Liz Reitman

5 min | Leadership & Management Musings

Founders in Focus: A Conversation Between Liz Reitman and Casie Fariello

A Conversation between Other Parents Like Me (OPLM) Co-Founders Liz Reitman and Casie Fariello 

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Liz Reitman and Casie Fariello get together in the midst of a whirlwind few years since co-founding Other Parents Like Me (OPLM). From meeting during their kids’ recovery from substance use and becoming friends to birthing a business and taking on crowdfunding, these women have accomplished many firsts in just a short amount of time! Take a read (or listen/watch the convo for our audio/visual lovers out there) to learn more about their journey as co-parents, their experience as first-time co-founders, and much, much more.

Liz Reitman: Hi everyone, this is Liz Reitman, and we’re kicking off our Founders in Focus series for the month of March. I’m extremely excited to have my co-founder and partner in crime, Casie Fariello, here with us. And it’s even more appropriate, aside from the fact that she’s a founder of a business, that it’s Women’s History Month; so I’m particularly excited to have Casie here with me. I’m going to kick it off to Natasha, who is our expert in asking the best questions ever.

Natasha Cucullo: Thank you, Liz. It’s really great to have you, Casie; we’re excited for you to be here.

Let's get started with the basics. What's your origin story? How did you two meet and what were you up to at that point in your life?

Casie Fariello: Okay. Should I start? You got it. So, I have a son who was struggling back in 2018 with substances, and we had a lot of chaos in our house — running away, holes in the walls, suicide ideation, multiple various inpatient/outpatient programs that insurance would pay for. It ultimately led to a significant overdose in December of 2018. And we sent him to something called a wilderness program. So I did a GoFundMe in order to afford it and did quite well. So that’s why I think that, you know, I’m a dog with a bone. I raised $70,000 to be able to do it. And while I was there, I was learning and changing and growing.

And then my son went off to a therapeutic boarding school. So he went off to something in Arizona. And while I was there, the wilderness program said to me, Hey, would you mentor somebody else from this program? And I said, Sure. And they’re like, ‘She’s in New York City and you’re in New Jersey. She’s not very far and this might be great’. Okay, so I get Liz’s phone number and we start texting.

And long story short, what’s really funny is we didn’t even know that her son would end up at the same program again. So she’s like several months behind us. And when her son comes to the therapeutic boarding school now and they’re like, “Hey, would you mentor this woman? She’s out by you in New York City’. I was like, ‘Oh, do you mean Liz?’ And they said, ‘Oh, how do you know?’ I said, well, because I was her mentor in the wilderness, too’. And that’s when I think Liz and I really knew that this was this kismet; there was a reason. There was a meaning because we kept getting thrown together and we both were listening to the same podcast person that we loved. And she even invited me out to come and see him — his name is Brad Reedy — in New York City, but it’s just been kind of since then here and there, text conversations.

And until I started doing support groups and since I was so connected to her, I forced her to come in with me. She did it kicking and screaming! But yes, that was in 2020. And now here we are, oh my gosh, a little over three years later. Over three years later. That’s insane. I just knew when I wanted to take the support groups that I had started and take it global that Liz was going to come with me.

Liz: Dog to a bone? Yes. What’s so interesting about that story and how we connected was that we only had texted, we had never talked on the phone when Gabe and her son were in wilderness. And I always say, like, Casie always texted me exactly at the right moment when I was at my lowest, because it was really a very hard time to have your son sent away. There was no communication, except by a letter writing, and it was hard. And she would send me these texts and it was literally a random stranger. And, you know, I just felt connected to this person without ever really having talked to them. So, you know, when we discovered our boys were in the same therapeutic boarding school, it was so fun to actually see what she looked like, hear her voice. Like I was like, oh! And as she says, it was kismet. And it was, you know, we just went from there. 

Natasha: That’s really beautiful. It sounds like, based on your story, that these people that were connecting you with Liz knew that there were some connecting points.

Natasha: I'd be curious to hear, once you two actually spoke and met with each other in real life, what did you think the connecting points were?

Natasha: Casie, why don’t you start?

Casie: Well, I think that in this zoom world of COVID, the funniest part is, and everybody always says, oh, you’re shorter than I thought! Liz and my oldest are the same size — they’re both on the shorter side. And so that was kind of funny to have that moment where I’m like, “Oh my gosh, you and Grace are the same size!”

What I would say is, I already felt heard around Liz and that’s something that I didn’t always feel like with the people who, I’m going to say this, I thought were my friends here. And that really meant a lot to me. And that’s why I knew we were going to work well together. The other part is that we’re both comfortable talking to each other and sharing, “Hey, this, you know, this is bothering me.” Or, “Hey, you know, maybe you could do this differently.” And I’ve never had a friend, and now co-founder, who we can say those things to each other. And yeah, some days we will be like, okay, I need to take a day away from you. But we both have done that and accept each other wholly and mean it. I think it’s a special thing to be friends and co-founders of such a special organization.

Liz: Yeah, I got the chills. I mean, it’s so interesting for me because I’ve had Reit design now 26 years and I never had a partner. So the thought of having a partner was scary to me. I couldn’t understand…I’m very independent. I like to be collaborative and work with people, but I’ve never had a partner. It’s very different. And, you know, I’ve listened to a lot of my colleagues that are business owners and the challenges that they have because it really is almost like a marriage. And, you know to Casie’s point, there were definitely bumps; we had to figure things out. But we both came from such a pure place.

And what’s interesting is, you know, Casie had never run a business, she had been a flight attendant. But I knew when she came to me to talk about launching this business that she was the right person because I had never seen somebody who could give back and was so passionate, who learned. Her learning level just blew me away…just constantly reading, looking into things. And then the drive, the ambition was incredible. And that was very appealing to me. I felt like I wanted to be a part of…I wanted to be with somebody that had that because I felt like that would push me forward as well. I would kind of feed off of her energy.

 Natasha: I love that. I also love how you referred to it as a marriage. When I was writing up the questions, I was talking about co-parenting a business. And I think a lot of words can get thrown around with businesses being like children or families, but I think there’s something to be said about the relationship aspect and how you both are incredibly comfortable talking about the hard things. 

