Ellie Mental Health PLLP became one of the fastest-growing mental health companies in the U.S. by coupling a customer and clinician experience-focused approach to care with a franchising business.
The Mendota Heights, Minnesota- based company, founded in 2015, grew revenue by 544% from 2018 to 2021, according to the Inc. 5000 list where it ranked at No. 1,193.
Erin Pash, Ellie Mental Health c0-founder and CEO, told BHB that the company’s focus on customer service and creating better employee experiences for practitioners resonated wherever they took the story of Ellie.
Rather than taking on the job of scaling the company nationwide on its own, the company opted to sell Ellie Mental Health franchises. The company has since sold and awarded just over 400 clinic sites to about 130 franchisees across 32 states since beginning in Aug. 2021.
Today, Ellie Mental Health directly owns and operates 20 locations in Minnesota, Ellie’s corporate market, and plans to open as many as five more locations by the end of 2022.
The company has seven franchise locations open today and 30 opening before the end of the year. It will also have new clinics opening every week in 2023, Pash said.
The decision to opt for franchising came from introspection on what made Ellee Mental Health successful in the past, Pash said. Pash and her team identified three elements — a passion for mental health, excitement about the Ellie model and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Ellie Mental Health sees franchisees that have been franchise owners or entrepreneurs in the past and are ideal candidates. Franchisees also need to be well-grounded in their communities and have an understanding of the impact of mental health treatment.
“In mental health, it’s hard to get buy-in because people don’t trust as easily as they do with medical health,” Pash said. “People want to be able to trust people. If you walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk of your community, you’ll understand who the local football teams at the high school are, and all that kind of stuff.”
While franchisees aren’t required to be mental health professionals, they do need to come to Ellie Mental Health with clinical directors that are mental health professionals. Often, franchisees make the clinical directors some kind of partner in the venture. The pairing of entrepreneurs with mental health practitioners allows each party to focus on what they are good at.
“Being a therapist doesn’t make you a good business owner,” Pash said.
From the practitioner perspective, Pash said the company’s aim is to give the security and support from being part of a large agency, and the creativity and flexibility to practice like they would in private practice.
The Minnesota market acts as the “guinea pig” for Ellie Mental Health. In this market Ellie develops new approaches, strategies and is able to test them. It then systemizes those innovations, develops financial pro formas and training to support franchisee implementation.
Earlier in the year, Ellie Mental Health secured investment from the private equity firm Princeton Equity Group. Other Princeton Equity Group investments include Massage Envy, D1 Training and medspa810, according to the firm’s website.
The company offers telehealth to patients and is also developing its own app for patients and businesses that partner with Ellie Mental Health to provide employee wellness consultations.
The app should be live by the end of the year, Pash said.