Julissa Iracheta ’10 (MS ’12), CCC-SLP is a bilingual speech-language pathologist and owner of the private speech and occupational therapy clinic network, Talking Tadpoles. Iracheta was born in Puerto Rico but lived in different states as a child depending on her father’s military assignment. It was not until eighth grade that she relocated to Texas and never looked back.
Iracheta knew from a young age that she wanted to become a speech-language pathologist. She explained that her younger brother did not talk until he was approximately seven years old, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder early on. He regularly worked with multiple health care professionals including a speech-language pathologist to improve his social, academic and communication skills.
“When my brother was able to communicate something as simple as his preference for meals, as well as understand the world around him, the change in his and my family’s life was profound,” said Iracheta. “Communication is something I valued very early on, and I wanted to be able to bring that gift to other families.”
Iracheta attended Texas Christian University as a dual Chancellor and Community Scholar for her undergraduate degree. She graduated with honors, magna cum laude and a double degree in Spanish (BA) and speech-language pathology (BS). During her senior year, she was admitted to the graduate speech-language pathology program with a bilingual emphasis, the first federally funded graduate emphasis in the bilingual speech-language pathology track. An experience that she said shaped her goals, vision and skills she uses today as an entrepreneur.
‘Helping the Youngest Frogs’
In 2015, Iracheta established an outpatient clinic. Talking Tadpoles has since grown to five locations throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The clinic serves patients from birth to 20 years of age with various communication, feeding and developmental needs. Their services emphasize collaboration between parents and caregivers, and ongoing professional support and development for its team members. Iracheta also owns a separate company, Sweetpea Pediatric Therapy Services, which is focused on providing speech therapy services to school districts through team pairing. This model allows Speech-Language Pathology Assistants or Clinical Fellows to be matched in meaningful collaborations that result in productive mentor-mentee relationships benefiting students, school districts and the professionals involved.
The clinic’s name, Talking Tadpoles, derives from various aspects of Iracheta’s life. From the mascot of the city that she calls home, the Bullfrogs, to TCU, home of the Horned Frogs. “It seemed natural that having a pediatric speech therapy practice where we’d help the youngest frogs, tadpoles, with their communication needs.”
The approach to mentorship and collaboration is uniquely designed to allow open and candid conversations between the patient, their caregiver and therapists to achieve patient success. Talking Tadpoles believes in growing their clinicians and developing them in specialty areas related to augmentative and alternative communication assessment, therapy device selection and pediatric feeding therapy.
Iracheta’s knowledge and foundation as a clinician stem from her academic experience and opportunities. “The TCU faculty are truly invested in your individual success as a student and as a professional,” said Iracheta. “Their guidance and mentorship were instrumental in my being confident and capable in other aspects of my career.” The rigor and support that she received in the undergraduate and graduate program at the TCU Harris College Davies School of Communication Sciences & Disorders is something that she continues to be thankful for as “it takes grit, flexibility, and commitment to push through the obstacles and challenges of entrepreneurship.”
The Road to Entrepreneurship
Iracheta is energized by the many opportunities being an entrepreneur provides. From problem-solving to creating systems that bring valuable services to those in her community. “Being an entrepreneur is probably the most exciting yet challenging thing I’ve ever done,” said Iracheta. “Forming a team with diverse backgrounds and perspectives has only enhanced our practice and it has pushed and stretched me in new ways.”
To aspiring health care entrepreneurs, Iracheta stresses how important it is to just try. “Try everything; it helps you grow,” she explained. “Just as crucial as it is to have a variety of experiences, it’s also important to have ‘deep’ experiences, where you are learning and acquiring unique skills and wisdom that will serve you in exceptional circumstances.” Insightfully, she mentioned that as an entrepreneur moves through the different stages of building success, they will say goodbye to things they thought would always be a part of them but be ready to embrace new things that will change them.
Understanding that success is not a straight road is imperative to becoming a successful entrepreneur. While that road will look different for each person, finding a guide or a coach is a good step in the right direction.
“To pivot toward success, you must be flexible. You can’t solve today’s problems with today’s tools. You must always seek diverse and new opportunities to stretch yourself; to mentor and be mentored; to challenge and be challenged.”