It sounds like you both are incredibly comfortable talking about the hard things. I'm wondering if this is a learned experience based on what you experienced within your families? Or if you feel that you've been like this and certain people bring that out in you?

Natasha: Liz, do you want to go for that? 

Liz: Well, I mean, we’ve both been in therapy like crazy and doing the support group…so I would say it’s all that learning, right? Like, if we would have partnered up ten years ago, I’d say we probably would have broken up — I would have never been able to handle constructive feedback. I mean, we both came to a place of, you know, really understanding boundaries and communication.

And there are many times where we’ll say, “Okay, Casie definitely does this.” She’ll say, because I can be very business-y, she’ll say, ‘”Put your friend hat on for a minute. I need to talk to you about something.” And I’ll be like, “Okay, hold on a minute”. I have to change my my brain because I really do compartmentalize and I’m very much like: this is what I’m going to get done during the day. So that’s great.

I love that she pushes me and like pulls out that softer side or gets me out of the work mode. But I do think it’s everything we’ve learned from our business has helped us get to this point where we could really hear each other and, and you know, the other thing that I’ll make a note of is there’s absolutely no jealousy. We come from a really pure perspective; if we’re doing a pitch and I talk more than I should have, there’s no like, “You know, you didn’t let me get my words in,” there’s none of that. And I’ve been in those situations where I’ve pitched with other people. So when I can see she is having a hard day, I’ll say, “Let me jump in here.” You know, it’s a really nice balance that continues to surprise me.

Casie: I 100% agree. And I think that’s kind of a bit of magic for us. If both of us hadn’t been doing the work that we’ve been doing for the last five years or so. You know, Liz pushed me when I was starting to flounder. Like, how do I become the leader in this space? You know, and encouraged me. Like, “Okay, you’re good at learning and going and here, let’s lean you into a coach for a while.” And I leaned into having a business coach and she really then pushed me into a stronger stance on that. And I love that.

I work with someone who can say, “All right, you know, I think this might be helpful for you.” And I’m happy to lean into that. And there’s other times where I’ve said, “So Liz, can we just talk about that moment?” And she leans into it. And I think there’s something beautiful about being willing to lean in and go, okay, this is a growth moment and we’re willing to grow. And I think that’s got to be huge for two co-founders.

And I’ll tell you, you know, having a co-parent in my life who is only just starting to lean into it, and we’ve been doing this for 28 years, is different than already having someone who’s ready. Like, Liz has been ready to co-parent. I love that question. It’s not you’re in this and I’m in this or we are in it. And that’s what I think makes a big difference if the two co-founders are co-parenting well. I love that question.

Natasha: Yes. It’s beautiful to see your interplay. You know, I’ve heard many so many great things about you, Casie, but to see it in real life feels really natural and flowy and adaptable. So, along those lines, Casie, it sounds like you were starting support groups. 

Casie, could you talk about how your work with support groups translated into Other Parents Like Me? And how this work led you two to start a business together?

Casie: So I started the support groups for myself completely selfishly back in 2020 when everything shut down and I knew we weren’t going to be able to go to my son’s program anymore. And I had such amazing connections with the families there. Once I started it with those 14 people, I then said to the owners, “Hey, I’m going to invite other people from the program.” And they said, yes, which was amazing. And I started with just one. It was just like a little baby idea. And then all those people pushed me into, I want a men’s, I want a solo mom. I want, you know, a divorce parent [group] at that time. I want this, I want that. And I was like, okay, I need something in the morning. And I leaned into it and then I just started soaking it up. And I was going to other places with support groups and other things that I could learn from. And just knew, wow, this is something within what, six months?

That’s I think that’s how long I took before I turned to Liz and said, “Look at this. What we have when we’re all in this group with 30 people, the whole world should have this.”

And I can’t do the beautiful part, which is the website and the marketing. That’s not my jam, I mean, I was PTA president for ten years, so I can build and I can do and I can try and I’m willing to pivot and, you know, continue to create. And Liz, sometimes she’s like, “Okay, enough vision.” Liz takes my vision and makes it into what we want. And I think that’s amazing — the number of things that she has been able to put into words on the website, put into how things are for us and how we speak on social media. I mean, it’s just like a perfect marriage because of where our wheelhouses are and we’re both willing to stay in our wheelhouse. I think that’s another bit that’s good. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Liz: You know, it’s funny that you say that because my ex, Jim, and I were partners in a bar on the Upper West Side that’s still around called Prohibition…so it’s been 26 years. When they first started, it was five guys and they each had their specific area. So somebody dealt with staff, somebody dealt with food, Jim did the music. And I remember thinking, this is never going to work. There is no way. And they literally — if you had an issue with the dinner that night — you had to just tell the person, but you couldn’t get involved. And they really stayed in their lane. And to this day, I think I truly believe that was why they were successful. Nobody overstepped their boundaries and it was fascinating for me to watch. So yeah, I agree with you. Like that is something that I think we’re very good at. 

Natasha: I like the theme of this where you both are building upon the strengths that you have and what you’ve taken from your previous experiences. 

So Liz, your experience running your own business for 26 years, as well as Prohibition and other ventures, how has that informed [your work with] Other Parents Like Me? How you run Other Parents Like Me?

Liz: Yeah, it’s interesting because you’d think, oh, that would just translate, but it’s actually really hard. I think my biggest takeaway, and I said this on the last podcast, is how difficult it is to build a business. And I think because I was sitting back after 26 years of having built these things when I was in my 20s and had a lot of energy, didn’t have children, didn’t have expenses, and they’re still going, that the assumption was, oh, this will be really easy.

The other part that has been a huge transition for me is just being on Zoom. I’m such a people person; I had an office, I’m very much used to the collaboration, hanging things up, talking with people. So, you know, I’ve never met our employees in person from Other Parents Like Me. That is so weird to me. And I am a dinosaur in this world! Like I’ve had to really try to figure out how do you build a business remotely early?

