Becky Lamont dedicated the first 17 years of her career serving public school districts as a special education teacher and administrator, rising to program manager in the Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. The district—the size of Georgia’s DeKalb and Gwinnett school systems combined—had 300 autism classrooms in the program she managed using research-based practices focused on implementing applied behavior analysis (ABA) instruction with the students, their families and staff.

Man in suit and woman in black shirt stand in front of large green foliageWhen Lamont and her husband Jeff moved to Atlanta in 2010 to be closer to family, she accepted an administrative job in special education. After learning the state landscape, she found there was a need to expand the educational opportunities for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and implement ABA on a greater scale.

“Those services that are available are difficult to obtain,” she says. “And Georgia has limited insurance mandates for the families trying to access ABA services.” In July 2014, she founded Pathway Behavioral Consulting to offer ABA services to schools, students and their families. Within six months, she contacted the Gwinnett office of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center for advice.

“We had brought a couple of therapists in and realized we had something pretty special. We saw that we could put my knowledge of education and behavior analysis together with Jeff’s expertise in business development and marketing and really grow our company to provide this unique set of services,” she says. “We had our vision and mission, but there were tools, strategies and networks of people we knew we needed to access to help the company grow the way we wanted.”

“Becky was interested in not only how to grow the business, but how to grow it smartly,” says SBDC business consultant Benny StaRomana. During a series of nine consulting sessions, StaRomana provided guidance in strategic planning and market development. He helped the Lamonts create a business plan using the UGA SBDC template, which immersed them in all operating aspects of the practice. He also introduced Becky to UGA SBDC subject matter experts in clinical practice and human resource management and provided referrals for accounting and website services.

“Becky got a download, so to speak, of some very detailed information on human resources and practice management from our SBDC experts in addition to her deep dive on strategy and marketing,” he says. “As new business owners, we learned so much about the business development piece we needed to work on and enhance,” says Becky. “Benny helped us fine tune so many aspects of who we are.”

Pathways has grown to 38 employees. From 2014 to 2015 it reported 300 percent revenue growth. In the first seven months of 2016, its revenue expectations had been exceeded. “Benny guided us through a very strong marketing campaign, says Becky. “Through just a few months, he helped us expand our professional network to include human resources consulting, navigating the health insurance world and improving the financial aspect of our business.”

The Lamonts are now working to open an instructional center to support their clients in group settings. “Becky represents her practice with a purity of purpose: to help behaviorally or mentally disadvantaged children to attain as normal a life as possible and achieve a level of social equality. She will improve her understanding, skills and knowledge to be able to achieve it,” says StaRomana. “She also has the broadness of perspective to employ her husband to run the business side of the practice. She is cognizant that she needs other people. That has made her successful.”

“We are incredibly thankful for our connection to the SBDC,” says Becky. “Benny always treated us as professionals, and the learning opportunities at the SBDC are very rich with seminars and networking opportunities. It has proven to be an invaluable experience.”
As Pathways continues to grow, the Lamonts also hope to grow awareness that all students in Georgia’s schools should be able to access ABA services. “We want to help make that happen.”