After working as a pediatric occupational therapist for 19 years, Haley Rogoff and her sister, who is also a pediatric occupational therapist, decided to take the next step and educate the practitioners. When they launched Professional Minds, a company that hosts educational conferences for healthcare professionals in South Africa, Haley’s second child was just six months old. While her sister ran their first conference in Johannesburg, Haley ran their second conference in Cape Town only four months later. Today, Professional Minds runs six to eight conferences per year throughout South Africa, which each attract 300-400 attendees. In our conversation, Haley, who is also a Momentum sister and Madricha, shares what led her to launch her company as well as her advice for budding entrepreneurs.
What inspired you to create your conferences?
About 10 years ago, South Africa instituted annual educational development requirements for occupational therapists. So, during that first year, my sister and I spent time and money to attend one of the approved courses. Unfortunately, the course was irrelevant to our work. We thought, what if we could create conferences that not only satisfied these requirements, but that also uplifted and inspired professionals with the latest knowledge, tools, and interventions; validated their work; and helped them make a real difference for children and their families? So, that’s what we did!
Today, our conferences are multidisciplinary and attract a variety of pediatric professionals — half of whom need to fulfill continuing professional development requirements, as well as educators, counselors, and special needs coordinators who want to learn and network in a high-level environment that nourishes, educates, and inspires them. My goal has always been to make a positive impact. I believe that as educators and therapists, we can play a powerful role in helping children become confident and productive adults, which makes a difference not only for our children of today but for our children of tomorrow, too.
Can you share a story that shows your conferences’ impact?
We usually run our conferences on Sundays, but one year, we decided to host a three-part series on a few consecutive Thursday evenings. At the end of one evening, I was getting ready to go home when I saw a woman waiting to buy one of the educational toys that we sell. It turned out that she had been waiting for an hour! I asked her why she decided to wait instead of just buying the toy the following week. She told me that she was so inspired that she didn’t want to wait another week to get started. She wanted to put her new tools into practice in her classroom the next morning!
How do Jewish values inform your work?
Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, and Chesed, acts of loving kindness inform my work every day. During MOMentum, Nili Couzens asked us to think about our purpose. I realized that what gets me up in the morning is the opportunity to make a difference. Inspiring others and making them feel uplifted and valued are what nourish my soul. Givers are happy people!
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your work?
My work itself isn’t challenging for me because I’m passionate about it. Instead, my greatest challenge has been finding a balance between my role as a mother and my role as a therapist and business owner. When I had my own practice, my schedule was more manageable, but once I had a family, my work required too much of my emotional resources. Now that I run Professional Minds, I work in the mornings before my children return from school, and then I often work again from 9pm to 1am. I’m constantly trying to stay true to who I am and do the best that I can in both areas of my life.
What advice would you give to other women who want to launch their own venture?
Going through the motions is not enough. You need to have a clear vision and be passionate about what you do. Then, people will feel your energy and want to be a part of it. Also, practice with integrity. Everyone can get where they want to go — if they work honestly and respectfully. When you go the extra mile and work with integrity, success will follow.
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