And then it’s also for the consumer. I’ve always been rooted mostly in the B2B world. So there’s been so much learning, but I think to my core, I’m a business person in the sense that I know how to like, “Okay, when we’re making a decision, let’s deal with facts. Get the numbers in front of me. Casie, let’s not go with what our gut is saying…what’s the data saying? How can we make this more concise? How can we visually represent this?”

So at the core, you know, [it] is the same fundamentals of running a business, having really thick skin, knowing that some days are really tough — you’re going to have just some bad days. And then tomorrow is probably going to be pretty darn good. That there are ebbs and flows, ebbs and flows. And I think a lot of that is what I try to talk to Casie about, like, “Okay, this was not a good meeting or yes, we messed up, but trust me, it’s going to be better.” Or, “Let’s figure out what did we learn from this?” So I try to pull those type of lessons. And at the core of what my marketing is about…how can I use that for this? Very different to build a business purely remotely, that’s membership based. Your clients are membership based, so that’s been very hard.

Casie: And I would say, Natasha, one of the best parts is that Liz is still learning. And there’s many times, especially in the beginning, where she would have to remind me like, no, I am [also] learning with you right now. And that was good because then it was okay. So the two of us are learning this part. But then there’s the advantage of when, you know, we have a bad meeting or we have something that we’ve done together and I just go, “Oh my gosh” You know? And she’s like, “[It’s] okay”. And she she can talk me off the ledge.

What I would say is interesting is that we don’t have the bad days together. Like Liz will walk away from a meeting saying, “Oh…” And I’ll go, “No, no, no, it’s okay!” And then I’ll walk away from it. And so I think that’s a kind of an advantage; that we’re able to prop each other up. And sometimes, you know, when you check in with your therapist and you go, “Hey, was this like a normal thing that someone said to me?” Like a normal [experience] for our kids? Like, “Is that a normal teenage thing or is that someone on substances thing?” And so that’s what I get to lean on Liz for: was that a normal business event or was that insane? And she’ll say, “No, that was insane. You’re not crazy.” Or she’ll say, “No, that’s normal. Okay?” And that’s good to have a barometer of Liz’s 26 years.

And then for me as a flight attendant, I come in with dealing with all different kinds of people, and having to pivot, you know, a lot in customer service. And that has been good in my stead with, you know, the the people that we have. I’m very comfortable talking people and helping take people to people off a ledge. So I think that’s a good combo for us.

Liz: Yeah, I would totally agree. There’s sort of the softer [side]. Like, Casie will walk into a meeting with some people that we’ve met and go in and hug them. And I would never! I would be the handshake. And it’s just really funny. I appreciate it because for me, I, I’ve not seen that. And it’s received, which is really cool. So we, personality wise, I think we just have a different approach, but it’s a really good balance.

Natasha: It sounds like it. I like how you both bring in the human aspect in different ways. So, Casie, your experience with managing people in stressful situations, which more power to you! And then Liz, same thing. You have dealt with people in stressful situations too, just a different context. So it does sound like both of you bring in your strengths again and are able to yin and yang each other in ways that enhance and elevate your experiences together.

Casie: Yeah.

What are some of the ways that you co-parent Other Parents Like Me specifically? How did you navigate creating these roles? And have these roles shifted or changed?

Casie: Okay, so we have 35 people who we work with. I may be a little off. Many of those are peer parents and I navigate through supporting them, training them, hand-holding when they need it. That’s a part definitely of that co-parenting and there are times where I field, you know, mom to mom phone calls versus, you know, CEO to peer parent phone calls. And being able to take one hat off and put on the other. Because being in this business of our peer parents, who are the core of our business, our peer parents are in a lot of tough situations that they’re supporting during their meetings. They need someone else to lean on and to be there for them. And that is important for me.

And the other part that I have found really eye opening and helpful is that I’ve had to lean on Liz a bunch of times as well as my business coach. We have a very small team and I’ve never really led a team, so learning how to set goals when there are issues? How do you talk it through? How do you say all the things? And I would say that it’s been eye opening and also just so impactful for me to learn.

And I do lean on Liz a lot. Like, ‘Okay, you know, I need help with this and this is what I’m saying’. That’s where her [business side comes into play]. She will say, ‘Let’s talk about the bullet points. Let’s talk. You’re saying all your feelings. Tell me exactly [what you mean]’. And so then I can write it down. Then it’s a very impactful, strong meaningful [conversation] that I have with the person where I say, ‘Hey, let’s work on this or this is what you’re doing well’. And that is, I think, important and I didn’t always have that [type of communication] with my family, my husband, my co-parent. So having someone who we  can really sit down and we can really navigate through so that we’re using our team appropriately is huge.

Liz: I think what’s been interesting in terms of this concept of co-parenting is we have our team kickoff meetings and we’ve actually swapped and I run them now. It used to be Casie, but we’ve learned what worked.

Parenting really is an interesting metaphor because it’s the same, I know, with raising my kids. I would know when to lean on Jim, when he should take something on or if that was more in my wheelhouse. Or if somebody didn’t have the bandwidth to handle something or was getting too heated, we would flip it and keep each other [in the loop]. I think we’ve kind of managed that right. So because Casie works with a lot more of the team on a more day to day basis, it felt better for me to run the meetings because people needed a connection with me. I have a very different manner, a different way, and I keep the meeting running differently. I’m very straightforward, ‘Okay, we’ve got 15 minutes, Where are we?’ That kind of thing. So I feel like that has been a way I’ve approached co-parenting in terms of how we flip and who’s running and leading what based on our strengths.

That's huge. It sounds like you're successfully co-parenting, which is lovely. Are there any hiccups with co-parenting or dual management?

Casie: Well, we may sound like we always agree, but we definitely don’t always agree. I would say sometimes, yeah, there have been hurt feelings for Liz or for me. And what I think is amazing is that it’s sort of evolved over the last couple years where we will actually say, ‘Hey, I’m out for this day’ so that we take the time, the day, to process and then we can both come back and go, ‘This is what was going on for me’. And Liz will say, ‘This is what was going on for me’. And we come fully prepared. And there’s no judgment that we need a day. Where you don’t get to do that if we were in an office. So that may be an advantage of us being remote.

