When Cali Estes arrived in Miami in 2010, she had $1500 to her name.
With a dream, faith, and an endless amount of determination, she put the money down on an apartment to have a roof over her head, and then hit the sidewalk to drum up business.
In less than three years Cali has parlayed her dream and her passion into a million dollar business, interviews on CNN as a subject matter expert, and has been the catalyst of change for thousands of individuals who have suffered from addiction, by helping them on the path of recovery.
It’s an American Dream story. From the outside.
But the real story is the one that reveals the dogged determination and “against all odds” attitude that Cali possesses to overcome adversity and get to where she is today.
It began by recognizing that while South Florida was experiencing a renaissance in the treatment industry, there was little to no training available for counselors to become Recovery or Addiction “Coaches.” In fact there was only one existing model and no other options.
With an eye toward entrepreneurship, and the desire to create a quality program to deliver services, Ms. Estes began the Addictions Academy in Miami. For each move that she made forward, others in the field would attempt to push her back. Professional jealousy and the proverbial “smack down” of long-standing behemoths to the new “upstart” were met with a successful rise to every challenge.
“They said, ‘You can’t do this, you’re not qualified’ to which Cali responded by producing all her credentials. “They said, ‘no’ and that just made me work harder.“
One of Cali Este’s caveats is to “surround myself with what I want, and engage in partnerships with other people who have what is needed.” To that end, she brought on several colleagues to strengthen her base. George Anderson, a specialist in Anger Management, Dr. Weiss, an expert in sexual addiction, and support from The Gottman Institute to name but a few. The additional credibility silenced the naysayers.
The Addictions Academy began to attract attention from national media. Cali began getting calls from NBC News, and was contacted by celebrity clients. Eventually the NFL and the NBA reached out to her for help with players returning from treatment. She has been featured in The Fix, the Miami Herald, Addiction.com, CBS, the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News, Entrepreneur, and U.S. News & World Report. Recently she was on a CNN panel discussing NFL Player Lamar Odom.
Ms. Estes took stands – not always popular ones – so taking on “Big Pharma” on an anti-medication platform brought critical attention. Ironically, the recovery industry followed suit to her opinion – several years later.
To an outsider, Ms. Estes may look like someone who had it all come to her easily. Nothing could be further from the truth. She has put her all her energy, time and effort into making her company a nationally recognized training center. Her first client came to her when they saw her card on the bulletin board at the local gym. “I went out and got the business.”
Today she is being offered $1m to sell her company.
Cali is known as a maverick, and a spitfire. She tells it like it is, confronts with respect, and stands up for her principles. She speaks her mind, and is known to drop f-bombs with impunity. Adverb, adjective, noun or verb – the word is a vital part of her vocabulary.
If she is perceived as tough, she is. She’s had to be. But Cali is also kind, supportive, and approachable. If a student asks for a discount in order to become certified, she will make a deal. If Cali takes someone under her wing, the loyalty is unflinching.
What is Cali’s next move? “Open a detox in Colorado as an alternative to big pharmacy medication-assisted treatment.” With the support of her mentors, and her partners, that dream will soon become a reality .
There is no doubt that Cali Estes will succeed in her next endeavor. As she expands her focus, she is offering teaching opportunities to others through the Academy. Her new model is affording her the ability to spread her wings to a broader horizon, and gives others the chance to continue the Academy under her watchful eye.
Earlier this year, Ms. Estes became Dr. Estes. Juggling a thriving business, trainings, counseling, a marriage and family, she managed to complete her coursework, write her dissertation, and be conferred with her PhD.
Don’t ever tell this woman “no” – it’s just not a word in her vocabulary.