Case study

Building a movement psychotherapy business with University support

Aishwarya Deshpande was in the final stages of her masters in Dance Movement Psychotherapy when a flyer for our Be the Boss programme changed her life, she says. It led her into a series of University support schemes and enabled her to establish and grow her own business, Move for Wellbeing.

Learning to be my own boss

In 2019, Aishwarya was completing her MA while considering her career options. Noticing that there weren't many full-time dance movement psychotherapy jobs around, Aishwarya started to think about how she could create her own opportunities. This was when she spotted the flyer for the University's Be the Boss programme, aimed at helping students and graduates become self-employed. She enrolled and immediately started to see the benefits:

"That one flyer changed my life. I started to attend the sessions while completing my degree and found myself learning everything you need to build a business: how to write business proposals, how to plan your finances and do your cashflow, how to pitch your business. Most of this was all new to me and it was very useful. They also had experts coming in to talk to us. Every little thing the Be the Boss programme had provided inspiration."

In January 2020, Aishwarya got the opportunity to pitch her business idea to a panel of business advisers at the University. "They gave me a lot of useful feedback, including areas to improve," she says. They also suggested she join Innovation Hothouse, our co-working space and support network for self-employed students and graduates.

A woman with her eyes closed, holding her hands above her head in a prayer position.
Aishwarya Deshpande

Support from Innovation Hothouse

Aishwarya was all set to join Innovation Hothouse and launch Move for Wellbeing when Covid hit, derailing her plans. She moved back home to be with her family and spent that time researching and working on the plans for her business. She was finally able to join Innovation Hothouse in late 2020, and started to make use of the co-working space at the Enterprise Centre and the support on offer. 

"It's useful to have a space to go to so your home doesn’t become your office space. There are monthly meetings where everyone comes together to talk about their businesses, share their progress and try to help each other. We discuss the obstacles we've faced and how we've overcome them.

"There are regular guest speakers and networking evenings too. For example, Innovation Hothouse members are invited to the Derbyshire Festival of Business events. They do a lot of things that really help you get to where you want to be."

Aishwarya is still a member of Innovation Hothouse now, more than two years later.

Aishwarya Deshpande performing
A group of students, smiling at the camera.

Launching and growing Move for Wellbeing

Aishwarya launched her Derby-based business, Move for Wellbeing, and won her first contract in July 2021. She is now a registered Dance Movement Psychotherapist and offers movement therapy sessions for children, adults and the elderly.

Movement psychotherapy can help people struggling with mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Human beings tend to be action-oriented, involuntarily expressing themselves through body movement and other non-verbal behaviours. The movement psychotherapist works with clients with their movement patterns to create a difference in their emotions and everyday life.

It's a less-established form of therapy but is growing so Aishwarya has spent a lot of time trying to raise awareness and build interest. It's working: she's won contracts with schools, care homes, theatres and charities. Through YMCA Derbyshire, she facilitated movement sessions for children as part of the Government's HAF (holiday activities and food) programme, and was part of Derbyshire Cricket Foundation's Move4Cricket programme. 

While growing these services, Aishwarya is also working part-time for YMCA Derbyshire as a Wellbeing Coach under the Derby Living Well project by the NHS. "Again, it's an opportunity to raise awareness and prove the value of movement psychotherapy," she says. 

As well as movement psychotherapy, Move for Wellbeing offers dance classes in the Indian classical dance style, Katthak, a style Ash has enjoyed since she was six years old. She also works as a movement director for theatrical productions, such as the Emperor's New Clothes at Derby Theatre.

"I don’t think I would have been able to do this without the University, because literally everyone - from the International Student Centre to my lecturers, to the Engagement Manager [who's in charge of Be the Boss] and Innovation Hothouse people - have been so helpful. I'm still in touch with many of these people. I’m really, really glad to be part of the University of Derby. I'm always singing their praises."