Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sara Ward, Owner of The Village Community Acupuncture, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I’m an acupuncturist and owner of The Village Community Acupuncture. We treat our patients in a quiet, open-concept space because, let’s be honest, no one heals in isolation. Once they try acupuncture in our shared space, they never want to go back to being alone in a private room. The combined energy at The Village pulls people into a healing vortex, carrying them deeper into healing relaxation than they could ever go on their own. If we could fix patients’ problems in one treatment, we would be millionaires. Every now and then, it happens, but healing mostly unfolds over time through deep collaboration.
We start by listening carefully to what’s happening in each patient’s body, mind, and all parts of their life. Then we design a solid treatment plan, peel back the layers, and follow through with all the skills and experience we’ve gathered over the years. Many of our patients come to us as a last resort after seeing every kind of doctor, specialist, and alternative practitioner. They discover that we’re the perfect bridge to building their own self-healing journey. They often tell us, “I just don’t have time for myself,” and we get it. We’re busy working women too. We share with them that making time for ourselves makes us more available to the humans who need us the most.
Tell us about yourself
My passion for acupuncture grew out of a dire situation. Back in the early 2000s, when I was working in South Korea, I got sick. Really sick. I had a doctor for every part of my body, and they did all the tests and prescribed all the pills, but these conventional treatments didn’t help. So, when a dear friend said, “why not try acupuncture?” I was desperate enough to do it. Friends, I was totally blown away when two weeks of daily acupuncture (with herbs and a little food revamp thrown in) had me feeling not only recovered but better than ever. I had to know everything about this magic immediately! Just like that, I was off to acupuncture school in 2007.
In 2016, my best friend approached me about opening up an acupuncture clinic. She knew I shared her dream of owning an open-concept space where healing would be contagious. A space that would feel as welcoming as our living room but where no one would ever step on a piece of Lego, so we did it! I knew exactly where the clinic should be located, and our shared desire pulled this very space into our orbit. After many long, hard hours with both our husbands, kids, and grandparents pitching in, we opened our doors for the first time. Still, to this day, it’s a family affair, where you’ll see my husband and dad tinkering, making small improvements. This space represents so much of who I am as a woman, mother, entrepreneur, and acupuncturist.
When I got the keys to the clinic six years ago, it was a dream come true. I always joke that The Village is my second baby. But it’s not really a joke. Sometimes I wonder who has done more healing in this space, me or this East Van community that has touched me in ways I won’t ever be able to express. The growing families, the healing milestones that look like “holy shit, where has my pain gone?” and, of course, the tears, the laughs, and the full-on rolly-chair dances. The Hastings sunrise/East Village’s unwavering support over the last 6 years has reassured me that, together, we’re going to be ok.
What motivates me each day is the awesome power of these tiny needles to relieve symptoms and shift people out of stuck places. You may not know this, but I’m an absolute baby when it comes to receiving acupuncture. That’s why, if you show up in my chair a little needle nervous, I’ve totally got you. I love to listen, to absorb, to help you put the puzzle pieces back together for a stronger version of yourself. Hearing your stories and walking the healing journey with you is an absolute honour. I’m also continuously motivated by the team of badass practitioners who makes this clinic shine. They are firecrackers in my life and the lives of all their patients. I love them to pieces. They give this space the pulse that ripples through our community. Watching them thrive not only as entrepreneurs but also as industry leaders gives me all the happy feels.
There is a moment every day when I hold the keys in my hand, unlock the door, and step into the most grounded version of myself. I immediately smell gratitude mixed with the clinic’s signature minty scent. The faint Hastings street traffic noise, the hum of soft music, the whispers, the loud talkers, and the occasional snores make me love this space even more. There is a vortex in the middle of this clinic, pulling us all into a safe space where we can leave our worries, stressors, fears, pain, and grief behind. We hear your most intimate stories. We are secret keepers. But let's not keep The Village a secret! There’s a lot of healing yet to do, and we want to lead the charge in healing you and our community.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Literally everything, milestone after milestone! I am a lot of things to a lot of people, and I’m proud to be able to show up for each and every one of those people who walk through the clinic doors and into my life.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
For me, it was going solo. My business Partner, Tara Akuna, and I weathered many changes together, including her move out of province and several massive personal losses. We even got through COVID. But then, in the summer of 2021, I hit the wall. I’m talking about full burnout. Despite this clinic being my lifelong career goal, the responsibility was crushing me. I wanted to quit my job as an acupuncturist and business owner. I was ready to sell the clinic and retire, despite loving my job.
Since Tara now lived in Ontario, she couldn’t take on running the clinic from a distance. I had a choice: all out or all in? I chose to go all in, taking over the space as the sole owner of The Village. It hasn’t been easy, but I rallied my personal health care team to bolster me through this GIANT transition from partnership to solopreneur and lone decision maker for this beautiful place Tara and I created together.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Sorry, I have 5. I can’t help myself.
- Do it! Pull up your big girl Nike panties and just do it!
- Put yourself first! Your first line of defence in building and growing a business is your health. Start building out a healthcare team that can pull you together when you turn into an emotional puddle, blow out your back, or needs a shoulder to cry on. You need a team of cheerleaders you can vent to and laugh with at the hilarities of self-employment. And take vacations — often! Trust me, and you’ll thank me later.
- Rally your family’s support, but don’t rely on them. You need to find yourself 5 walking business cards, people you’ve built a relationship with over time who are all in for you. They may be total strangers to you at first but will become part of a new family you are creating as an entrepreneur.
- Write it down, take it all in, one step at a time. It’s going to all workout, I promise. While you hit hurdles and then milestones, keep writing. This is your story unfolding, and it will serve a greater purpose in helping you navigate the passion and personality you bring to your business. Then hire an editor or ghostwriter. Finding my editor changed my business forever. I’d be lost without her. She makes my copy sparkle with MY personality.
- Know your worth. This may sound kitschy, but crunch your numbers and have an amazing accountant and financial planner. If you need those, call me immediately. I have 2 financial planners who help grow my businesses and an amazing accountant I finally found after 6 years of searching.
Ultimately, you will assemble a team of kickass people who jive with you and flex and sway as your business grows. Nope, social is nowhere near this list. If you’re like me, you’ll find it’s a huge time suck, so hire someone when you can!
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.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.