Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Luz Gaona, owner of Southshore Bilingual Therapy, Inc, located in Ruskin, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Southshore Bilingual Therapy, Inc is a private outpatient clinic offering both speech-language therapy and occupational therapy. My clinic is located in Ruskin, Florida, in the southern region of Hillsborough County. We serve children ages 0-18 years of age who present with developmental delays, feeding delays, speech-language delays/disorders, fluency (stuttering), social-pragmatic deficits, fine motor delays, sensory-progressing disorders, emotional regulation delays, hearing impairments, autism, ADHD, and other medical diagnoses requiring therapy. We are in a network with some commercial insurance. However, the majority of our clients are Medicaid recipients. Southshore Bilingual Therapy, Inc is unique because we are the only outpatient therapy facility in the area providing services in English and/or Spanish and are culturally trained to best meet the needs of the community. Southshore Bilingual Therapy, Inc is also a community partner with several universities and college campuses. We strongly believe in giving back to our professions by serving as mentors to new graduates and students.
Tell us about yourself
I am a bilingual speech-language pathologist. My area of interest is pediatrics, and while I work with a wide variety of diagnoses, I love working with families of children who present with developmental delays, autism, and/or bilingualism.
As a first-generation Mexican American and the first to attend the university in my family, my path to my profession was not straight. I had many curve balls and delays along the way. I felt lost and out of place many times because I could not relate with the other students or professors in my studies. At home, I was raising a young child while supporting myself with odd jobs to pay my bills. The sacrifices of choosing between family time or studying for an exam were the hardest and the most meaningful later on when I began work in the field.
After graduation, I worked in the public school system and home health for several years while I completed my graduate studies. I then moved on to work in what I considered at the time my dream job at the local children's hospital outpatient center and then at the health department for a Native American tribe in Florida. Time and time again, I found myself overworked and undervalued. The corporate values did not sync with my own values. I was unhappy and not working with purpose. So, I stopped searching for the ideal job that would make the sacrifices I endured worth the effort, and I created it.
What motivates me each day to do what I do? The drive and passion for giving each child a voice, the opportunities to educate families on how to play and communicate with their children, and working alongside my amazing colleagues.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Since venturing out on my own and creating Southshore Bilingual Therapy, Inc, my biggest accomplishment has been staying true to my purpose. When I decided to walk away from working as a speech-language pathologist in the corporate world, I told myself I wanted more than a lucrative salary. I wanted to serve with purpose. I wanted to create a space where the staff that one day would work alongside me would feel valued, supported, and encouraged to grow. I wanted to create a space where families would feel seen, heard, and respected regardless of their backgrounds or socioeconomic status. I wanted to create a space where future clinicians could learn and gain experience without judgment. Southshore Bilingual Therapy, Inc. has exceeded my original dream of having a successful private practice. I started in the last quarter of 2019 as the sole clinician and administrator. I had four clients. Today, the clinic has ten therapists and three office personnel and serves over 200 clients each week. The bar continues to rise as the clinic continues to grow; however, at the core, I continue to focus on my original purpose.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
One of the hardest challenges as a business owner is balancing my time, and, as a result, I learned to delegate. This was extremely challenging for me. Southshore Bilingual Therapy, Inc was my baby. No one knew every little detail about everything or was as vested as I was, so it took many small steps to learn to let go and delegate responsibilities to others. I know that I would not be where I am today if I did not learn to delegate.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
The top 3 tips I would give someone who is considering taking a chance on their dreams and starting a business are:
It does not have to be perfect to start. You will make mistakes and do your research on free community resources (i.e., S.C.O.R.E. and SBA). I did my research and reached out to colleagues for guidance. When I launched my practice, there were humbling setbacks. What kept me going was knowing my dreams were worth taking the chance on. I learned from my mistakes and kept moving forward. Reflecting on when I first started off, I could have walked away when there were obstacles, but I couldn't quiet the voice of 'what if.' Over 500 clients were served later. I am both humbled and privileged to say I created this space.
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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