Liz: Yeah, I think the word evolution is key. I will say it’s really [been] three years that we’ve been working together and you’re seeing us at our healthiest. The first year was a cluster and it was a lot of tears…a lot of really intense emotions. You know, many moments of not being able to speak. If I get real here, trying to understand each other, us going to our therapist individually to talk about our situation and coming back and giving feedback on what our therapist said to try to help us navigate [our own relationship]. And we made so many mistakes as well, which was really helpful.

And we got, shockingly, a lot of bad advice. We initially brought on a lot of different advisors. And, you know, in hindsight now we could see money that could have been spent differently. So this third year is a culmination. I feel we are at our healthiest. We have figured it out. I honestly do. You know, you can’t say you figured out a person, but we really have. We figured out how to work together, how to give each other space, how to speak to one another. When Casie starts to give me feedback, it’s never, ‘You know, you did this or you did that…’ She presents it in such a way that I’m not immediately guarded. I can hear her because she’s framed it in such a way that she knows I’m not going to get defensive. And that’s huge for me. I know this because I just had an argument with my son and I was triggered and I didn’t handle it well because it wasn’t presented in a way that I could handle it well.

So, you know, it makes me value our relationship more because I realize it isn’t easy and it’s constantly evolving. But I do think we have, in some weird way, figured out how to talk to one another and because of our learning, I think now we’re starting to see success. I don’t feel like it’s a surprise. It makes sense. We needed that time to make all those mistakes, to work with the wrong people, to realize who was right, to not get along or to fight, and now appreciate that we do get along. I feel all of that needed to happen for us to be where we are today.

Natasha: Totally. I feel like the evolution of a relationship is a really great way to put it, Liz. Speaking to each other and approaching each other in a way that will allow the information to land is half the battle. And as all of us know from being in therapy, our family systems are some of the hardest ones to actually put this work into practice [laughs]. But it sounds like you’re really making it work here. And that’s where the practice starts. So thank you for sharing that. I think it’s really important to talk about some of the suckier parts of being with and around people and in relationships with people alongside the great parts.

Do you feel like any of the challenges you've mentioned are specific to the mental health industry? Could you talk about some of the challenges related to starting a business within this space?

Liz: I think one of the challenges [we faced] is [that] we went in with the assumption that everybody needs help, right? Every parent is in crisis at some level with their child. This will be easy! And we didn’t realize, and have learned, that parents will spend a ton of money on their child, but not necessarily on themselves. That has been a tremendous amount of learning for us…so we have pivoted in terms of our payment structure, in terms of how long we allow people to be on the platform for free. We’ve learned that it takes time for somebody to feel comfortable, that it has to do with their child’s journey [and their own]. If their kid is good, then they may not be coming to meetings, right? It’s usually when you’re in crisis…and I think that’s therapy in general. I hear my therapist talk about that she hasn’t seen so-and-so because they’re good right now; but they’ll be back, you know? So I’ve noticed, and I believe, that a lot of what our challenges are are very specific to the mental health space.

Casie: I would agree with that. I think that our being willing to feel and be a part of the mental health space, even though it’s a challenge, it’s also a benefit for us; that we have leaned into ourselves to take care of ourselves, to do work with our kids, to do work with our families. And so when there’s challenges with our team or each other or, this is Women’s Day, sometimes some of the people we are speaking to of a different persuasion, we can intellectually be present in that and not allow it to take away anything from us. And I think that’s kind of huge. I mean, just reading other founders’ stories where the marriage breaks up and I think to myself, oh thank goodness! Because of some of that stuff, Liz and I have leaned into trying to navigate with each other difficult times and some difficult people that we’ve met along the way. And I think because of our work and because of what we’re doing, we’re willing and able, I guess, to stay to do it. And I think that’s big. That’s a positive for us.

Liz: Yeah, we walk the talk. Is that the phrase? I mean, really the values that we’re instilling in the business and promoting within our mission are ones that we are living ourselves. Yes. 

Natasha: Yeah. You walk the walk. You talk the talk. And you walk the talk. And you talk the walk! Why not? I love it. It sounds like what you were saying, Casie, too, is that you have worked in a way to be intellectually present, but also keep compassion fatigue at an arm’s distance. 

You mentioned earlier that you both take time off when you need to or take time off from each other when you need to, but what are some other practices that you do to stay well and be well? Especially in this space where you're hearing a lot of heavy things?

Liz: I’ll say, I have a hard time going to the meetings. I’m an empath and it really impacts me. I absorb, and I’m not saying Casie doesn’t, I’m just saying for me it’s really hard. So I try to limit the amount that I go to, which I struggle with because I want to make sure everything is running well, but I saw that it was overwhelming me. I learned that I really couldn’t do it.

What I know for myself is I need to be around other people and get away from the business. I’m a people person, so it’s important for me. Like, tonight I have dinner plans. I need to get away from my computer, I need to get out of my house, I need to be around others and hearing what’s going on in their life, so I’m not sucked into this world because we put in a lot of hours. A lot. And it is draining and exhausting and sad and overwhelming.

I also really make an effort to try to work out in the morning. My sleep is definitely not where I’d like it to be, but I know when I work out, I tend to get a better night’s sleep. So I do work on that.

And I really try to stay involved with other communities where I’m around other people, that it’s not just about this business all the time. Like for me, especially being creative, and I’ve said this to Casie, I need to get away. I need to breathe. There are many times I can’t work on something that night; I need the day to think about it or the night to think about it and hit it the next morning. I’ve learned for myself how to navigate and know I can’t push through. I definitely can’t as a creative person; it doesn’t work for me. That will not happen. I need to walk away, take a break and then look at something the next day. I am definitely more of a morning person. I’ve taught myself that’s when I’m at my best. So those are some of my skills and tools.

