Active Health fighting fit with new expansion
Active Health Solutions is a multi-disciplinary therapy and treatment centre in Holywood, providing physiotherapy, pilates, podiatry, chiropody, massage and personal training services. In a few days it will expand further by offering nutritional therapy as well.
The business was started in 2006 by husband and wife team Rachel and David Saligari, soon after they moved from Australia.
Mr Saligari is Australian and although his wife is from Northern Ireland, she had been working in New Zealand.
They were struck by some key differences in the provision of therapy services in Northern Ireland compared to those in Australia and New Zealand, which led them to recognise what they believed was a business opportunity.
"My husband had ruptured his Achilles tendon playing tag rugby and that gave us an opportunity to think," said Rachel.
"Our initial business plan was to provide on-site physiotherapy for employers, treating injuries at work.
"We had noticed a lack of facilities here compared to Australia and New Zealand. There, if someone is injured they are helped to get back to work as quickly as possible.
"This is a service for employers as they are not paying for temporary workers.
"For a small amount of money, they are saving a lot.
"We travelled around Northern Ireland for large employers and also for insurance companies to reduce the size of personal injury claims."
Although that business was successful, Rachel and David wanted to create a physical base for the business and to expand into other therapies and treatments.
"In 2007 we decided we needed a base to work from in Holywood," added Rachel.
"At that time it was just myself and my husband – him full-time and me part-time. It has grown and grown since then, into a multi-disciplinary practice."
Today the practice consists of 12 practitioners, some working full-time, others part-time, with a mix of those who are employed by the practice and others who are self-employed and come into the centre to conduct therapy and treatment sessions.
Rachel and David had long wanted to bring together a blend of therapies that complemented each other.
"One of the reasons for the name was that we wanted to offer more than just physiotherapy," said Rachel.
"We knew we wanted to provide a multi-disciplinary clinic to help people to live an active and healthy life."
The first of the other disciplines to be brought in was pilates, which Rachel said is an excellent way for people to get stronger and back to health after an injury.
"As physiotherapists we give people exercises to do, but we aren't sure whether they do them."
Now the patients attend the pilates classes at the Holywood practice, so Rachel and David can monitor recovery.
"There was a natural progression from there to podiatry, because we often referred people to podiatrists for advice on shoes and so on," she said.
"Sports massage also complements our physiotherapy work and helps maintain the recovery from injury and reduce the risk of recurrence."
The next stage of expansion will take place in a few days when a nutritional therapist begins work with Active Health Solutions, as a result of a link-up with the well-known nutritional therapist practice, Vital Nutrition, run by Jane McClenaghan.
"We have worked with Jane a lot in occupational settings and we have talked with her for a long time about her working with us," Rachel said.
This is not the end of the story for Active Health Solutions, though, which has further ambitions.
"The idea is always to keep expanding and to keep it interesting for us," said Rachel.
"Our focus at the moment is still on the occupational therapy side.
"We still have physiotherapists who work around the country for employers."
The business also provides advice on work-stations and workplaces to reduce the risk of injuries at work, with plans for further expansion.
Beyond that is the possibility of moving out of the current Holywood building into something custom-made, with the potential of a bespoke practice.