Tracy Woodhouse and Helen Lumley of Breakfree Counselling.
Jane Imrie

North East counselling business set for growth with second premises

A counselling business is celebrating its first year in business by expanding its existing base at the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC).

Breakfree Counselling, founded by Sunderland University graduates Tracy Woodhouse and Helen Lumley, has expanded into a second office a year after its establishment.

Tracy and Helen came up with the idea for the business after creating a fictitious agency during one of their university projects, combining their knowledge in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness and psychoanalysis.

The duo secured an office at the BIC on Sunderland Enterprise Park, as well as support and guidance on getting the business off the ground.

Breakfree co-founder Tracy commented: “We felt as though we had an arm around our shoulders with the BIC. I’m not a ‘business’ person but we got help with how to manage our cash flow and how to market our new business which was extremely useful.”

“Our business adviser helped us to re-evaluate our ideas and rethink our structure. We got signposted to a digital marketing course and learnt how to value ourselves, the service we were offering and to create a sustainable business plan.

“Within weeks we had moved into our first office and now we’d never go anywhere else. From a practical point of view there’s parking for us and our clients but most importantly it’s a safe and private place for our clients to come.”

Since launching last year, the firm has grown further and has taken a second office next to its existing unit in preparation for a range of new growth plans.

Breakfree co-founder Helen explained: “We’re working on several school contracts to provide group and individual counselling as we believe early intervention is so important - 3 in 10 young people are affected by mental health.

“We’re also working on an employee assistance programme. Our ambition is to roll out positive mental health initiatives across the North East. We want positive mental health to be seen as important as physical health.”

Shirley Hermiston, business support manager at the BIC, added: “Tracy and Helen are doing a fantastic job for their clients and are a real inspiration to anyone thinking about changing their career. We know some of the challenges women in particular sometimes face when making the decision to start up their own business.

“It can be especially challenging if you have a young family and other commitments a busy life brings. But they’ve done it and the fact they’ve got their first year under their belts and have already taken on another office is testament to their hard work and commitment.”

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