Casie: So for me, one of the things — there’s several things — I do. I avoid [laughs] like the plague these days, reading self-help books. When we have speakers come on who have written books, I make sure that I’ve read their book, but I really try to have something joyful that I’m reading. And I am also the same with podcasts. You can get really embroiled in podcasts in the mental health world. And so I have a podcast called Smartless with, I call them three boys, and that’s fun and joyful and nothing to do with what we do at all. So those are some of my ways to keep my head out of the space because you literally could be reading about it, you could be listening when you’re driving, you could be watching shows. I mean, it’s so everywhere that you have to consciously choose to not give. Having said that, I also love the Calm App and I have a favorite person who does a meditation, a movement, and stuff like that. Those are my kind of things.

Casie: I also do date nights with my husband — once a week we try to do something. I’m really trying to find and lean into taking care of myself. I was actually talking to one of my peer parents the other day; I love being in the meetings I run, the speaker talks. I love that. I love being there. But yes, there is a lot going on. So what I actually shared was — and I got this from my therapist — I have a box…I don’t think Liz knows this. So I have a vision of a box. It’s a very pretty painted box. And at the end of it [our support groups], all the things that have come up for other people, things that I call ‘holding space’, I take everything that I’ve held and I put it into the box, I close the box, I lock the box and it goes into ‘my closet’. And when it’s really, really tough, I go to my happy place and I actually envision myself in Cape Cod on the beach and the box. I get a new box and the box goes into the water and I watch it float away so that it’s not something I’m holding onto.

Having that vision has really helped me because I am also an empath and that’s how I protect myself. I even do that for my kids because they’re older now, they’re young adults, so I don’t need to hold onto their things. Whereas I used to when they were younger, I held on to it. So now I have a way and a vision, a visual to help me. And it’s really helped a lot. I don’t know if Liz has noticed, but it’s helped me a lot these last couple of months of being able to be in a difficult place and hear difficult things, but then still be able to walk away. I mean, it may sound callous, but I really can walk away and say that’s their thing…now, I don’t know if that sounds okay. 

Liz: I love that. And I did not know that story.

Casie: Yeah, it makes a big difference.

Natasha: That is really powerful and I think that speaks to your self-preservation. It’s not your responsibility to hold onto other people’s things, even though you are holding space for them. And I love, love, love the visualizations that you have and that you’re able to transport yourself there. I think, Liz, you have a similar but different mechanism to do that; movement and community sound really, really vital to you. And the fact that you both make space and time to do these things, is not only a model for the people that you are serving and supporting, but also so important for your own capacity to endure. We love it when we take care of ourselves!

Liz: I talk to so many business owners and their identity is wrapped up in their business. I am trying to avoid that. I am so passionate about this. This will succeed. I manifest every day, but I am Liz Reitman and there are many layers to me and I don’t want it to just be about Other Parents Like Me. I think that’s why it is so important to be able to have those self care tools and also have the mindset to know that there’s other parts to life because you can really go down the rabbit hole in this. When I listen to some of these stories, it’s incredible how much pain and how many people are just really desperate.

Natasha: Yes, it’s important to remember that we are a sum of our parts, but at the end of the day, there are different parts. You’re a business owner, but you are also Liz Reitman. And those are all aspects that make each of you, you; one is not more or less than the other.

Let's keep going! Other Parents Like Me is still relatively in its infancy. Before we jump into questions on OPLM, could you share an overview of what it is for people who have not yet heard?

Liz: Other Parents Like Me (OPLM) is a membership based community for parents and caregivers of young adults, teenagers, young people that are struggling with mental health issues. That can be learning differences, eating disorders, substance use, anxiety, depression, we really cover a wide range. At our core, our support groups are led by two peer parents who have been in it or [are] in it, and are trained by Casie and understand this space. So their level of empathy is through the roof. We offer 17 of those meetings throughout the day so that we can offer these support groups to people on either coast. And we are really trying to create more identity based [groups]; We have a solo moms, a men’s group, a trauma-informed group, and a newcomers group. And ultimately our goal is to be able to offer something for the LGBTQ community, BIPOC community, adoptive parents…the list could go on. But we must have parents that can lead those groups. So, you know, being in our infancy, we can only start where we can start.

But that is our mission, right? To offer these meetings 24/7. And every Thursday, we have a speaker talk at 8:00pm EST with industry experts, people well renowned in this space of mental health that have published books, have podcasts…and what makes this [series] unique is that parents get to ask these expert questions. This isn’t listening to a podcast. It’s not reading a book, and it’s free. It’s for anybody at any point. Every Thursday and we record them. So if you are a paying member, you can go back to the recordings, which we see get a lot of traction on our website.

And the third part of what we offer is a resource hub. I know when I was trying to find help, I was stunned at how difficult it was. I would Google and talk to places and they’d say, ‘Oh, your son has to check himself in’. And I would say, ‘Wait a minute, he’s 16 years old. What do you mean? I’m his mom!’ The laws are different from state to state. There’s a lot of acronyms. It’s very confusing.

So what we’ve done is we’ve created a list of words, a dictionary to help people navigate those acronyms, those new things that are coming up. And we also have a directory of individuals and organizations — if you need a coach, if you need a place for your child to go — that’s been vetted by Casie and the team. And then finally, a resource hub that’s searchable. So if you want to type in eating disorders and you’re looking specifically for articles on that, it can drill down as deep as that.

 Casie: I’m just having a moment here. Liz is doing so well. I could hear so many of my words in her talk! 

Liz: Well…

Casie: She listens well! The cool part about the support groups is with the two facilitators, the two peer parents are actually sneakily getting parents to start to do a little self care. So we start off with a meditation and then we have a topic. And we have a big library with lots of different things — everything from Yung Pueblo, who is a poet who writes about trauma. You’re nodding your head, do you know Yung Pueblo? I love him. Liz is like, you always talk about young Pueblo [laughs]. Or [the peer parents] talk about acceptance, or read about acceptance, or something from Brené Brown, or a brief video on vulnerability that Brené Brown has done…or something like that. And then the peer parents reflect on it from their own perspective. And that creates a situation where the parents start to reflect on it.

