Space To Be You: Izabela and Bryan Hunter
Space To Be You is a therapy centre offering a range of mental health services
Name of founders: Izabela and Bryan Hunter
Location: London, UK
Date launched: October 2020
Number of employees: 3
Age of founders: 39 and 43
What university, if any, did you attend? Terapia, Middlesex, London, UK and University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Izabel and Bryan Hunter used their backgrounds in psychotherapy and digital marketing respectively to found Space To Be You, a therapy centre in Hackney, London. They discuss the process of starting up, including what it was like to launch a face-to-face therapy business during a global pandemic…
Tell us what your business does:
Space To Be You is a full-service psychotherapy, counselling, complementary, bodywork and massage therapy centre based in Hackney, London.
We offer a growing network of therapists whose goal is to help people with their mental and physical well-being.
Anxiety is on the rise due to Covid-19 and other social factors, and we feel that we're well-placed to play our part in helping to deal with this growing crisis.
Where did the idea of your business come from?
Izabela runs a private psychotherapy practice, but always wanted a centre of her own, offering therapy rooms to other psychotherapists and counsellors.
We live in Hackney and wanted somewhere close to home, but the rents in the borough are expensive, and a suitable therapeutic environment free of noise and distraction is hard to find.
By a stroke of luck, right at the start of lockdown, a neighbour told us of the perfect location right in the heart of Hackney. We viewed the property and the rest of the process slowly fell into place.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We researched every similar business in a 10-mile radius, looking at their digital footprint and the size of the potential market. In our case, that's therapists looking for a place to rent rooms, but also demand for therapy in this part of London.
We then went on to validate this with actual search demand from Google and saw that this was increasing across the UK, but was showing particularly strong growth in our local borough.
What were you doing before starting up?
Izabela is a psychotherapist and always wanted to have her own therapy room business where she could build a community of therapists offering counselling, psychotherapy, massage therapy and mental health services to support those in need of it.
Bryan works in digital marketing and has run a number of online businesses over the years, so was well-placed to build the website and manage most aspects of business planning and marketing.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes. Izabela has run a successful private psychotherapy practice for a few years, but wanted more. Bryan has started a number of websites, but really wanted a bricks-and-mortar business of his own.
How did you raise the money?
We put in all the savings we had and also applied for the government-backed Start Up Loan scheme. We spent several weeks crafting the business case and had great support from our appointed advisor – we would highly recommend the scheme.
Describe your business model and how you make money.
We offer 10 therapy rooms which are mostly suitable for talking therapies and play therapies for children, but two rooms are treatment rooms that are suitable for massage and complementary therapies.
We charge therapists an hourly ad-hoc rate or block bookings.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Negotiating the lease and overseeing building work was the longest and hardest part. We were lucky to find a whole floor of a building in the heart of Hackney.
The landlord rented out the whole floor to us, but it was a building site when we first saw it. So it was hard to visualise what the centre might become, stick to our plan and hold our nerve throughout the building and fit-out process.
Then, on top of that, there was the usual legal game, which took a long time to work through.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Key milestones for us were:
- Finding the location
- Agreeing the terms
- Signing the lease;
- Finding our first paying therapist
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Really do your homework, particularly around potential market demand. This was critical for us as we were launching a business requiring close-proximity, face-to-face therapy in the middle of a global pandemic, with social distancing measures and possible lockdowns!
Fortunately, we're familiar with digital marketing, so we were able to use Google search data to see demand returning to the market, and we launched at just the right time for things to return to semi-normality.
Of course, we still have the prospect of lockdowns ahead of us, but we have a forecast for that possibility.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We'd love for the centre to be full, thriving, have a community spirit, and to have helped hundreds of people with their mental well-being. From a business perspective, both of us are hungry for more and we'll be running more businesses. Watch this space…
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