Dimitra Doumpioti is a psychologist and psychotherapist. She is 36 years old and originally from Greece although she has spent all her adult life abroad. She came to Barcelona in 2000 and hasn't left since. In 2005, she founded Hestia, a centre of psychology, with an open, multicultural profile, committed to promoting wellbeing, personal development and improving the quality of life of individuals, couples and families, as well as helping public and private organisations. At Hestia, they integrate different therapeutic disciplines and approaches and offer our services in a number of languages: English, Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Greek, Russian, Polish and Swedish.
Their diverse staff of therapists is designed to cater to the needs of both local clients and those who come from other countries and the particular issues they may face. They also organize courses, seminars, workshops, study groups and educational programmes on a variety of topics related to mental and emotional health and personal development.
1. Where did the original idea come from? When I first arrived in Barcelona, I looked for an English-speaking therapist in my neighbourhood, and I was surprised to see that I couldn’t find one even in such an international city. That made think that a centre of psychotherapy that offered its services in different languages would respond to the needs of many people like myself, who lived in Barcelona but were not yet fluent in Spanish or Catalan, or would prefer to be treated in their own language.
2. How long did it take to get your business off the ground? At the beginning I was just “testing the waters”, combining this project with a part-time job as a therapist for a public hospital, so it went quite slow at the start.
Once I left my other job, Hestia quickly picked up and has now become a quite well-known and well-established centre in Barcelona. And we have put together a talented team of therapists from all over the world that I love working with.
3. What do you wish you’d known when you started? Oh, so many things! I started as a therapist with no business background, in a foreign country, having to learn everything from scratch. On top of that, the mind-set of an entrepreneur and a therapist are very different. I studied psychology in England and continued my studies here, but I had never studied how to run a business. So, if I could do it all over again, I think I would have given greater priority to learning the ABCs of starting a business. For instance, one of the most crucial aspects that I was definitely not aware of at the beginning was the importance of having a strong on-line presence.
4. How easy was it to get the financing for your business? Luckily, I did not have to go through that process. I started very 'humbly', managed to partly finance the first steps by working part-time, and I was also given support by my family, husband and friends.
5. Did you find the paperwork difficult? I have tried to keep things simple and delegate as many tasks as possible to experts.
6. Did you get help from any particular official organisations or associations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce)? If so, please describe Not really. I did go to Barcelona Activa, which I found useful, though limited in my case. It is a good place to start from, though. It helped me feel more confident about my project and gave me some useful information on what was needed in order to "make the dream come true.”
7. What is your business experience / background / qualifications? As I mentioned before, I had no business background, which has turned the whole process into a very challenging, exciting, and intensive learning experience for me.
I used to see myself only as a therapist, but I'm very happy now to be applying some of these skills (and many more) to running the centre.
My background as a therapist includes a long academic and professional career both in Spain and abroad. I hold a BSc in Psychology from the University of Manchester, a postgraduate degree in Transpersonal Psychology (UK), a postgraduate degree in Clinical Hypnosis from the UB (University of Barcelona), and a Master’s in Systemic Family Therapy from the UAB (Autonomous University of Barcelona). I have worked as a researcher, therapist, trainer and consultant with various institutions such as the University of Manchester, the Max Planck Institute (Germany), the Diputación de Barcelona and Sant Pau Hospital, among others.
8. What are the positive aspects about having a business here? My business has been a source of joy for me in every way. It has brought together people—both therapists and clients—with very interesting and diverse backgrounds. It has broadened all of our horizons.
I believe that such a centre could have only been successful in a city like Barcelona with its unique blend of people. Barcelona is a very cosmopolitan city, with a lot to offer, that attracts people from all over the globe. So far we have worked with people from more than 50 different countries who have come here for the lifestyle, the food, the weather...love! At the same time, they have to face problems, many of which are common to foreigners. These can range from living far away from family, to having to build a social web from scratch or having to decode and understand a different culture and way of doing things.
9. And the negative aspects? I find that the government gives very little support to foster the creation and growth of small businesses.
10. Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona? Please describe My recommendation is to try to get as much information as possible about everything related to starting up a business: on regulations, paperwork, labour laws, etc. Also, you should consider how business culture may differ here if you are from abroad. The ideal situation would be to inform yourself as much as possible and make as many contacts as you can before starting your own adventure!