She’s worked with children in some of the world’s most far flung places but when it came to selling her expertise, Adelaide therapist Kate Donohue didn’t know where to land.
From counselling Inuit children in Canada to supporting children with disabilities in Norway, Kate has never shied away from a challenge.
“Working educationally and therapeutically, I’ve always been motivated to understand how we can meet the needs of children from different backgrounds and circumstances,” Kate said.
“That’s meant working with Aboriginal children in rural and regional areas and with children who’ve suffered great trauma. Thinking differently is not a deficit but it does require specific understanding and care.
“I went to the Cook Islands to set up a school inclusion program – helping teachers and students understand how to include children with severe disabilities. It was very challenging, changing attitudes and challenging fears, but we made great progress.”
After working as a special needs teacher and establishing a service for children with severe and multiple disabilities, the 34-year-old decided to set up her own business as an educational and behavioural consultant, specialising in people with autism and complex profiles.
“I’ve developed as a parent and professional within the context of special needs. I have insight on the complexities and challenges in each role,” Kate explained.
“What I didn’t understand was how to turn my expertise into a small business.”
That’s why Kate put up her hand to join an Australian-first program for micro-enterprises.
She is one of 20 aspiring small business owners in the Adelaide area taking part in the LaunchME program, which is run by Good Shepherd Microfinance with support from the South Australian government.
Kate was uneasy at first.
“I’m not selling a product, I’m selling my expertise, and I don’t have business experience, so I wasn’t sure how well I would fit with a mentor,” she said. “But Nick blew me away at the first session.
“The way that I work is quite different to a lot of other therapists and Nick absolutely understood the way I work, who I am as a person and practitioner.”
“We worked on how ‘who I am’ is the foundation for my career, scheduled in meeting my own self care needs, my children’s needs, and how I want to train and develop. It was a very dynamic approach.”
As well as tailored business planning, Kate says the program’s intensive mentoring and networking opportunities have given her a road map.
“It’s provided tools to deal with the logistical side of setting up a business but the bit I found so valuable is the mentoring that helps fill in the gaps. I haven’t done a business degree and the program gives you industry and business support to prevent problems and move forward in ways that I wouldn’t be able to see.
“LaunchME has had a significant impact on me. It’s really opened doors and provided a great foundation.”
Kate says she’s now happier and more confident with her professional direction.
“Nick has supported but not pushed me. We’ve worked a lot on foundations, establishing systems before I try to grow,” she said.
“It’s also given me the confidence and accountability to persevere – even though I’ve had some setbacks, I can see it’s worth pursuing but I have the support to continue.
“In fact, I’ve had three new client enquiries this week, all through word of mouth.”
LaunchME is an initiative of Good Shepherd Microfinance and the South Australian Government that supports innovative small business ideas from people in South Australia.