Long before they completed their degrees in chiropractic medicine, Dr. Lorenelle Lofquist and Dr. Angela Woodson knew they would start a practice in southwest St. Louis County.
A clinician on the faculty at Logan College of Chiropractic Medicine — Dr. Aimee Jokerst — had talked separately with the two students to learn what they wanted to do after graduation. They responded in like manner.
Both confessed a desire to serve patients first and foremost, and to work in an atmosphere where they were free to practice their high standards of patient care. Both planned to start a private practice. With such similar goals, Jokerst urged the two to talk with each other about their futures.
They had the training, the talent, the drive, the philosophical grounding and the right attitudes to make a success of such a venture. They even had access to a pool of funds from family members. But both Lofquist and Woodson refused to rely on the largesse of relatives. The two enterprising young women wanted to make it on their own. So before graduation last April, they launched a search for backing from commercial lenders.
"The problem was that most banks wanted 100 percent down for collateral and all we could offer was 50 percent," recalls Lofquist. "Other banks just were not providing SBA-backed loans."
At this point they turned to a familiar face, Ron Mueller, Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center specialist in St. Charles County. Mueller is part of a team of St. Louis-area SBTDC counselors who teach a course in business development and management as part of the curriculum at Logan College. Lofquist and Woodson had taken the course during their final year at the school.
Mueller helped the two medical professionals design a realistic business plan. He pinpointed specific issues and made the business partners seriously consider each issue's value to the overall plan. He encouraged them to consider whether they needed each piece of equipment on their original list. And if they need it, could they find used items that would serve just as well?
"Ron offered constructive questions and comments during our planning process," Lofquist remembers. "He helped us reduce our original funding request by 15 percent."
With the confidence provided by a sound plan and the knowledge that their business goals were justified, the two chiropractors approached the lending market. Their first six requests were rejected, but the seventh one — at Gateway Metro Credit Union — came through.
"Ron introduced us to a loan officer at Gateway, which was expanding its business financing services by providing SBA-backed loans," said Woodson.
They opened the doors of the Chiropractic Wellness Center of South County on June 1, paying all business expenses out of their own pockets until the loan from Gateway came through June 17. Since that time, their patient load has climbed steadily. It has reached the point where they need to hire additional staff, which Mueller predicted during the planning process.
"Ron said if we met our projections we would need to hire a receptionist by the four-month mark" recalls Lofquist. "Our business has continually improved and we've met those projections. Ron was right. Now we're looking for help."
As their practice gains patients and revenue, Lofquist and Woodson credit two factors equally. The business development tools that work for them are a referral network, which they've consistently developed among their patients and through the community contacts they continually cultivate, and the publicity and advertising efforts they conduct on a regular basis.
But the factor they credit most for their success is their business counselor.
"Ron is our cheerleader," they both agree. "At the outset, if Ron would have told us our chances were slim, we probably would have given up. But he told us we had a sound philosophy and a good plan that would work. Our business wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Ron Mueller."
Client contact information:
This story was featured in the November 2011 newsletter.
Read PTAC success stories