SHIFT Baltimore is the world's only mission-driven, localized, invite-only entrepreneurial membership community. Our mission is to create a new standard for business, one where money and mission are not mutually exclusive. We use the most rigorous, holistic approach to personal and professional performance: honoring the whole-self of business, body, balance, and being. We are creating meaningful, sustainable change aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Our members are relentlessly committed to inspiring, influencing, innovating, and impacting Baltimore. And we're spreading across the word!
We are thrilled to introduce SHIFT Talks: a series of unique stories from local entrepreneurs, each detailing how they've experienced shifts within their personal life, their company’s journey, their industry, and most importantly, our city. Their stories. Their SHIFT Talks.
Aaron Copeland is the founder and managing partner of Alignstaffing, and the managing partner of the Connections Therapy Center.
Alignstaffing is a leader in healthcare, social service, and education staffing in the Washington D.C. Metro Area. Aaron began Alignstaffing by helping D.C. public charter schools that were struggling to find health specialists to care for students with special needs. Now, Aaron has helped Alignstaffing expand to help clinics, healthcare facilities, and social service organizations, as well as schools.
After firmly establishing Alignstaffing, Aaron founded the Connections Therapy Center. This philanthropic organization provides pediatric occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavioral (ABA and Autism Services) therapy, and speech and language pathology services to families with children who have specials needs from infancy to adolescence.
Q: How did you get where you are today?
A: I began my career as a CPA. I went to school at Towson University and enjoyed my time there, and I enjoyed being an accountant too. Accounting wasn’t my first choice though, it would have been philosophy, but I don’t know how many working philosophers there are. Accounting was a good alternative. I found my way in an accounting firm and eventually opened up my own practice, but I realized I still couldn’t be as creative as I wanted to be. Accounting is a fine profession but the problem is you can’t be an accountant and be super creative, so I made a change and started Alignstaffing, and later started Connections Therapy Center.
Q: Can you tell us about an important event in your life and how it propelled your life forward?
A: The birth of both of my kids, but my first child in particular. The birth of my first child forced me to question all the fears I had. I was probably, like many other people, limited by what I thought I could do, but the question I asked myself was what fear was so great or greater than my child’s future? It just made me reassess everything, and was the greatest, most life changing moment, I had.
Q: What’s the most thrilling life experience you’ve had so far?
A: Parachuting was immensely exciting and exhilarating. Jet packing was wild too, especially since I almost drowned during the experience. Moments like that where your adrenaline kicks in and you’re kind of trying to stay alive are very thrilling. I had a great time doing both.
Q: What are a few things you are looking to check off your bucket list?
A: I would love to visit South Korea. When I was young I studied martial artsuntil probably the age of 22-23. My instructor was from South Korea, and he was very involved in my life, he was a great mentor. It’s a place with great history and culture and I’d like to visit. Another is, as far as what I would like to do, is travel to Argentina to dance the Argentine Tango. I love the dance itself, but to travel someplace exotic like that to dance would be great. A third would be to tackle a 100-mile bike ride. My wife and I do a lot of biking and we’ve talked about it in the past. It would be a great trip, and I’d love to spend that time on the road with her.
Q: What excites you most about your involvement with SHIFT?
A: SHIFT is a great organization, in that it makes you think about business other than being transactional. It makes you think about the whole of your existence, the social part, the giving back. Instead of thinking transactionally I try to look at how the community is affected by what we do. It has inspired me to move my companies to greater action, like getting involved in activities to help other organizations or other people. Joining groups and changing minds, that is how we want to shift. It’s not about just making money, that really doesn’t motivate anybody, it doesn’t capture the attention and imagination of people.
Q: What is your biggest hope for the future of the world?
A: My greatest hope is we stop demonizing one another. Especially over minor things like differences of opinion. It is hard to really hear someone and share information with someone if you demonize a person. We all have different ways of doing things, different opinions, and different experiences that play a significant role in who we are. Just because someone has a different experience or different point of view, does not make anyone a bad person. We can have differing opinions as long as we don’t demonize one another. I’m not asking for people to accept everything that is said, just to tolerate and respect one another.
In my opinion, there is a mindset up here in Baltimore, which is different from where I am in DC. There are more entrepreneurs, and when I say entrepreneurs I mean these entrepreneurs are very creative and will create something out of the emotion and out of the core of who they are. I like to be around people who come up with something out of nothing, from just a desire to make the city a better place. I get rejuvenated as a result of being up here. When I hear the stories, I am encouraged. I don’t get a feeling like this from any other place. They are not afraid to say they are afraid, and sometimes as an entrepreneur you want to hear that, you want to hear you are not the only guy who is afraid in trying to figure things out. I’d love for the world to share this kind of creativity and this kind of fearlessness.
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