Sometimes the best ideas seem obvious in hindsight. That's what happened when Louise Blanchard decided to take her skills as a Canadian Certified Counsellor and create a holistic practice with other professionals focusing on psychological, emotional and physical health care.
"I had worked for over 20 years in both public and private practice settings and found that many clients required a variety of expertise to fully address their needs. I'd refer them to other practitioners and the client would end up with several appointments in multiple offices around the city. My idea was to bring those collaborative resources together under one roof. As far as I knew, there wasn't anything like this in the private sector in Manitoba," says Louise.
That vision was the starting point for Birch Wellness Centre, but it remained only a concept until Louise found a downtown heritage building that she knew would be an ideal setting for a wellness center. She approached her bank for a start-up loan and was referred to the Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba (WECM). "I had never been an entrepreneur before and wasn't aware of the supports that were available. WECM helped walk me through the creation of my business plan. It was a steep learning curve, but they provided such great support in terms of helping me analyze the market and understand the stages of business development plus they provided me with a low interest loan to get the building set up."
With the location for the new Centre secured, Louise set out to recruit a group of like-minded colleagues to share the space and her vision. "We started with six other practitioners. The concept is that we are all independent practitioners but we regularly consult and collaborate as a group and refer our clients to each another. Fortunately, we had a fantastic core group to start with and everything grew from there."
The original projection was that the business would be at half capacity within the first year. After six months, Louise was pleased to see it growing at a much faster pace. "We are in the fortunate position of having a wait list of people who want to join us in the practice so it has confirmed that we are doing the right thing at the right time in our industry. The depth of skills and the number of people coming forward has been amazing. We're already bursting at the seams."
One of the key factors in that growth was the power of word-of-mouth referrals. Once you start with a good group of professionals, word spreads and you develop connections with other high calibre people. "We've been fortunate to attract people with decades of experience in their fields who then bring that expertise and knowledge to our practice."
Along the way, Louise says she's had some sleepless nights questioning the risks and decisions she's made, but she couldn't be happier with the way her vision/idea is unfolding. "The best thing about going out on my own has been the ability to be creative and make decisions without having to consult with too many people. I like the independence of being able to define how I want to work and, in turn, to be able to support and nurture the independent practices of all of the practitioners working at Birch Wellness Center."
Birch Wellness Centre launched in 2013 and Louise has big plans for the future. "We'd like to expand. Our office space is at full capacity but we can likely renovate to overcome that. I love looking at the possibilities as this venture starts to blossom. Right now the roots have taken hold but I want to see what more we can produce from this. It's a very exciting time!"
Birch Wellness Centre
The Birch Wellness Center is a professional center comprised of a comprehensive team of highly respected independent private practitioners with extensive expertise in clinical psychology, counselling and psychotherapy, clinical social work, psychiatry, nutrition, motivational interviewing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, marriage and family therapy, play therapy, naturopathic medicine, and massage therapy.
This success story is provided by the Women’s Entreprise Centre of Manitoba – delivering resources and support to enable entrepreneurial women to achieve their goals for business success.