You have 55 minutes where you [as the parent] actually start to take note that, even though you’re there because of your kid, you’re there for you and you’re taking what you’re hearing and what you’re listening and what you’re sharing and starting to turn away from the outside and into yourself. And that’s what I love; it’s beautiful. And then usually there’s time at the end when you have someone who’s had a really big struggling kid moment that they just want to share, and then everybody can reflect on it or say, ‘Hey, we’re holding space’. Or, you know, that kind of thing. But we have two in the room, two peer parents, because sometimes there’s crisis, sometimes there’s suicidal ideation of the parent or the child. And so by having two, they can go out into a breakout room. We have tools that we’ve given the peer parents to help with so they can go and give that person the space that they need and the meeting still runs on. So it’s another learning thing for even the person in crisis if it’s okay for me to be in crisis and that there are things moving on in life.

So I think there’s a lot of power in the way we’ve organized the meetings. And that came from me attending and being a part of a lot of other organizations such as the Partnership to End Addiction and Tempest and the Luckiest Club; seeing how they’ve done it and how they create a space where people can talk about themselves but not. And so they end up learning. And then the hope is that [we’ve created] just a little window [for an] aha moment that when someone hears this they will go, ‘Oh, wait…Oh, I do that. Oh, that connects to me’. And you start to [build] a little bit change. Just a little bitty turn and then you get stronger and then you feel more whole and you gain more understanding about yourself.

Thus your change removes [yourself] and allows the person who’s struggling, the child who’s struggling, to not be the identified patient in the home anymore, or outside if they’re outside of the home. And that’s powerful for them because they don’t feel that they’re going to break their parents anymore. And that’s huge because there’s a lot of shame for the child to see their parents collapse. And the whole unit starts to improve. And that’s the beauty of what we’re doing.

Liz: I also think that we’ve created a safe space that can be anonymous. So a lot of people that are new are afraid to share, right? They don’t have to turn on their video screen. They don’t have to type their name in. It’s accessible. You can join a meeting from your phone. And what we’ve learned is it doesn’t matter where you are in your journey. I know for myself, when I first joined, a lot of tears, a lot [time] wrapped up in like what my son was going through. And then months later, you know, I could handle those situations. And I was really speaking more about myself.

But when I would hear somebody new come in, I realized, holy cow, look how far I’ve come. That person is me. And so there’s value in being in the room because you’re learning and seeing. It’s an opportunity to see how far you’ve come. And I think for the new people, they see the people that have been in the rooms for a bit and see the difference in them and want that as well.

Natasha: That’s beautiful. It’s a really great reminder about humanity; that we see ourselves in one another. But it sounds like Other Parents Like Me creates the container, creates the space for that to happen for parents, in particular, in these circumstances.

But I think at the end of the day, what you’re doing is really building a community, where there are small morsels or nuggets of awareness that are being popped in, that can be the catalyst for change — for their themselves, their family systems, and for the support they can provide for their children. I love it.

Casie: Yes.

Natasha: Y’all sign everyone up! [laughs]

Casie: Yes, please. Yes, y’all! [laughs]

You have only been moving and grooving for a few years now, any accomplishments you want to highlight here?

Casie: One of the things Liz and I have been learning about is media and how to use it best. We recently sponsored a podcast. Liz actually spoke on the podcast and shared her story, which I know was uncomfortable for her, but she did it! And my husband and son were on the podcast, as was I. And then other parents have gone on, as well as some of our speakers.

Prior to that, we felt a bit stagnant in how we were growing in the number of people who were on our platform. After the podcast, an in just these three months, we doubled our numbers.

I know it’s kind of crazy. And that’s a big accomplishment. That’s where I’m learning from Liz, because, you know, that’s her thing: branding, marketing, is this worth it? What do you call it, paid media? Liz I can’t remember. I think that’s right. [laughs]. What is speaking to the masses and what will get them to know you, because this is so personal…mental health, they need to get to know you. And we leaned into this and it’s been an accomplishment.

The podcast has had 14,000 downloads. He just shared that with us. Over these nine episodes. And that’s just, what, from December 22nd, I think? Liz, that’s huge. That’s a big accomplishment. 

Liz: I also think that we’re actually starting to get real traction with investors, angel investors that are focused on impact, which is exciting. It was really hard to find the right people. A VC is not going to be right…we’re not at that stage. And so we’re very excited about that and understanding partnerships with pre-existing online mental health organizations that are very interested in what we’re doing. They’re running their own groups, but they’re clinician-led, and they see the value of peer to peer support groups. That is a huge shift for us. It takes time, but we realize that will be a quicker way to grow in terms of membership. And there are the right partnerships because we all have the same mission. It’s all about helping the family.

Natasha: That’s huge.

Casie: I think those are our most recent [accomplishments]. And I would say that’s one of the things that I think is also [great] about how Liz and I co-parent, as you said, is we’re very open to pivoting. Even though Liz mentioned how we’ve made some mistakes — and I’m not saying that we’re not going to continue to make mistakes because we are — but we hear, we talk together, and we both know what’s the right thing.

And we trust each other. If I say, “Hey, I want to lean in this way,” Liz will go, “Okay, let’s give it a try”. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s not an “Oh, I can’t believe you did that”. Liz says, “Hey, I want to do this. I want it”. And I go, “Okay, let’s try”. And then if she’s like, “Yeah, it didn’t work out,” I go, “Okay”. And there’s no judgment. Like our meetings. There’s no judgment, no shame. Just, Okay, we learned. Great. And we pivot together. I mean, I think that’s a good part of what our partnership is about.

Liz: An example of where it was challenging was when we did a lot of marketing online, pay per click ads that really did not yield what we thought it would yield. So it’s interesting that this one podcast with a nominal amount of money has doubled our membership. We’ve gotten smarter at how to use very little money in the right way. Niche, niche, niche, focus on that right now and steadily build.

Casie: Yeah.

