MELLONEY RIJNVIS is the owner and director of The Wend, a mental wellness solution involving Virtual Reality (VR), which uses technology to simulate the relocation of someone from their current reality to a selected environment of their choice. The Wend is the first company in South Africa to conceptualise the use of this technology for addressing mental ill health such as depression, stress and anxiety. Because Melloney is using VR to bring her clients back to nature, a soothing environment, she has called her product 'Virtual Relaxation'.
Providing an escape
Studying with Jill Farquhason after leaving Durban Girls' High, Melloney always anticipated having her own health spa, but life took a different direction when she and her husband returned from travelling on the ships to open a dance studio. "When it started running beautifully and I realised that I didn't have to be as hands on, it was time for me to move and start my own venture", and The Wend clearly encompasses Melloney's vision, hopes and future aspirations.
After starting the business a year ago in the spa industry, Melloney is now offering healing therapies and relaxation to the medical industry with the focus on, mental wellness, pain relief, pre/ post procedure anxieties, rehabilitation and many other wellness areas. On a lighter note it is also available for patients experiencing boredom while recovering in hospital or waiting in doctors rooms for scheduled appointments. The Wend provides an escape through VR - an immersive 360-degree real environment - which is medically proven to help people heal faster.
'Wend' is a traditional English word meaning to travel in an indirect route to a destination. "The Wend helps you to get to where you want to go, for example, experience the Northern Lights, without having to sacrifice too much - not many people have the luxury of physically being able to get up and go," smiles Melloney.
The world's leading health epidemic
Melloney's typical day involves marketing, customer services, product development and 'a bit of the fun stuff', she says. However, The Wend's evolution has not all been fun, and it's a concept that took hold when Melloney, struggling to overcome the trauma of a violent home invasion had, in her words "hit rock bottom". She was constantly reliving the experience which haunted her and sucked her into a downward spiral of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She was at a point of desperation, "needing to escape, get strong again and find healing from the inside", when the appropriateness of this technology occurred to her.
Having first-hand experience of mental unwellness because of her trauma, Melloney has set her sights on addressing the global mental health crisis. Economic loss of billions annually in South Africa through sick leave due to depression is enormous, and Melloney quotes the World Health Organisation statement, that mental unwellness is the world's leading health epidemic.
Do business correctly
Melloney's inspiration comes from her business partner, her mother. "A wonderful woman, very down the line; you cannot fault her on her honesty, her integrity and her work ethic, and this is mirrored in the operation of the company. She is a role model on a daily basis.
Melloney does not differentiate between men and women in business to be successful, She feels that, "You've got to do what's right for you as a person... I have a lot of passion and drive which will help me to be extremely successful in the long term."
Melloney feels proud with what they've accomplished so far, her company being only one year old, and paving the way in a brand new industry. She qualifies that she would like to achieve more. "In the great scheme of things, we are not helping thousands of people just yet - we really want to help reduce this epidemic on a world-wide scale, and when we're doing that, I think I'll have a bit more satisfaction."
Family and friend support network
Achieving a work-life balance is something she finds challenging sometimes and admits it would be impossible without her family and friend support network. Her husband is supportive, and encourages creative developments, challenging her to 'think out the box' and grow the business with new product ideas.
She sings praises of her father who is "there for me every step of the way, with helping with my children", and Melloney is adamant that she wouldn't manage her little ones without him. Melloney also has huge gratitude for her friends from whom she gets unconditional support.
Her advice to her younger self would be first, to say: "Everything will be ok; you'll figure it out", and second, "save money!". She points out that starting a business is expensive, and they're now at a stage when they need investors to be able to transition to phase two.
However, recognising that spending the money she did while earning as a dancer shaped her as a person, and gave her the experiences she needed to get to where she is, Melloney concludes that it's a kind of 'catch 22' situation. "Besides", she adds with a smile, "I'm pretty blessed with how everything's turned out so far."