When she was in college on an emergent experience in Mexico, Elizabeth Belliveau had an idea to create a business that would cater to both physical and emotional healing, a combination that is anathema in American commerce.
“I noticed how much people in other areas of the world invest in themselves in alternative ways. And I noticed that their level of [contentment] was much happier than what I was seeing in doing mental health work in the United States.
“When I got my master’s degree in social work and started practicing clinically,” she continued, “I always had a passion for incorporating alternative and complementary practices within my work. And I started to envision this practice that brought like-minded practitioners together to create a wellness practice that erased the stigma of mental health care and encouraged people to access services to keep themselves feeling good and achieving their personal goals.”
That was the essence of Enlightened Interventions. Now Belliveau, the founder, had to figure how to pull it off from a business perspective.
“I was raised according to an old-school financial plan,” Belliveau said, “And that is you don’t have a lot of debt. So that’s what I’ve followed. If we were able to do some things, we’d do it. But if we could not, we agreed we would not go forward … and I think that was part of our success because we added other practitioners when we could afford them.”
The “we” refers to the original members of the team: Belliveau, the on-site therapist; Christine Francis, a massage therapist and reflexologist who was the on-site body work practitioner; and Caitlin Borsini, who was running an off-site yoga class for preschoolers and private instruction.
During the first month of business, April 2014, Enlightened Interventions saw 12 clients. In September 2015 it provided services to more than 350 people.
“Liz had a passion to integrate a number of services under one umbrella. So our first meeting revealed her passion to me, and we discussed various strategies. … One of the most important characteristics of a successful entrepreneur is burning passion. While you can certainly ‘learn’ the basics of running a business, you will inevitably run into situations that will require you to have a passion to succeed.” — Art Martin, Small Business Development Center
And the firm has grown from its original three practitioners to a professional staff comprising three full divisions:
- 8 members of the Body and Yoga Team who specialize in massage, reflexology, nutritional counseling, integrative nursing, family health and wellness and essential oils.
- 16 members of the Mind Team who specialize in mental health counseling, group counseling, expressive therapies, occupational therapy, life coaching and trauma interventions.
- And the Spirit Team headed by Audrey Hunter, who deals with reiki, substance abuse, stress management, mindfulness practice, trauma, health coaching and integrative nursing.
Acquiring the talent and growing these interconnected disciplines required another type of intervention: Art Martin and the Small Business Development Center at Clark University.
Martin said, “We offer free and confidential business assistance to prospective and existing small businesses in Massachusetts such as Feasibility Analysis, Business Plan Development, Buying or Selling a Business, Cash Flow Analysis, Marketing Strategies, Personnel Issues, Financing and Loan Packaging, Technology Reviews, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/ Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Assistance, Assistance Preparing for Equity Financing, and more.”
The program is a partnership of the Small Business Administration, Massachusetts Office of Business Development and Clark.
“When I first met Liz (Belliveau), she had been in business for about six months,” Martin said. “Liz had a passion to integrate a number of services under one umbrella. So our first meeting revealed her passion to me, and we discussed various strategies that might work to bring together counseling and holistic type services.”
Martin added, “One of the most important characteristics of a successful entrepreneur is burning passion. A person must be passionate about their adventure if they expect to have the energy to navigate through the complex maze of starting and running a business. While you can certainly ‘learn’ the basics of running a business, you will inevitably run into situations that will require you to have a passion to succeed.
“The second characteristic would be experience. I would have to say that the passion trumps experience, but having the both will help the most. Finding a good advisor and/or mentor is pretty critical as well, especially one that has walked the walk,” he said.
Being a one-stop wellness center was a critical factor for many of the new staff members at Enlightened Interventions.
Walter Iwanicki was a kripalu-trained yoga instructor in Worcester when he answered an online ad seven months ago for a new health and wellness center on Union Street. Iwanicki said that type of facility which centered on the whole person was very appealing to him.
“And Liz’s vision was all-encompassing. She pushed the envelope in reaching out to those who have undergone trauma while encompassing the whole spectrum of holistic wellness for everyone. It’s really a one-stop shop and an amazing concept.”
He said kripalu yoga teaches one to be compassionate with yourself and with others. “It starts with body acceptance and non-judgmental thinking, then expands to include connections with the mind and spirit. And it is not about postures and positions. Rather it focuses on the mindfulness of the interconnectedness of our total experiences. Being attuned to these rhythms can lead to a natural healing process of mind and body. And the first class is always free.”
The Union Yoga Center is a spin-off business of Enlightened Interventions in the same complex.
Leyla Rawan-Borowy, a mental health counselor, said she heard about this business through another colleague who was working here.
“Coming from a mental health outpatient clinic, I loved the idea of a practice that works with the whole person not just the mind. So I started doing my own research about it, viewed the web site (yoga, massage, and counseling therapy all in one, as well as the different workshops), and I came in for an interview and I absolutely loved it.
“It’s a completely different experience than working in a mental health clinic. Everyone here is welcoming.”
In the United States, she added, there’s a big push to constantly take care of everyone else and “we overlook that self-care, and that’s the piece that we really need to be focused on. Here we honor and value that and encourage our clients to take full advantage of all of the services we offer.”
The business accepts most health insurance providers.
She said that since she works primarily with children and families here, “I feel if I can help people when they are younger, and help parents understand their child better, the hope is that their life outcomes will be better.”
In addition to doing outpatient mental health counseling, she also runs the ZumbaKids (ages 4 to 15) program and teaches Zumbenie (ages 0 to 3) with caregivers. “It’s a nice way to teach kids a sense of belonging, a sense of self-esteem for kids who don’t fit into your typical day of class and a way for them to have fun and also be part of a group and learn those group norms and rules.”
One particular program this past summer was aimed at teenage girls who had significant trauma history (both physical and psychological). Its purpose was to build their confidence while not being judged and as a way to express themselves.
Belliveau said she partnered with the Ascentria Care Alliance of Worcester, which is the former Lutheran Social Services agency, to do a four-week wellness camp for them.
“My idea was to create the best wellness services for kids who had incredibly traumatic childhoods. These were typically unaccompanied minors living in foster care in the area,” Belliveau added.
For example, the girls were given one week care massages; another week they participated in a yoga class, and they also enjoyed a modified spa day.
Christine Francis, a massage therapist and reflexologist, said: “When people come here and seek out therapy, they’re broken for whatever reason (loss of a family member, post-traumatic stress disorder or a combination of other factors). What people don’t realize is that while they may be broken, their spirit is also broken … and they need to fix that and take care of themselves.”
Some upcoming events include two nutrition workshops: How to Handle Holiday Stress; and Family Wellness, such as how to get kids to form better sleep and nutrition habits.
Belliveau said, “We also provide wellness events and education … and we’re committed to offering two to six workshops a month … and at least one free event per month so that people can experience what we do.”
“In my first year with Liz,” Martin said, ”we have continually worked on marketing and fine-tuning the story so as to attract a community of clients that share in her passion. Defining the business and then targeting a market is critical for a start-up.
“The ‘build it and they will come’ strategy doesn’t always work. Liz is out and about sharing her business idea with lots of folks, and is a positive influence on the entrepreneurial scene in Worcester and that has served her quite well.”
51 Union St., Suite 222
This article was originally published in the Nov. 8, 2015 edition of the Sun.
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