The player: Ilze Van der Merwe-Alberts
The business: Bella Vida Psychology Centre for Families (2000)
The concept: The biggest psychology centre in Africa
Contact: +27 (0)11 463 4438 or www.bellavidacentre.co.za
Ilze Van der Merwe-Alberts is both a psychologist and a business woman. Her vision is to provide every man, woman and child with tools for mental health and wellness. But with only so many hours in the day to reach these people, she used business savvy to launch her psychology centre which is now so popular it’s the biggest in Africa.
Building a dream
Van der Merwe-Alberts quickly learned that many psychologists wanted to have their own practice but lacked the business acumen to do so. Spotting this area of opportunity, she took on the responsibility of providing the premises, business structure, marketing, branding and administration. The centre generates income by requiring therapists to pay a percentage per consultation for the service, making them partners as well as clients of Van der Merwe-Alberts.
Through this set up and its branding success from service, Bella Vida has become highly sought after by both clients and mental healthcare professionals. She currently partners with 12 practicing psychologists and she exudes pride when she explains, “for many psychologists it can take over two years to develop enough clients to fill your diary and then there are still gaps. Within a month of working here, your diary is full.”
Sharing a vision
Since she has never struggled to find staff, her challenge has centered on ensuring that her partners share her vision. “The field of mental healthcare is not a job, it’s a calling, a purpose and a passion,” Van der Merwe-Aberts explains. “We aim to bring to people the ability to empower themselves and have lives that are more inspiring, powerful and masterful. Not letting life master them, but running their own lives. If there is a mismatch between a partner and the centre then we are not examples to our patients and the partner and business aren’t living by the vision of living their best life,” she explains.
Spreading mental wellness
Bella Vida is a trailblazer in mental healthcare in Africa, changing the perception that mental health is not just about being mentally unwell. “Many people suffer with depression, anxiety, and other behavioural problems that hold them back in life. Bella Vida means ‘beautiful life’. We focus on all aspects of mental health and behaviour, so we’re assisting people overcome problems, but also seeing young successful people coming through looking to optimise their strengths and work towards reaching their potential,” Van der Merwe-Alberts explains. After attending Microsoft’s Women Entrepreneur Development Programme, Van der Merwe-Alberts recognises that expanding her vision will be through expanding services rather than replicating services in different locations.
Van der Merwe-Alberts is a firm believer in standing on the shoulders of giants rather than in their shadows. “Learn from all the great people who have been there before and who will guide and help you, because there will be times that you don’t have all the answers” she says. “For me, believing in yourself 100% is essential because if you believe, you can do,” she adds.
Perhaps the most insightful of Van der Merwe’s advice to others starting or growing a business is this: “Develop a skill of delayed gratification. Success doesn’t happen overnight. So be grateful for what you have and keep going, because gratitude creates more to be grateful for.”