The Apple Tree Centre

The Apple Tree Centre

 

We are Rosie and Jenny, two mothers of small children. We are also Play Therapists, using play to help children and young people through difficult times and to increase their self esteem. In 2015 we opened the Apple Tree Centre, offering counselling and therapy to children and young people aged 4-25.

In 2013, we started talking about our dream to set up a dedicated children and young people’s therapy centre. We have both worked as freelance therapists in charity and private settings, and while we love this work, we have been frustrated by the fact that work with children is often a tiny part of an organisation designed to support their parents. We wanted to create a service where children and young people are at the centre, and their needs are the top priority.

At that time, our own children were still very young. We didn’t have the time to commit to launching a new business, so we reluctantly put the idea on hold. Late in 2014, we had the opportunity to take over an almost-perfect building and decided that we couldn’t wait any longer. 

We began as a tiny partnership, calling on favours and donations but mostly doing all the work ourselves – from painting the building and sourcing toys and equipment to providing one-to-one therapy, supporting families, managing all our own business and admin tasks.

We both have strong ideas about what we want to be able to offer children and families. We’ve had to be creative and flexible in terms of the services we offer and the opportunities we access, without being distracted by ideas which would have led us too far from our ultimate goal. We have a strong friendship and both value clear communication, including telling each other when we are not happy and talking through any disagreements. Our shared training background and counselling philosophy has made all of this much easier. We have really worked at playing to our individual strengths, while making sure that we share tasks as equally as possible so that we both have a really good understanding of all aspects of the business.
We have received invaluable support from Business Sheffield, who took us step by step through the practicalities of setting up a business and have provided lots of encouragement along the way. This complimented the support we have received from Women to Work, who helped us to think about how this venture would fit into our already busy lives.
We first met Jenny and Emma at one of their drop-in sessions when we were starting to develop our vision for our business. Rosie then attended a Work-Life Discovery workshop, and we had a joint coaching session. This support enabled us to develop a more realistic vision of what we can achieve, set priorities, and communicate our hopes and worries clearly to each other, reducing any anxiety or misunderstanding.
Our business has grown slowly but steadily. We have now built a team of 12 freelance Associate Therapists, enabling us to meet the diverse needs of the families who approach us as well as providing a network for therapists to support each other. We offer training to counsellors who want to work with young people, we are in the process of registering formally as an Adoption Support Agency, and we recently employed at Centre Manager to support the continuing growth of the centre as well as freeing us to focus more on the therapeutic work which is our passion.

Working on such a small scale, we still sometimes struggle to balance supply and demand, and find it hard at times to prioritise our ever-growing “to do” list. We need to ensure that we make time for essential but less exciting tasks such as maintaining up-to-date policies and keeping our accounts up to date, alongside the inspiring work of developing a network of committed and creative therapists and delivering our service to clients.

We have put a huge amount of work into setting up our business and premises, and now we are starting to settle into more of a predictable rhythm. Our solution to the work-life balance question has been not to be too rigid. We’ve found that trying to fit all our work into fixed and predictable hours creates a lot of stress, whereas allowing ourselves periods of intense work interspersed with proper relaxation is better suited to our needs, those of our business and our families. We’ve also found that the more invested our families feel in what we’re trying to do, the less resentful they are of the time it takes. Our partners have helped with technical, managerial and marketing issues, while our children have helped us to decorate the building and ‘road tested’ our specially designed playrooms.

If we were to give one piece of advice to other women starting a business, it would be to do something that you absolutely love, believe in, and feel confident about. The learning curve in relation to operating a business is huge, and if we didn’t know our core product inside out and have absolute clarity about our goals, we would have lost hope by now. As it is, going to work is a genuine pleasure, and we look forward to watching the Apple Tree Centre grow.”

To find out more about The Apple Tree Centre visit their website here.