Natasha: A different metaphor, but it’s like you’re in your toddler era and you’re learning how to walk and [there is] no shame in falling down. That’s how we learn to move forward. And it sounds like you’re moving into areas that are clicking more. I love the referral network that you’re starting to make and [how] that’s one of the things you listed as an accomplishment. That is an accomplishment!

More of this, “We did that, we tried this, and it didn’t work,” or “We tried this and we’re getting 14,000 downloads” energy. That’s awesome. And I appreciate you sharing that because part of owning a business are those “smaller” wins.

Natasha: Yeah. I feel like what you are both saying is that it’s really important to not look at women or Black people as a monolith; everyone has a different experience and everyone has value. And there are different spaces where it might make sense to have an affinity group and then have another group where there is more of a mix. But at the end of the day you both are living in your identities — you’re born like this — and so you move through the world like this and this is how you’ve operated. To Richard’s point, it is what it is, and there is a lot of work to be done to make spaces and places more inclusive. But what does that look like and how does that look and who is supporting that and leading the charge with that? A lot in here for sure. 

Liz: And another thing that’s interesting is, we’re just kind of used to it. Like, he said, that’s the way it’s always been, being the [only] Black man in the room. And I think I’ve taken it for granted too; I’m used to it. So I think what I love is that this is a conversation now — that people are actually acknowledging that something’s not right. I just went my way and got used to guys making men’s jokes in meetings that were inappropriate. But I find it so interesting that the next generation – the whole #MeToo movement blew me away — is speaking up. This is what my generation took for granted, it was what it was. And same with the diversity aspect. People are now saying, take a look at the numbers, and who is in your groups and organizations. I don’t know, I feel very positive about the way things are moving potentially forward. 

Could you talk more about bootstrapping OPLM? You've done your own crowdfunding and it sounds like you're speaking to investors. What are the realities of owning your own business and trying to get it off the ground from a monetary standpoint?

Liz: We’ve been blessed to have incredible friends and family that kicked us off. We are where we are solely because of that, as well as Casie and I putting in our own money. Right? That’s how much we believe in this. And it’s not like we’re rich [laughs]. So, you know, the learning has been incredible to go to investors. Incredible. I know for me, I’ve never done anything like this. And we’ve been very blessed in terms of meeting the right people. 

We have met with — shockingly cold emails going out to individuals — large, well-known investors that are taking our calls. And they may not invest with us because we’re not the right fit, however, they are all about helping us because they said we are very coachable and they love that. We receive what they say. We listen. They talk to us about our story arc, how we’re presenting . And we go back, we edit, edit, edit. It’s really hard to put a pitch deck together that has only the most important words, you know, word-smithing, everything. How much is on a page? And we’ll go back to that investor and he’ll say, Bravo! Much better. And it’s, great, because they’re really rooting for us or pointing us in the right direction. That has been very exciting.

You also realize that you can’t listen to everybody. Everyone has an opinion. We went down that rabbit hole for a while. We were changing our deck on a daily basis, and then we would say, ‘Wait, didn’t we have that before?’ So we had to really be very mindful and think through why did that person give us that feedback and is that really valid to go in the core 10/15 pages we have? Or does that go in the appendix? Or is that just that one person’s feedback at that moment?

We also learned to talk to other owners that have sold their businesses, ideally in the wellness space. And I think we’ve been so blessed to get incredible insight from those types of individuals where they’ve taught us very high level information. For example, investors will talk to you, but get to a yes or no as quick as you can.

I would also say it’s very interesting to try to present with somebody else as well, to figure out that balance, who jumps in, who speaks to what, who has that answer? And our answers are constantly evolving as we learn more, get more data. And then our deck changes as new things are happening. It’s very exciting.

I think from my perspective, I’ve loved the learning. I’ve been shocked at how a cold email leads to incredible people getting on board to help us, meet with us. The generosity in the entrepreneurial world has been astounding to me and more so from, I think, VCs. I think I knew entrepreneurs are about helping each other, but I’ve been really surprised, especially because a lot of these individuals are not going to give us money. We’re not the right fit, but these VCs and Angels are really rooting for us and know that this has such potential. And I think as a result, we’re now starting to meet with the right people. 

Casie: I would 100% agree as we started actually pitching back in October, November and here we are in March. We’re finally getting to the right people. That, to me, says a lot about our coachability and our grit because, you know, we were able to get that next bit of money to allow us to continue forward with friends and family. And still lean into the bootstrapping.

Liz and I are not making any money. I’m using my retirement as a flight attendant of 26 years. That’s how passionate about this we are and how much we believe in Other Parents Like Me and parent support. We try not to stay in scarcity mode, which can happen, as we’ve talked to other people who’ve bootstrapped. That’s the advantage of talking to other entrepreneurs. BUT those entrepreneurs who’ve bootstrapped really have said those become the strongest businesses. Because you are tooth and nail and are going to make it work.

Liz: And you spend every dollar so wisely. You know, when people talk about our burn rate, we’re like, ‘We got that down, man!’ Every dollar you are so mindful of. And that’s what makes that podcast that we sponsored so exciting because that $3,000 took us so far. It was such a good use of our money, but we struggled [to decide]. We debated $3,000. Do we do it? Do we not

Casie: And that’s where our gut instincts have come in to play, when people have asked us to make changes. Two weeks ago, someone asked for a major edit that required a lot of research on our end. We went back and forth, ‘Do we do it? Do we not? Do we?’ And so I learned, found the time, and did the research. And then one of our new investors today said, ‘Hey, could you provide me data on XYX.?’ And when she asked the question, we were completely prepared as that was the research we had just done! And so that’s what I think is good about our gut, do we need to lean into that because we don’t have the answer. And then lo and behold, three days later we have someone ask us the same question. I think that is a big part of being coachable, like Liz said, and that we’re fully in it. 

Natasha: It sounds like coachability is something you two are strong at; and understanding that everybody has opinions, like Liz said, then discerning which ones to pay attention to or contextualize with what you’re doing. Also the gut checks, like you said, Casie, where you’re checking in with what feels right for you, too. Great takeaways. 

