Viasat Business Internet started the Ready. Set. Grow. small business grant program in response to the challenging times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Through the program, five small businesses each received a $5,000 grant, and five others each received a $1,000 grant. Recipients were selected based on their responses to a short series of essay questions.
We’re happy to feature these businesses that stood out in their applications, each one a testament to the fortitude and determination of small businesses and organizations all across America.
The service was a lifesaver in the early months of the coronavirus crisis
Sarah Westbrook’s adopted son was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 8. Childhood-onset schizophrenia is extraordinarily rare, and the shocking diagnosis started Westbrook on a journey that would change both their lives.
“I was trying to find answers for my son; I started to study mental health and fell in love with it,” she said.
Westbrook not only found information that’s helped her son beat the odds – the now 16-year-old is on track to living a mostly independent adult life – she founded her own mental health counseling service.
In 2014, she founded Westbrook Counseling, which provides in-person and telehealth services to active duty soldiers, veterans and their family members. Most of her clients are stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, a U.S. Army training installation in Missouri.
Westbrook chose to serve the military community because she knows it and its needs well. Her husband, D. Mason Westbrook, Jr, is an Army major.
“Military members and their families live in high stress all the time, often a much higher state of stress than your normal family,” she said.
That includes higher rates of anxiety, depression and extramarital affairs.
“As an Army wife, one of my passions is to help people have as many opportunities as possible for emotional connection, to teach couples how to communicate during those types of stressful environments so they can prevent divorce, and both the active duty member and spouse can raise and support their children’s needs.”
“Once they gain the ability to work through difficult times, that has a cascade effect – a positive impact on not only families and the individual soldier but the other soldiers they work with.”
Westbrook started her practice in Texas, where her family was previously stationed, then moved to Missouri. Because Major Westbrook will retire soon, Osage Beach, MO is the Westbrooks’ permanent location. Here, she’s been able to provide services in Missouri while continuing to work her Texas clients through telehealth.
To do that, her practice needed high-quality internet. In early 2020, she switched to Viasat Business Internet.
“We had anther satellite internet carrier and it just wasn’t working; service was never reliable and there were so many data caps it made it very difficult for me to run my business,” Westbrook said. “I was very skeptical about Viasat because we’d had such bad luck with the other service. But it’s been fabulous.”
The service was a lifesaver in the early months of the coronavirus crisis.
“We had a very smooth transition when the pandemic hit our area and we shut down. That was 100 percent because of Viasat,” she said. ““Missouri is well known for not having solid internet and phone connections. But I had a great experience working on the computer and using video conferencing with my patients, so they never had an interruption in care.”
When Westbrook saw an email from Viasat Global Business Solutions about its Ready. Set. Grow. grant program, she began thinking about expanding her practice to help more people.
The program awards grants to its small business customers impacted by the coronavirus. In total, Viasat is awarding $30,000 – including five $5,000 grants and five $1,000 grants.
Westbrook Counseling was chosen for a $5,000 grant, which Westbrook will use to add psycho-educational marriage clinics and COVID-related support groups for community members. She’ll use the money to buy technology needed for HIPPA-compliant video conferencing, furniture to eventually transition to in-person clinics, and marketing to let people know about the clinics.
Westbrook aims to start her group sessions in early November. She believes it will fill a community need.
“We’re in a rural community, and we don’t have the same mental health resources as they do in Springfield or St. Louis,” she said. “We are lacking in service providers. So that email really sparked the idea of how I can help more people without burning myself out.”
It’s work she’s excited to do – not because she needs more business, but because it makes a difference.
“It’s an honor to be in this field and work with military members and their family,” she said. “Military families know how to make friends fast and deep, and we depend on each other.
“There are hard days because a lot of people are in pain. But to watch them come to me on the verge of dysfunction and family crisis, then watch people heal and improve their lives, knowing that’s because I’ve taught them a skill they’ve chosen to use, that is incredibly satisfying.”