Julie Luzarraga

News, Summer 2015
Julie Luzarraga

Mind-Body Entrepreneur Believes Relationships and Integrity are Keys to Success

STORY BY KARA SCHWEISS | PHOTOS BY DEBRA S. KAPLAN

As the founder of two successful businesses in the field of health care—The Center for Counseling & Psychotherapy and Omaha Integrative Care (OIC)—Julie Luzarraga says she is motivated by the autonomy and creativity of entrepreneurship. She also admits, with a laugh, that “a little bit of ego” may be involved.

“Some of it is that feeling like I think I can do this better. I think that as much as I love being a social worker and a psychotherapist, I have a strong entrepreneurial spirit. I get excited about impacting change and making change, and that keeps me going,” she says.

Luzarraga divides her time at both businesses, and between them she specializes in multiple areas—including infertility, mind/ body medicine, depression, anxiety, trauma, mood disorders, and loss and relationship issues. She has grown OIC to a staff of 17 in less than five years and, upon her comple tion of the Leadership in Integrative Healthcare at Duke University, the next step is likely to be further expansion. A strategic plan helps Luzarraga keep her focus, but there are no mysterious secrets to her success, she says.

“To me, it’s all about relationships and integrity,” she says. “And even though that might be the slower path, I think that’s what keeps you grounded and keeps things moving forward. It gives you stability.”

Integrity is instinctive, Luzarraga says.

“Trust in your gut and use mindfulness to continue to stay your course and maintain your integrity. Because there’s no sense in putting in all this blood, sweat and tears to create something that wasn’t what you wanted. There’s too much at risk to get strayed off the path.”

The other factor—relationship building—tends to come easily to women, Luzarraga adds, which is an advantage for any business owner.

“There’s research that shows that women just have a little more natural ability, typically—I’m never going to say ‘all’—for that empathy piece. And that’s also a huge trend in leadership and management skills: When you can read people and use empathy to manage and to lead, you get so much further,” she explains. “I also think that women build relationships in a different way; we ‘tend and befriend’ and all of that.”

Luzarraga also says she recognizes that while entrepreneurship has been a wonderful path for her, it’s not right for all women. “I think there are certainly women who feel like they can’t take it on because of their home responsibilities and the risks involved. I get it,” says Luzarraga, a mother of two. “Male or female, it’s certainly not for everybody.”

She says she’d advise aspiring women to approach entrepreneurship with eyes wide open.

“Not to be a Debbie Downer, but one thing that comes to mind for me is that you have to be prepared for loss,” she says. “And in my experience— I work with a fair amount of corporate clients and entrepreneurs as a therapist—I see that whenever you’re trying to do something that’s going to have impact or that’s going to be meaningful to you, there’s a very high likelihood that there are going to be some folks around you that are going to be threatened by that, or who can’t get it, whether it’s personal or professional. You really have to be prepared for that.”

Confidence is key, too. “I think another thing, just for women in general, is that whole confidence gap. We see it as sort of a negative thing, but if you’re a female entrepreneur who is taking this kind of risk and putting yourself out there, there’s a good chance that you really know what you’re doing. I totally identify with that whole stat that a man needs to feel like he can do the job responsibilities about 60 percent, and a woman needs to feel like she can do it 100 percent in order to apply for the promotion or the new job or whatever.”

Julie Luzarraga

True to her philosophy that relationshipbuilding is a major factor in success, Luzarraga calls out multiple supporters who’ve been behind her along the way.

“First and foremost, my husband—God bless him—has been great and has a lot of business and managerial acumen. And a lot of people I met at the Women’s Fund. And then also, just other professionals in my network nationally that are integrative health care professionals, and certainly the cohorts and faculty at Duke Integrative Medicine now,” she says.

Luzarraga became involved in the first Women’s Fund Circles group in 2011 and now co-chairs a new Circles alumni group.

“When I ended Circles, I wrote a little piece and reflected on the fact that it really paralleled my development and OIC’s development because I started Circles about the same time I started OIC,” she says. “I just loved it. I love the idea of the Women’s Fund; it stands for all the things I stand for and I’m completely inspired by the women involved. I like that there are intelligent, powerful, amazing women who are championing women’s issues in the Omaha area.”

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