In recent years, trending articles on healthcare startups have been all over the news. The Next Web declared that “few industries stand to gain more from recent innovations in technology than healthcare.” Wired UK announced the need to ‘Explore the full Wired Health 2014 agenda’, and Zesty (an online Healthcare appointment booking service) got named as “one of the 5 UK Startups to look out for in 2014” by influential Tech blog EU Startups.

Closer to home, it seemed from a recent customer survey by The Formations Company that 15% of those who formed a business were setting up their own healthcare practices. We then thought it was a good idea to interview a few of these healthcare professionals to explore what drove them to start a company. This blog post will talk about two types: Osteopathy Practitioners this week and Personal Health Trainers next week.

The Osteopathic Profession

Osteopathy is a unique system of clinical diagnosis, manual treatment and prevention of muscular-skeletal problems of the spine, joints, ligaments and muscles. Osteopaths apply the philosophy of treating the whole person. Each year, Osteopaths in the UK treat over six million people suffering from a broad range of muscular and skeletal problems. According to the General Osteopathic Council, there are currently 4,815 osteopaths on the UK Statutory Register of Osteopaths. Of these, 2,418 are male and 2,397 are female [correct as of 4 March 2014]. The majority of osteopaths are aged between 31 and 50, although the profession includes all ages between 21 and 70.

We were contacted by a number of students and young professionals in the Osteopathy profession. And similarly to those who are currently working in Massage Therapy, Adult Nutrition, and Physiotherapy. They wish to grow from being private practitioners time-sharing a space, to one day do what Lucie Smith created.

Lucie Smith’s story

Lucie Smith openly asserts that running her own business is the best possible ’employment’ she has ever experienced. She opened Rosebery Remedies in 2009 and is its Principal Osteopath and Naturopath. Like many entrepreneurs, it all started with a dream. She shares:

“Almost ten years ago I had a dream to have a complementary health clinic where the patient is the centre of attention and all the aspects of the patient needs are cared for. I believe that the body, mind and spirit truly are one unit. We can’t pay attention to just one and forget the rest. Therefore if something goes wrong with one part of the unit the other parts will suffer as well. I wanted to create a clinic where, as people arrived, they immediately get a sense of well-being. Then as they explain why they are unwell, out of balance or carrying an injury, they are listened to and helped or given direction where they can get help. They are treated as individuals not as a ‘knee’ or ‘lower back’.”

Early Beginnings

Lucie represented her native Czech Republic in the 1990s in athletics. She worked in the health and fitness industry for a number of years after. However, she did not know enough to be able to communicate with the medical world and be taken seriously. Most importantly she wanted to be trusted by my future patients. So she took a leap and studied for 4 years.

Taking a leap

She recounts, “…at the tender age of 35 I embarked on a 4-year full-time study programme to become an Osteopath. That was hard, harder than I ever imagined… those 4 years were useful for other reasons as well. I met many fabulous people who further inspired me, professionals who had already run their own practices and their experience and knowledge helped me on my journey.”

After qualifying, Lucie faced the next 2 challenges in setting up her healthcare enterprise: the business plan and financial backing, neither of which she had. “The recession had already started and many people who I talked to were very sceptical, to say the least. The training was costly but I still had a little money saved and a very understanding husband. So I decided to go solo and hopefully build up gradually. I had a student loan around my neck and did not want to go to any banks for more loans. I did not want the stress of owing more money than I had.”

Healthcare Professionals Starting Private Practices - image - fitness room with exercise ballsStarting Small

Lucie hired a little room in a health club and started to work from home as well. In the beginning, it was all very quiet.

She designed her own leaflets and business cards to save money but she also started to look for opportunities in meeting other small business owners.

What helped her?

She started to attend business breakfast clubs and networking meetings. “I realised that many of us who have a specific skill or profession are very often not very good business people and therefore we need a little help. Attending business networking meetings created opportunities, and it also let me find out about short and often financially affordable workshops. As I gradually became busy, I only drew a minimum salary from my business and any surpluses I got, I put back into the business.”

Lucie shared that it was pure hard work for 18 months “…building clientele and networking and talking to people about the ‘big dream’. Then I met a person who had suitable premises. The time to grow had come and all the effort I put in so far started to pay off.”

Other Healthcare EntrepreneursHealthcare Professionals Starting Private Practices - image - barn in a field

Lucie sought advice on Employment Law and made a decision that she did not want to employ anybody. She said, “My skill is in doing osteopathy not sitting at the desk and hiring or firing people. I selected a different road. I needed therapists to complement what I do, to create the clinic I dreamt of. Instead of employing them, I created business opportunities for them.

And today?

“Today Lucie has 6 professionals who work closely with her. They run their own businesses under the Rosebery umbrella. Lucie provides them with premises, equipment and supports them in all aspects of the business. That means that they did not have to have a big capital sum (or costly loan) to start up on their own and she has a little income to help with overheads. What Lucie created is a friendly atmosphere that works really well. Her colleagues are less stressed and happy to stay working with her. She has even created such an exceptional vibe that 5 lovely people support the business administratively. They are not employed. They come because they love Rosebery Remedies, they enjoy working with them and instead of payment they are given treatments.

Some final words with us…

Lucie shared: “Five years of hard work, and some tears, and I have finally achieved my dream!! I work the hours I want to work, I have my beautiful clinic and work with some great therapists. I’ve also met some wonderful people with great experiences in business and life itself. Finally, I have time to live my life and spend time with my husband, who has supported me all the way through. I feel very lucky and very privileged. It’s true that I will never make thousands of pounds, but I have great job satisfaction knowing I am able to help my patients and at the same time create opportunities for others like me. ”

For information and advice on how to form a limited company, check out the handy articles in our help centre.

Published Friday January 3, 2014