Dr. Marquis Norton, Inaugural BMV Black Founders Pitch Competition Winner

Alfred Duncan

“This helps so much. This money will help expand services to be able to affect and change more lives.”

– Dr. Marquis Norton, winner of the inaugural Black Men Ventures Black Founders Pitch Competition

NEWPORT NEWS - Dr. Marquis Norton simply wants to help others the way his grandmother helped him.

A licensed professional counselor, Norton found internet fame by using social media to promote mental health. “The TikTok Therapist,” as Norton was described on his Good Morning America appearance, just wants mental health to be more accessible to more people.

As the winner of the inaugural Black Men Ventures Black Founders Pitch Competition, Norton can take those funds and fulfill a dream.

Helping more people.

“I’m still shocked that I won,” Norton said. “I have a mental health background not necessarily a business background. When I got presented this opportunity, I said, ‘Let me go as hard as I can to make something happen.’”

Norton is originally from the Bronx. His experiences there factored greatly into the profession he chose.

“I grew in a single family household, lower SES (socioeconomic status), where there was lots of crime,” the counselor said. “It was a lot of crime and drugs. There are a million stories. I think in my story the thing that really sticks out is that my grandmother always provided inspiration and hope compared to
some of my friends.

“If I didn’t have a praying grandmother in that environment, I wouldn’t have made it either. I realized that without this safe haven, I could be a product of my environment. When I went to school, I really wanted to provide that environment for others.”

Mental health became a crisis worldwide as people quarantined during the pandemic. Norton used TikTok and other social media platforms to promote mental health.

“TikTok took off during the beginning,” Norton said. “People were just struggling. Before TikTok, I was trying to create podcasts and things like that. It felt a little too informational. TikTok had music that I liked – that was trendy – and I was able to provide the information. It really did take off. I think one reason is because adverse mental health experiences during the coronavirus have skyrocketed. Domestic violence, anxiety and depression have all skyrocketed. The need was there. I was using the platform to fulfill that need.”

Winning the Black Men Ventures Black Founders Pitch Competition, however, will allow Norton to be an even greater part of the solution.

“This helps so much,” Norton said. “Coronavirus introduced telehealth. Everyone is doing virtual sessions. One of the limitations of us being in Virginia is we can’t service people in other states. This money will help expand services - hitting D.C., hitting Maryland – to be able to affect and change more lives. That’s really what the goal is. We have the capability with telehealth. We have clinicians who are culturally competent. Now this will help us tap into those different jurisdictions.”