Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Lori Schweyer, Co-Owner of New Leaf Recreation, LLC., located in Fort Wayne, IN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We provide recreation therapy and behavior management services to individuals with intellectual disabilities in Indiana. Recreation therapy is the use of recreational activities to increase independent skills like money management, social skills, and communication skills. Behavior Management services provide hands-on training to promote positive changes in the lives of our clients and their families through proven, evidence-based behavior modification techniques.
Tell us about yourself
I've been a recreation therapist for 14 years. I had started multiple agencies' recreation therapy programs but wasn't happy with the leadership in those agencies over the department I was responsible for. They made decisions that affected my department and the therapists I supervised but weren't really supportive of them. My business partners and I wanted to create an agency that supported its recreation therapists and contractors. We've found the best way to support them is to lead by example and continue as therapists as well as administrators of the agency. I'm motivated each and every day to create an environment where our therapists thrive and feel supported, as well as provide the best quality services to individuals with disabilities in our community.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think my biggest accomplishment as a business owner is the growth we've had. Our agency started in July 2019. We weren't open even for a full year when the initial shutdown occurred due to COVID-19. We were still figuring out how to run an agency when everything changed. We adapted to the challenges that COVID created, and we were actually able to grow by ten additional therapists that year, serving nearly 100 new clients. We were provided the opportunity to serve individuals that were otherwise unavailable in their schedules because they were at home instead of in school or at day programming.
With creativity and adaptability, we were able to provide both in-home and virtual sessions to individuals that were dealing with significant changes to their schedules and routines. Mental health was majorly impacted for individuals with disabilities, and our therapists were able to support our clients in some of their greatest times of need. Seeing so many clients and families supported because of our ability to grow and support the disability community in Indiana during a global pandemic was such an accomplishment that it easily stands out as our greatest.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things that comes with being an owner is knowing when to say no. We see so much need in our communities for our services that sometimes it's hard to step back and take a break from hiring. Ultimately, we know that it's important for self-care and reflection as well as management of the agency as a whole, but it's difficult to have to tell families we don't have someone to serve them.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
I would suggest that anyone wanting to start or run a business gain experience in your funding source, whether that be grants, sales, or services. At least two years would be beneficial. You'll make contacts and networks in those two years, leading to success when you start on your own.
I also suggest that you talk to other professionals about software and programs they use for productivity and organization. We've been able to find some programs that I wish we would have had or known about from the beginning because they make our lives so much easier.
Look at every interaction as a potential for company growth. This means the family I make small talk with at the grocery store while wearing my company shirt might turn into a referral someday. Never take for granted those little connections we make each day because they might turn into some of your best customers or supporters of your company.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
You'll be successful if you love what you do, support your staff, and provide great customer service to your potential clients/customers.
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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