By Nicole S. Daniel
The Birmingham Times
Joí Iman Gresham didn’t have to go far to find her first client.
While out shopping several years ago at local grocery store in Birmingham, Gresham was stopped by a woman she had met in passing at one of the hospitals where Gresham had worked at as a contractor.
“She gave me her business card and asked me to call her,” recalled Gresham, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and a winner of $25,000 from Prosper Magic City Match for her business, Joi Iman LLC.
After getting the business card, Gresham called the shopper and learned that she had previously visited a therapist that made her feel uncomfortable. The client mentioned that she was in desperate need of therapy and felt led to work with Gresham. That would become Gresham’s initial life coaching client.
Gresham Googled documents that most therapists use during the intake process for a new client and shared the paperwork with the shopper, who completed it and asked Gresham, “When we can get started with sessions?”
That was the beginning of Joí Iman LLC and the start of Gresham’s career as a life coach. She began providing therapy as of January 2022. Her business, founded in 2018, helps women transition through motherhood and entrepreneurship and specializes in perinatal, postnatal, and couple’s therapy.
Gresham assists families and couples through the pregnancy planning, birth, first trimester, and postpartum periods, in addition to providing support to families who have experienced neonatal loss.
In June, she was among 25 business owners who received funding from Prosper Magic City Match, a small-business resiliency pilot program for Black business owners in the Birmingham metro area designed to increase access to capital and help bridge the wealth gap. Out of 856 business applicants, Joí Iman LLC was selected as one of the businesses to receive the award.
Gresham’s top priority for the money is to get a building, where she can offer wellness services to mothers who are in the birth-planning process, as well as those who are pregnant or in the fourth trimester, the 12 weeks after a woman has given birth. Another plan for the location is to set up a spa that caters to mothers, a place where they can be nurtured and take care of themselves.
“During the phase of conception, pregnancy, or after the baby is born, women are so wrapped up in everything except themselves,” she said, adding that her goal is to provide a one-stop-shop where women can receive holistic comprehensive services that help them truly feel nurtured.
Moms and Entrepreneurs
Looking back, Gresham said her first client helped lead Gresham to her purpose. “It was interesting, and it confirmed this is going to lead me to where I’m supposed to be,” she said.
She began providing weekly life coaching sessions in the comfort of her home office, where she still operates while she searches for a new location.
“As much as [my first client] said I pushed her, [working with her] pushed me to be the best that I could be and provide the best services I could provide,” said Gresham.
The therapy sessions with her initial client reminded her how much support women and moms needed. “She just so happened to be a mom and an entrepreneur,” said Gresham. “That put me in position to think about my own life and how stretched women can be.”
Gresham’s therapy sessions supported and empowered her initial client to achieve both personal and business goals. “For me to witness small successes that led to much larger accomplishments, like her buying her first house, were a great experience for us both,” explained Gresham.
Even now, Gresham is determined to help new mothers or veteran mothers navigate the journey of motherhood. She wants women to know that they matter, that they are masterpieces of beauty and strength, and that they need to pour into themselves.
“None of what society says a woman should do as a mother positively impacts her journey as a person first or as a woman first,” Gresham said.
Gresham, 36, and her husband, Archie Gresham III, share an 8-year-old daughter, Noa Forney, from her previous marriage. Joí and Archie are expecting another child this winter. The therapist and business owner grew up in Fairfield, Alabama, and graduated from Fairfield High Preparatory School in 2004. She went on to attend Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, where she studied social work and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2008. She then enrolled at the University of Connecticut, where she earned a master’s degree in social work and Black studies in 2009. “I honestly didn’t have a clear vision as it related to my career in social work, but God did tell me I wouldn’t be a traditional social worker,” she said.
After completing her graduate studies, Gresham moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where she worked for local organizations and local hospitals, in addition to starting her business, Joi Iman Boutique. “[Still], I didn’t know what direction I wanted it to go in,” she said.
In 2011, she moved back to Fairfield and took a position as an instructor at Miles College, where she taught in the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
The Right Match
When Gresham decided to expand her business venture, she reached out to her peers for business advice. “I asked one of my associates if they knew someone that could help me develop a curriculum for mothers [for Joí Iman, LLC],” Gresham said. “She connected me with [someone] who randomly sent me the flyer for the Magic City Match program.”
Gresham researched the organization and decided to apply. “I don’t have a business background. I don’t have a solid network around me of entrepreneurs that can give me the ins and outs. It’s just me crawling into this space Googling everything trying to figure it out on my own,” she said.
As part of the Magic City Match program, Gresham and other business owners had to go through an eight-week intense business academy. They met once a week in person for two hours, and anyone who missed more than one class would be disqualified.
Each week a new subject was taught and sometimes a guest speaker would address the group. Gresham learned how to create a full business plan and pitch deck. She also attended meetings just for extra points while making connections with other professionals and business owners. Still, she had her doubts and felt defeated, wondering if she was on the right track to become a successful business owner.
“In the end, it paid off tremendously,” said Gresham. “I’m beyond thankful for the opportunity to learn more than I already knew.”
For more on Joí Iman LLC visit Facebook at Joi http://Facebook.com/joiimanllc and Instagram at http://Instagram.com/joiimanllc http://joiiman.com
Updated at 2:26 p.m. on 7/28/22 to correct spelling in name, clarify family information and add social media.