LEWISTON, Maine — In 2015, Laura Catevenis hit rock bottom.
She was a single mom, battling bi-polar disorder and living off of just $367 dollars a month in state welfare benefits. It's still hard for her to believe that three years later she is running a company projected to see a gross revenue of $3.5 million.
"We had Mainecare services, we had food stamps, I used WIC." Catevenis said.
This wasn't the life the then 24-year-old envisioned for herself. She says it took hitting rock bottom for her to find the strength to move forward, not just for her, but for her daughter.
"You have to be their everything," Catevenis said. "So it was very important for me to be able to provide for her."
It wasn't a matter of what she wanted to do, but how she could achieve it. Catevenis knew she wanted to help children with developmental disabilities. In fact, when she was 19 she created a business plan to do it, but she chickened out.
"I wasn't ready to be my own boss," Catevenis said. "I wasn't even 21 yet, I wanted to live my life."
After having her daughter she knew it was time. So she turned to Maine's ASPIRE program for help. She described it as a service that helps those who qualify go to work, go back to school or open a business.
She remembers going to the department's office and asking them for help. She says she was wearing sweatpants, a spit up covered sweatshirt, her greasy hair was tied up in a bun, her daughter on her hip.
"They looked at me like I was crazy," Catevenis said. "But I said, look -- I'm going to open a million dollar business in six months, will you just give me a chance?"
After some push-back, Catevenis says the weary worker agreed and connected her with New Ventures Maine. Which is an organization that "creates an empowering environment for Maine people to define and achieve their career, financial, and small business goals".
"They helped me write my business plan, get my cash field projection written up," Catevenis said. "I could tell they saw something in me and they always believed in me no matter what."
Soon after that, Black Bear Support Services was formed. An LLC that partners with Maine's Department of Health and Human Services to connect adolescents with developmental disabilities with a direct support professional.
In the last three years alone, the organization has grown from one to 65 employees and Catevenis estimates they have a clientele of at least 200.
She expects to have at least 200 employees by the end of the year and is working towards providing services to adults with special needs.
"I couldn't have done it by myself," Catevenis said. "I'm so lucky to have my Auntie Rhonda."
Rhonda Allen has been by Laura's side every step of the way, through the good and the bad.
"I watched her dig herself from the depth, from as low as you can go," Allen said tearing up. "But she did it."
The two are now business partners. They both bring a relaxed yet professional approach to running the LLC.
"The more fun we have, the more I give them, the more I show my appreciation, the more they are going to work and do a good job." Catevenis said.
For them, it's all about working together to bring the best possible care to Maine families facing their own battles.
"She's happy and her eyes shine and you just have to listen," Allen said. "Because underneath all that laughter and business mode, she's just a little girl who wants to help the world."
Though Laura's story is nothing short of remarkable, she truly believes if she can find her second chance and rise from the ashes -- anyone can.
"Don't stop believing," Catevenis said. "Make your goals and dreams so big that even you don't even believe them and just keep pushing for them."
See the full story Thursday night on NEWS CENTER at 11 p.m.