What are some goals on the horizon for Other Parents Like Me? What can people look forward to?

Casie: I’ll take this one because I have big goals. We’ve been asked this a lot lately. Liz already said it once: we’re going to be 24/7. We are definitely leaning into all different socioeconomic and diverse backgrounds. That’s very, very important to us. If we can have 150 different languages for different meetings, we will. We want to do them. We want to do it smart. We want to have the correct people leading the meetings. We want to have the correct people to support those who are leading the meetings. And so we’re not trying to do it fast. We’re trying to make sure that we have exactly what we need and the correct people that keep our product and our spaces safe, comfortable, and healthy. And people know they’re going to be anonymous and suddenly not, somehow it’s shared out there. So, you know, you have to do that wisely. So that’s that…and I’ve lost my track there [laughs] I’m starting to go off on another track. Liz, take it from there!

Liz: I think the goal would be to raise the money to be able to be fully staffed. We recently talked with a guidance counselor in downtown Manhattan that I knew from my son’s middle school. I don’t even know how many years ago, I guess he was 14. So it’s [been] a while. And, you know, it was astounding because he had heard about us, reached out because he felt really hopeless. Those were his words. He felt really hopeless. And when we explained what we were doing, the look on his face..his energy changed. And he was feeling, for the first time, that we were giving him hope and we are exactly what he needed to bring to his community.

But he didn’t want us to just talk to this one middle school. First of all, he wanted us to talk to his principal, but he wanted us to talk to the entire downtown community of schools. And so what my hope is that it’s so beyond, you know, going to therapeutic boarding schools and wilderness programs. And yes, that is where people are in crisis who can afford certain solutions. But wouldn’t it be grand, wouldn’t it be incredible if we could be in all schools as a resource for all different parents?

And that just blew my mind away when I heard him feeling hopeless in this situation. And I remember when Gabe was in middle school, it was just starting. He was trying to help parents here and there. He says it’s now blown out of the water. Now everybody is lost and they do not know what to do. And I’m sure especially with pot being legal, things have changed since then. But my hope is that, we are the largest parent community. Period.

Casie: And we’re going to go into school systems, partnering with someone who talks about suicide. He had a son who died by suicide, so he also has that intent to get kids to start talking about suicide and to get parents start talking about it. And now we’re coming in as the other part of getting parents to get support around having a kid who has suicidal ideation. And it’s amazing how many parents in middle school will say, ‘Oh, it’s a phase. Oh, it’s not going to last’. Let me tell you. Listen, I was there, you know, eighth grade and my daughter was six when we knew she was really struggling. So you think it’s a phase and yes, some things are a phase, but not everything’s a phase.

And by us being present in that time frame for the parents, instead of being like Liz and I, where we were told to just go to Al-Anon — now there’s value for 12 steps, 100%. We both agree on that — however, it didn’t feel parent focused for me. And even in the parent meetings, they’re like 30 year old, 40 year old, 50 year old kids. And I had a 17 year old and Liz had a 16 year old. So, you know, that was so, ‘Oh, my gosh, how are we going to do this for that long?’ You can’t even fathom that.

But if you’ve heard about it and you know about us and then the crisis is building… the crisis is building… the crisis is building, you can say, I actually have a place I can turn to. And they can turn to us, and they can get a mentor because we have mentors, and they can attend the newcomers meeting, and they’re going to start to say, ‘Okay. I’m not alone. Okay, maybe this is more of a marathon than I thought. I can survive this marathon and I can get healthier. And this won’t be as bad as I thought. I’m not alone’. 

Natasha Cucullo: [01:14:46] Wow. Yeah, I really like what Liz said about the accessibility standpoint. Even therapy is not accessible to a lot of people price point wise or health insurance wise — if you don’t have health insurance and even if you do. And Casie, so agree with what you’re saying about being with people before a crisis really hits. There is so much value in some of the places that you both have mentioned. But there’s also so much value in being a really nimble and remote-first place that people can go to right out the gates…or even before they hit the gate. So that is really, really special.

We could talk until the cows come home about OPLM, but we have been chatting for a long time! Let's end with where can people find Other Parents like me?

Liz: So you can go to our website: And it’s free for the first three months, which gives you that opportunity to try everything.

You have the option, if you would like, to do our basic program, which is $10 a month where you can have access to the videos. Or for $49 a month, you get all our support meetings and everything.

But at the end of the day, it’s always free for the first three months and you always can join a Thursday speaker talk and you always have access to our resources.

Natasha: And where can people find the speaker talks? 

Liz: On there is the calendar of events and you can see who’s speaking on that Thursday.

We also have a good social media presence as well. Follow and you’ll be able to see who’s speaking and who’s coming up. Or you can join our newsletter, which has a great following as well. There we promote who’s speaking that week, what meetings are coming up, and we also present a lot of tools and mindful moments to help people throughout the week.

Natasha: Great. Amazing. We will definitely link those out. 

And any last words before we go?

Casie: My favorite saying is our mantra here at Other Parents Like Me: As we get stronger, our family gets stronger.

Liz: Natasha, I love how you summarize what we said. I feel like you’ve given us our talking points!

Casie: Yeah, I love it.

Liz: This was lovely and it was really fun. And I really appreciate both of you. So thank you so much.

Casie: Thank you. Natasha, this was great. I loved your questions.

Natasha: I loved speaking with you, too. I’m sure we’ll have another round at some point!


Other Parents Like Me Hearing the stories of other parents — and sharing yours — gives you the chance to explore feelings, ask questions and create connections with other parents who understand what you’re going through. Together we find hope, help, and healing. is an online parent to parent support community designed for parents of teens struggling with mental health issues.

If your child is struggling with anxiety, depression, substance use, or an eating disorder, remember that you are not alone.

Our memberships, peer-led Zoom support groups, and resources support parents like us as we share our stories and create connections as the antidote to the trauma we experience when a child struggles.

Hearing the stories of other parents — and sharing yours — gives you the chance to explore feelings, ask questions and create connections with other parents who understand what you’re going through. Together we find hope, help, and healing.

Join for free today.