Inc. since 2018. Morgan is the Project Manager for Live & Learn’s CPS Career Outcomes Study and leads 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.


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


Howie the Harp

Lynnae Brown is the Director of Howie The Harp Advocacy Center, a peer-run program offering comprehensive classroom training and online certification for people in mental health recovery to choose, get, and keep jobs as peer providers. She has a BS/BA in Business and Marketing and is a Certified Peer Specialist. Lynnae provides expertise in curriculum development to Reclaiming EmploymentTM.


Peer Support Solutions

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

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


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


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.

Jessica Maloney


HSRI, Inc.

Jessica Maloney is the Director of Communications at the Human Services Research Institute. She has over 15 years of experience as an editor and writer, and she’s passionate about sharing research findings to promote social change. With a background in cultural anthropology and women’s studies, she helps develop communications that are compassionate, respectful, and inclusive. And as a former college instructor and member of advisory committees for university centers on teaching excellence, she applies her experience to create user-friendly technical assistance materials and training guides. Jess provides expertise in graphic and web design to Reclaiming EmploymentTM.

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. 

Lisa Smusz


The Social Changery

Lisa Smusz is a creative problem-solver with a knack for combining data and out-of-the-box thinking to produce measurable outcomes. Lisa brings more than 20 years of senior-management-level experience in developing, executing, and evaluating community mental health initiatives on local, statewide, national, and international projects. She provides content expertise and project management services to mental health and educational organizations across California, with a focus on stigma reduction, working with college-age young adults, and culturally responsive approaches to promoting mental health in diverse communities. Lisa is also an Instructor at California State University, East Bay where she has been teaching mental health, women’s studies, and social justice coursework for the past 15 years. 

Janet Steveley


Griffin-Hammis Associates

Janet Steveley is a Senior Consultant with Griffin-Hammis Associates, working on various initiatives around customized employment and benefits planning. Since 1997, Janet has operated Workable Solutions, LLC, a consulting firm based in Ashland, Oregon which serves as an Employment Network under Social Security’s Ticket to Work Program.  Janet is well versed in optimizing public benefits having helped numerous individuals achieve their employment goals through Plans to Achieve Self Support (PASS). Janet brings expertise in Social Security Work Incentives and microenterprise development to Reclaiming EmploymentTM.

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