The trio building a supportive community of therapists

The trio building a supportive community of therapists
Tony Curtis

Posted: Wed 24th Mar 2021

Tony Curtis, Issy Martin and Lizzie Smart met whilst studying hypnotherapy but rather than going out on their own to find clients they launched Choice Therapies, an online community of therapists across multiple disciplines.

Tony tells the story of launching the business during the first coronavirus lockdown and how tips from the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme has helped.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos. 
If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your member dashboard to access the e-learning. If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

How did you come up with your business idea?

We met whilst studying for a diploma in hypnotherapy. The group got on so well that when it was close to ending and we were about to go out as lone therapists and compete against each other for clients we thought there must be a way to support each other.

Speaking to already established therapists, we discovered it was also something they were looking for. So three of us got together and created Choice Therapies as a community of therapists where we support each other, learn and grow together and get clients!

We had the idea during the first coronavirus lockdown and decided to just go for it. We built the website in about a week and then decided to launch with what we had and adapt as we go.

What start-up challenges have you faced?

There were several challenges such as the speed of development. From the initial idea to building the platform to launching was a matter of weeks. It was a challenge to be able to think, analyse and adapt that fast to create something worthy.

Another challenge was getting other therapists to commit to joining something so new. We had an initial membership of most of the hypnotherapy group but we wanted the community to be as diverse as possible so we contacted everyone we knew to have a look and spread the word. When other therapists saw what we were doing they had no problem in becoming members.

Creating something that was worthwhile and not just a directory was important to us. It had to be personal and home to a wide variety of therapists and therapy types who would it useful and engaging.

How has the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme helped you?

The advice on search engine optimisation (SEO) was really useful. Building an online platform creates many challenges including user experience, usability and SEO. Making sure as many therapists and clients find us is vital. The SEO e-learning video really helped me nail that down.

The videos on 'turning browsers into buyers' was very useful and the modules on content creation for your brand have some great advice on creating the right conversations and content to convert subscribers into members. You can often get overwhelmed with what you can do that it's hard to know what to do. By having key areas to focus on and build around makes the process that much easier and targeted. This has shaped our social media posts that follow the same format, style and design to build that brand familiarity and trust.

Watching the video on building a community and knowing your brand pillars was a great way of making sense and solidifying who we are and what we do. We are building a community of a wide range of therapists from a huge range of disciplines. This could be quite scary but by having a clear foundation and linking into the common denominator (they are all therapists who help people), then it becomes easier.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your business?

Overall, I would say that it has had a positive effect. Without the time we had during the first lockdown, we probably would never been able to create something so quickly and capitalise on the energy we all had. Other therapists, who were struggling with the uncertainty of such a difficult time without any support, joined us to help create the fantastic community we have.

The effects of COVID-19 are widespread and we have found that many business owners need mental health support. We have partnered with several other companies for skills and therapy in dealing with redundancies, changing careers and mental health first aid. We are also working with employers trying to cope with staff who are stressed and under pressure from being furloughed or working remotely.

We are working on plans for after the pandemic to allow our members to meet locally and get to know each other better.

What are your plans for the future of your business?

To grow to a global community, to hold national and international conferences and to be the first place clients who need therapy think of and go to when they need help.

We already have over 30 different therapy types represented on the site with more therapists joining all the time. We have amazing guest speakers every month and peer support sessions to support each other.

What is also so special is that because we all get to know each other, we feel safe in referring clients to other members.

Which other entrepreneurs inspire you?

There are so many entrepreneurs who I find inspiring but Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts has to be on the list. It's such an influential website that gives a voice to parents and is a community of people who support each other.

I also love Sania Jamil who created Bumble Brain Box to provide children with activities to improve brain development and help parents know how to support their child.

I also have to mention Michael Acton Smith and Alex Tew from Calm. It's probably the most widely used app for mental health and meditation.

What are your top tips for business success based on your own experiences so far?

Get out there! Don't wait and spend months debating the details. Build the best minimal viable product you can and launch it.

Listen to everyone and everything that people say about what you have.

Adapt quickly from the feedback to shape it into something that is more refined.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos. 
If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your member dashboard to access the e-learning. If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

Tony Curtis
Over 26 years's experience as a behavioural specialist with a degree in education and behaviour and diplomas and training in Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, Congitive Behavioural Therapy and Brif Solution Focused Therapy. I run a private therapy practice in Bristol and also am a founder of Choice Therapies, a community of a wide variety of therapists that wish to support each other, learn together and grow together. I have worked in education in a variety of settings from mainstream secondary, colleges and specialist behavioural units.  I am also a former managing director of an award winning glove manufacturing business and have appeared on Dragon's Den as well as many business speaking events and lectures.  I love to compete and am a former Taekwondo British and European full contact champion and coach of the British Team. Now I am a member of Team GB in the Laser Run series (part of the modern pentathlon) and comete all over the world representing my country recently winning Gold and Silver in the European Championships.

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