Trained psychologist, teacher and founder of Kidz Therapy, Marie Kelly, talks about the journey to running her own business and what it's like working with children.

A brief description of the business
Kidz Therapy is a multi-disciplinary practice encompassing registered psychologists, an occupational therapist and a speech language therapist who assist children, adolescents and families at all ages and stages.

What inspired you to start the business?

I always had the desire to practise independently and had chosen the name of a possible practice, Kidz Psychology, while training. Long term I could see the need for a centre which encompassed quality practitioners and continuity of practice, something like a one-stop shop.

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Tell me about your background, how has it helped the business?

I originally began studying to be a primary school teacher and was fortunate enough, when degrees were not mandatory, to be awarded a study grant at the University of Auckland to undertake a Bachelor of Arts; later returning to Auckland Teachers' College to complete my teaching certificate.

I taught for a few years and at the same time completed a Master's of Arts degree majoring in Educational Psychology. Once my youngest child started school I was accepted into the postgraduate educational psychology course.

This was an intense year of study and practical learning which saw my family eat a lot of takeouts. From there I was employed by the Ministry of Education supporting children who present with challenging behaviour and special needs.

It was a wonderful time both in terms of the people I met and worked with and also the families and children we supported, but even in the early 2000s traffic congestion was significant and I wanted to work closer to home.

Marie Kelly, founder of Kidz Therapy.
Marie Kelly, founder of Kidz Therapy.

I then practised as a resource teacher of learning and behaviour but felt the pull towards working independently and one day spotted an advertisement offering two rooms to rent near St Lukes.

As the team and our services grew, we moved to our present building in Morningside in 2011.

This is also when the original name Kidz Psychology changed to Kidz Therapy to reflect the wider services we offered.

How did the education arm of the business come about?

With KTL Tuition, I knew the importance of one-on-one individualised tutoring for two of my children, and parents were constantly asking who they could access for some additional support for their children. Initially I employed two bright and personable local university students who I had taught at primary school and at teaching colleague. The word got around and we grew from there.

How has your business changed over the past eight years?

It has grown from three practitioners to a team of 11.

We now offer a wide scope of services encompassing various therapies and assessments including behavioural, cognitive and educational assessments and provide ongoing support. I've been fortunate to have surrounded myself with quality and like-minded practitioners, and we work as an integrated team and consult with each other regularly.

What's it like working directly with young people?

They're all very different - just like working with anyone - and I never fail to have a laugh with them. I don't do the therapy side, I mainly do education assessments. It is a privilege that parents and school communities trust you to support them and understand their concerns. Every child brings their personality to the table which means every day is different, I learn as much from them as they do from me.

Listen with intent because a lot of advice comes with very good intentions but you have to listen and then decide [what to do].

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What were you most surprised about when you first started the business?

How hard I had to work. When I first started I was doing everything and working way too hard. I had a perception that I couldn't afford help, and that's been a lesson that I've learnt hard. I was trying to do everything myself which sadly isn't the best response to certain needs.

It also shocked me at how expensive it is to run a business.

What is the most challenging thing about your industry?

One of the challenging aspects is ensuring that recommendations fit the needs of the child, family and school; they need to be practical and achievable based and supported by evidence based practice. This is undertaken through supervision, attending conferences and keeping up to date with relevant professional readings.

On a practical side, keeping up with business overheads - purchasing standardised testing kits, associated scoring papers and the need to keep up with compliance costs such as registration, insurance, taxes, ACC and organisation memberships.

What advice do you give others thinking of starting their own business?

Know when to seek and pay for support in areas you're not skilled in, work on the business, not in it and listen to your customers, support people and your advisors, but listen with intent because a lot of advice comes with very good intentions but you have to listen and then decide [what to do].

Surround yourself with great people and keep your sense of humour intact.