Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dr. Mike Belkowski, CEO of BioLight, located in Missoula, MT, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
BioLight is a biotech company that sells cutting-edge, patent-pending red light therapy technology and also offers unparalleled red light therapy education. Our customers are predominantly females between ages 25 - 45, as the most popular use of red light therapy is anti-aging skin health. With that being said, red light therapy can improve anyone's health and wellness, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, etc.
Tell us about yourself
I initially graduated from physical therapy school in 2016 with zero intention of starting any businesses or companies. A couple of months after graduating, I took a local job at an outpatient PT clinic. I quickly because disgruntled with "the system," which, in the allopathic medicine model, is predominantly run by insurance. That means that you may get reimbursed more for treatments that don't work as well and also reimbursed less, or not at all, for treatments that may be more effective for your patients (because the insurances say so). That didn't sit well with me. So about four months into that job, I decided to start my own cash-based private practice. By being cash-based and not taking insurance, I could treat how I wanted to and, thus, get my patients feeling better as quickly as possible without being handcuffed by the insurance world. As I started adopting unique, effective, "alternative" treatments, I came across red light therapy and was immediately amazed by its potential and the research backing it. I looked to see what the market had to offer and saw a glaring hole for someone to come in and offer a high-quality, more affordable product and, equally importantly, provide superior red light therapy information and education to the masses. So in early 2019, I founded BioLight.
In the end, I am impassioned to help improve the health, wellness, and quality of life of others; that's why I initially got into physical therapy. Not only that, but I am highly motivated to teach and inform others about what I learn as it relates to health, wellness, and longevity, as we all have been indoctrinated to fit inside a certain box. Ultimately, I educate people about how they can take their health back into their own hands, be their own best doctor/medical provider, and be less dependent on the system. It's more fiscally friendly; it's liberating; you become less of a burden on the system, you will have a much higher quality of life and will likely have a life full of more vitality and increased healthspan (i.e., a healthy lifespan by not only living longer but healthier for longer). Information is power, and, ironically, in this Information Age, it's tough to find a quality, trustworthy source of information. I have attempted to be a pillar of reliable information in the health and wellness space with my podcast, The Red Light Report.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Being able to pivot the countless unexpected hurdles that inevitably have come my way: Trump's 25% tariff, COVID-19, this pseudo recession (and potentially a full blow recession), and having other companies send cease and desist, amongst other challenges. You can never plan for these types of events to happen, but at the same time, by being prepared for the unexpected, you are able to shift, pivot and be flexible at the drop of a hat. I think that is an invaluable mindset and a must for any young entrepreneur, regardless of your industry.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Time, stress, and energy. You never feel like you have enough of two of those and always have too much of one of them. Again, this is an inevitable part of being an entrepreneur if you want to grow a business out of thin air into something "big" that you can put your name on. Sure, there are things you can automate, outsource, etc., but as you grow bigger, those three variables only loom larger. For some people, that would be a big enough turnoff to never start a company, and I can understand and respect that. Other people will become an entrepreneur knowing that, but the rewards of freedom and autonomy you have by running a business is unlike any other.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- You MUST be passionate about the business, product, service, etc.; you want to start. There are vastly more long, difficult, demoralizing, and uphill battle days versus the euphoric, exciting, uplifting, and victorious days as an entrepreneur. It's the ultimate roller coaster. But if you are unconditionally impassioned by what you do, that will always outweigh those long droughts of time when you feel like nothing is going your way. You will be sustained by that passion and push forward.
- Growing a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Understand this is not a recipe to "get rich overnight." In my PT practice, I didn't pay myself the entire first year because I had to slowly, organically build up my clientele. I refereed hockey to pay the bills during that time period. It wasn't until the second year, when I had enough patients on a consistent basis to pay the business expenses many times over, that I began paying myself a little bit. With BioLight, it took even longer before I was able to begin paying myself.
- Be very cautious and wary of those that want to join you in your journey as you start becoming a success. I had to learn the hard way in both of my businesses that people are not afraid to take advantage of you. Whether you want to call them vampires or cockroaches, people will pray for young, up-and-coming entrepreneurs because they can be naïve, gullible, and trustworthy (I was all three). Be approachable and willing to accept help, but always have your BS antennas up. It will save you a lot of time, energy, and stress in the long run.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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