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Ignite gives art therapy business a needed boost

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Art therapist Richelle Richards of CAF Bermuda (Photograph supplied)
Art supplies received by children undergoing art therapy with CAF Bermuda (Photograph supplied)
Brave Girls Academy swag (Photograph supplied)

Before joining the Ignite business acceleration programme in September, Richelle Richards was terrified of social media.

“My generation is not used to being out there,” said Ms Richards, who runs art psychotherapy business CAF Bermuda. “You just didn’t put all of your thoughts on social media.”

Her Ignite mentor, Makaela Richardson, changed her mind.

“She has been amazing,” Ms Richards said. “She is Bermudian but based in the United Kingdom. She owns Free the Fresher. They do subscription boxes for freshmen. She has a million-dollar company.”

Ms Richardson is 25 years younger than Ms Richards.

“She has been encouraging me to come out of my box and do a lot of things I would never have done,” Ms Richards said.

Ms Richards now has an Instagram and Facebook account for her business and a blog, and is upgrading her website.

“I drew the line at doing a Tik Tok video though,” Ms Richards laughed.

But she has come a long way, and is getting more comfortable putting her personal photos and thoughts on her business social media pages.

“I am getting vulnerable with my audience in a way that I normally would not have done,” she said.

And the increased social media presence is definitely making a difference and bringing in new clients.

Through the Ignite programme, Ms Richards has learnt that to be successful in business you need to put your whole self on the line.

“People don’t buy if they don’t know you,” she said. “People connect to a person and not to a name. I am learning that. If people don’t like and trust you, they won’t do business with you.”

The programme also teaches participants to assess their strengths and weaknesses, and then work to their strengths. Ms Richards said one of her weaknesses is the administrative side – keeping up with appointments and telephone calls. In the summer she hopes to hire someone to take care of this side of things.

Previously, she taught art in the school system. She is now run CAF Bermuda full-time.

“I am pretty excited about that,” she said. “It has been a couple of weeks but the phone has been ringing.”

She formed CAF Bermuda in January 2020, only two months before the pandemic began. Before starting with Ignite she was doubting herself. Well-meaning people were saying that now was not a good time to start a business, and she should do something more reliable.

“Without Ignite, I don’t think CAF would be this far along,” she said. “It has given me the mindset ‘I can do it’.”

Since the pandemic began, Ms Richards has been working online. Now with Covid-19 cases dropping in Bermuda, she is considering renting an office in the spring.

Sometimes people confuse her services with art classes, but CAF Bermuda is strictly about providing therapeutic services to children and families wrestling with issues such as trauma, depression and anxiety.

Since the global health crisis began she has seen many young people struggling emotionally.

“I don’t see pandemic induced depression getting better, especially since we just came off another mini lockdown with the schools closed,” she said. “There are quite a few teens that are anxious about going back into the classroom. Some are like ’oh it’s fine’, but others are not fine.”

She said some teenagers could be secretive or reluctant to share their true feelings, making it easy for parents to miss the signs of depression.

“Sometimes they think the teenager is just being grumpy, or being a typical unhappy teenager,” Ms Richardson said.

Next month, she will be starting a 12-week therapy group programme for teenagers with depression.

She also plans to hold her two-week Brave Girls Academy group, designed to help teenage girls build their self-esteem, for the second time next summer.

Ms Richards is one of 34 businesses and community organisations participating in Ignite’s Cohort 3.

Applications are now being accepted online for Cohort 4 which scheduled to begin in May. The application period closes on February 5.

For more information about CAF Bermuda see www.cafbermuda.com or check out Facebook and Instagram @caf.bda or e-mail info@cafbermuda.com. For more information about Ignite see ignitebermuda.com.

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Published January 29, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 28, 2021 at 5:52 pm)

Ignite gives art therapy business a needed boost

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