The story behind Inspire … meet Lauren & John Schifferdecker

John and Lauren blend the best practices of the “Corporate Fortune 500” with a “Hippie” culture and vibe. They bring decades of business experience in consulting, marketing, public relations and CEO-level consumer packaged goods.

John and Lauren married their passion for excellent business with mental health — and are obsessed with making Inspire the best place to work with a casual, loving, humble and down-to-earth approach.

Where it all began….

Lauren and John met at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. From the moment they met, they were college sweethearts. They got married right after college and moved to the Gold Coast in Chicago to start their corporate careers. While they always dreamed of working together, they spend nearly 20 years developing different business skill sets before coming together to run Inspire Counseling Center.

They’re careers began apart

Lauren began as an executive at one of the world’s top public relations firms, Edelman. She provided strategic counsel to C-level executives, coached spokespeople for national morning TV interviews and planned national media events and tours with magazine editors in New York. She spent her days on the 63rd floor of the AON Building serving top clients like Heinz, Walmart, General Electric (GE), Clorox, the Mushroom Council, Equal and Butterball. Most of all, Lauren learned from some of the world’s most talented professionals how to run a happy team, air-tight budget, write newsworthy copy and market just about anything!

John began his career with a variety of experience in consulting, marketing, sales, operational executive business management. While obtaining his MBA from Loyola University Chicago, he published a business review on Enterprise Succession Planning. He’s a Certified Marketing Professional (CPM) with a track record of consistently increases revenue and profitability, John successfully led companies including The Popcorn Factory, World’s Finest Chocolates, Sears, with his most recent experience as CEO of Matt’s Cookies.

They returned to Lauren’s roots in Therapy & her Hometown

Lauren grew up a “therapist’s kid” and admired her dad who ran a successful private practice. While she is so much like her dad, she vowed to not become a therapist (even after falling in love with psychology in undergrad,) Sometime during her corporate career though, Lauren felt the calling to go back to her roots in Northbrook and in the world of psychology. And, that’s exactly what she did. She attended grad school, while working full time, moved back to her hometown and somewhere in the middle got pregnant with their first son, Barrett. She began her internship at Alexian Brothers Hospital with a pump bag, and left pregnant with her daughter, Vivienne (trying not to throw up in between sessions!) It was a busy time of life, but a sweet one filled with hope and dreams. When Lauren was finally able to open her own practice, she humbly returned to her dad –like the prodigal son –and asked to rent a closet (ah-hem, office) from his practice.

It was exciting …. but not easy

That was the beginning of it all. But it wasn’t easy. John and Lauren cleaned out her new “closet office,” removing books, vacuums and brooms. They bought some used furniture and that was it. John continued working his corporate jobs to sustain the family while she built Inspire. It would take about 3 years before Lauren make anything close to a profit. John supported her all the way–emotionally, financially and logistically.

During the weekdays, Lauren would take care of their young kids. A babysitter would come late afternoon and she would go to her “office closet,” seeing clients till 10pm before crawling into bed. John would come home from a full day work, hour commute, relieve the babysitter, feed, play and put the kids to bed.

Many days felt discouraging and exhausting. On paper, this plan didn’t make any sense. John gave Lauren the best business advice she’d ever receive, “Just keep your doors open for 3 years.” That was their only goal. That’s what they did.

They started building a team and momentum

While both of them knew marketing strategies, Lauren and John both knew the number one marketing strategy is excellent service, plus that’s pretty much all they could afford. Her referrals started to grow and Northwestern University approached Lauren and asked her to take an intern. Nervously, Lauren agreed. It was a pivot point for her. She realized how much she missed working on teams and business systems. She held team meetings and printed agendas for her and her “team” of one intern. Something came to life for Lauren. She started hiring therapists and learned very quickly how to hire the wrong and right professionals for Inspire.

Each mistake (and there were plenty!), Lauren and John used as a lesson to improve the business. While John continued working his corporate job, not a day would go by that Lauren didn’t run a business idea or issue, by John. The team gradually grew, as did Lauren’s love of her team and passion for providing world-class service.

They began expanding their office space in Northbrook, moving from the office closet to the front of the house. They continued knocking walls down, building more offices until they maxed out on space.

Swimming upstream

During the COVID pandemic, many therapy practices went virtual and gave up office space. Lauren and John decided to swim upstream and do the opposite. They continued offering services in-person and started looking for other locations to expand.

In masks, they cut the ribbon for their second office in Kenilworth, IL right in the middle of the pandemic. Not only did they swim upstream with the timing of their opening, they did something else unconventional–opening in a retail, store front prominently located in the heart of the town. While most therapy practices are hidden and privately tucked away, John found a spot on a main road he thought would be perfect. Luckily, the town embraced Inspire. The community welcomed mental health and was proud to help break the stigma.

At long last, they took a leap of faith to commit to Inspire being fully family run

Later that year, their financial advisor finally recommended John leave his steady job and benefits as CEO to invest full time with Inspire. It was a huge leap of faith on both their parts, but their dream had finally come true. About 5 minutes later, they started looking for their third office and made a strategy to continue opening and serving different communities.

John and Lauren are deeply committed to Inspire and providing the best experience possible for employees and clients. They bring different skill-sets, gifts and professional experience, but share one thing in common: their love of serving people.

They are committed to a positive and inclusive work culture. When therapists and staff love their job, they can do their very best work serving clients. They invest in the staff with an abundance of support, beautiful space, connection, generous compensation, and fun. These things have allowed her to create aand the highest caliber of counselors for the community.

For guests at Inspire, they want everyone to feel safe, cared for, and valued–from the first call to last appointment. From the spa-like music and decor to the warmth and excellent care from each therapist–it is all designed to create a healing place to thrive.

Practicing what they preach ….couples therapy & individual therapy kept it all together

Luckily, John and Lauren have had a ton of support through the years– deeply committed to marriage counseling and individual counseling since their early 20s. It wasn’t always a smooth or easy path. They’ve faced just about every challenge you can imagine and have had plenty of bumps in the road, but therapy held them together. Their work together in therapy was just as important for their personal relationship and happiness as it was for their business plans.

They truly practice what they preach and know firsthand the power of counseling for their marriage, family, professional success and general well being.

They’ll be the first to tell you, they couldn’t have made it where they are today– professionally or personally–without therapy.