Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Melissa Deonaraine, owner of Academy Athletic Therapy Inc., located in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Helping others to feel limitless with their bodies. Athletic therapy specializes in treating injuries to muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones while using anatomy and physics (biomechanics) addressing the root cause preventing further injuries.
Clinic patients range in age from 2 - 92 years old. We have quite the characters in the clinic, which makes work entertaining. We're kind of like the show "Cheers: where everybody knows your know name." 75% of our patients are everyday people who need our help just as much as high-performance athletes, which is why we use techniques to speed up recovery for high-performance athletes with our patients who are mechanics, teachers, students, retired individuals, etc. We tailor things to each person but try to set up rehab programs that the patient isn't aware of when they're making progress and being challenged in ways they wouldn't have thought possible.
Kids are always great to have in the clinic. We teach them how to wait their turn, but the second they know it's their turn, they hustle to my office and grab the footstool to climb onto my treatment table. Sometimes I'll have my Dr. Goodbear plush bear to show the kids what I'll be doing with them. I always ask the kids what we are working on today. The best was when a two-year-old boy pulled off his sock and told me that his foot hurt. He had asked his parents a couple of days prior that he wanted to "see Melissa" but didn't tell his parents his foot was hurting. Amazing to build a rapport that patients trust us to help them feel better.
Tell us about yourself
I was working on my pre-med degree when life happened from a random event. I had to stop attending university, and my time was spent attending 1-3 medical appointments daily. I was on disability for months when my position with my employer was no longer available. I had to fight with my insurance company for financial support, among other things. I needed to pay my bills but didn't know how I could do so with my health. I reached out to various colleagues for a job which was previously offered casually. Turns out they wanted to pay me at the rate of a student despite having my national certification and previous clinical experience. I quickly learned that I had to be in control of my life to survive.
I found a space that had affordable rent and was close to home for me to start my own business over the span of 2 weeks. I was still limited physically from injuries that weren't resolved but couldn't afford to stay home any longer. The clinic was slow to start, but as time passed, I got busy. Instead of only observing patients perform stretches and exercises, I joined my patients in doing all the stretches and exercises I gave them. My patients felt better having me at their side as an equal instead of feeling judged while I worked on improving my strength and functionality.
I have good days and bad days. What I know is that my patients keep me motivated and vice versa. My days can be long, mentally/physically/emotionally exhausting, but I love what I do and the positive impact I make in the lives of my patients.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Surviving the pandemic. I was closed initially for four weeks after everything was shut down. I connected almost daily with my MLA and MP for support to reopen my clinic. I knew what was going on before things were officially announced. My concerns were hand-delivered to appropriate ministers/officials and even sent to parliament. My colleague and I removed items no longer appropriate to use in the clinic, hunted for PPE, and easy to disinfect items such as plastic clipboards to pillows. I connected with peers in other medical professions across Canada as resources for reopening my clinic.
I had support from my MLA to remain open when closures went into effect in the latter half of 2020. I paid rent on time, have worked extremely long hours, always on top of ordering PPE to stay in business (some items such as table cleaners have been on backorder for 9+ months), keeping up with covid19 updates following provincial orders. I have many patients who only attend my clinic because of our firm protocols to keep everyone safe. Patients want in-person appointments with manual therapy since they are tired of constantly being online.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Finding time for myself and not feeling guilty. I've changed my availability throughout the years. I have Mondays off recharge. At first, patients didn't like that, but I stood my ground. I found that if people really want your services, then they will find a way to make it possible for them to book an appointment.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Never be afraid to ask questions. If you don't understand, ask for things to be explained in various ways until you get it. People will have more respect for you.
- Be yourself. Use your quirks to your advantage making your business unique. Not everyone will like your style, but those aren't the people worth your time.
- Take as many opportunities that come your way.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Read as many business articles, books, etc., plus biographies to understand business and the world. Expand your knowledge by learning about various industries. You may be able to transfer techniques/ideas from one industry to another to grow your business.
Find time to exercise, even if it's 20 minutes daily. I get up early for a quick 2 km run at home before getting my workday going. I get to feel accomplished before my workday even begins.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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