I grabbed the black medicine bag from her black SUV and followed her towards the blue bungalow. I was quickly greeted by a bouncy 15 pound dachshund who was overjoyed to see his veterinarian and her companion. (Who would have thought a pet would be excited to see their veterinarian! )This was one of the many visits I had shadowing a house call veterinarian as a college student which stayed imprinted in my mind.
That experience was over twenty years ago and now I am that veterinarian whose pets are overjoyed to see me too!
My name is Tasha Wilson. I have been a practicing veterinarian for 15 years. In 2016, I graduated from Curacore and am now practicing veterinary acupuncture in the comfort of pets’ homes. When I first graduated, it was a little daunting to imagine how I was going to utilize this skill in my job and establish my professional name. However, I was confident that this was the right path for me. I established a plan and then I jumped into the cloud of uncertainty with confidence, determination, and persistence. LEAP
I first identified what I wanted to accomplish with Acupetvet PLLC. What were my goals? What could I offer my clients? I had attended a veterinary conference a couple years ago which stressed how important it was to stay focused on what YOU want to do, not what EVERYONE (aka clients) wants from you. If you do not follow this principle, you quickly lose focus, become stretched too thin, and potentially end up not doing what you had wanted to do in the first place. For me, I knew I wanted to combine acupuncture with nutrition as I had learned the value of nutrition in prevention and healing through many interactions with nutritionists during my years of general practice. Another area of passion for me was education as I enjoyed engaging with and helping owners learn how to ensure their pets were getting the best nutrition possible. Again, nutrition is a great way to prevent disease and many clients just do not know much about it.
As a result, I decided to create Acupetvet with the goal of providing services that prevent disease, reduce pain, improve mobility, and generally better the lives of pets and their owners in the comfort of their own homes. In addition, I added a service for traditional veterinary clinics: Client education seminars. These seminars would be on the subjects of nutrition, flea/tick, and of course, acupuncture! I set a fee for presenting in these clinics unless I was presenting a seminar on integrative medicine, discussing Acupetvet and marketing myself.
With a clear vision of who I was and what I wanted to do, I established a marketing plan. I looked at where my patients would be: daycares, boarding facilities, dog parks, and VETERINARY CLINICS! I also researched demographics and found the areas that made the most sense to target. Chamber of Commerce’s are great places to obtain this type of information. If they cannot assist they know where to find it.
Many businesses start off small without much of a marketing budget and mine was no exception. I put together a comprehensive low budget marketing plan and I used the Internet for marketing ideas. For example, I found an online printing company to create business cards and report folders full of educational materials to leave in clinics for staff and client reading. I also took advantage of the towns’ economic development and the small business association’s resources. They put me in touch with SCORE, a nationwide nonprofit organization that mentors and educates new small business owners.
Additionally, I found some creative (and perhaps nontraditional) ways to market myself. I went to coffee shops and breakfast nooks and placed my card on their bulletin boards. I hung out in cafes and sat there with my report portfolio on the table – opened to a bolded section that read “Acupuncture for Pets” as I sipped my coffee… hoping someone would catch a glance of my business and what I offered.
Then it happened! The phone rang. The shock and feeling of apprehension, and excitement rushed through me all at once. I had to answer that phone! It was a middle aged woman who saw my business card at a local juicery shop. Her twelve year old golden retriever could not stop sneezing. “Dory” had been to all the specialists and they diagnosed her with idiopathic rhinitis. MRIS and multiple traditional treatments did not stop the purulent discharge from being expelled every 1-2 hours in this woman’s house. “Do you think acupuncture will help?” Gulp. As I try to picture how I am going to place needles in this dog’s face… “Yes. I think there is a very good chance it will.” CONFIDENCE.
(…sidenote.. Dory looked beautiful and calm with needles in her face and ’s sneezing decreased significantly. I developed such a good relationship with Dory and the owner that I also had the pleasure of being right beside her for an at home euthanasia a year later)
I would like to say, the phone started ringing off the hook, but it did not. That’s when I buckled down and reached out more. I just kept searching for places patients and their owners would be. I stopped by physical therapy clinics, human acupuncture clinics, etc. I increased the number of business cards I was giving out. I became more aggressive with my visits to traditional clinics. I contacted the local newspaper three times about writing an article, but nothing UNTIL one day I received a call asking if they could feature my innovative business on their front page! Better yet, they wanted to video the session and place it on their online segment. And one more thing… “could we feature you in another paper?”. Eureka!!
The feature in the paper got attention! I then contacted the local chambers of commerce and joined two. I could not spend much time with these groups due to the location, but one thing I could participate in was the “Chamber of Commerce Welcomes Acupetvet” ad in the paper. THAT was a golden ticket for me.
Acupetvet is coming up on its 2 year anniversary in June. It is making a profit. I am still working; started with full time for 6 months, then went down to part time and now I do relief. I expanded my services to offer vet consultations, cold laser therapy, and at home euthanasia. I bring in salary from my relief, but also small portion from Acupetvet which I choose to re-invest into the business when possible. I even was able to buy a Jeep Wrangler- my dream car- and now an advertising tool as my car logos are seen by many as I drive on the streets. When time allows, I sit in a long line at a local drive thru coffee shop and get noticed! Pet owners always take their dogs in the car for a coffee run! THINK OUTSIDE BOX
The one thing that pays off the most is PERSISTANCE. Local Veterinary Clinics are now referring their patients to me. I can not tell you how many visits I made to area clinics, dropping off my business cards.. knowing that when I left, they would just get “lost”. I also am getting “hits” for client education seminars. Several recent speaking opportunities include speaking to vet technician students at a community college and a local clinic that has had hired Acupetvet as an independent contractor several hours per week. I sent multiple emails and phone calls to agility groups and FINALLY heard back from one that is interested in me presenting a acupuncture seminar. A local boarding and daycare facility has invited me to speak at their next staff meeting. Why all of a sudden?… “word of mouth”. TALK about what you do… in the coffee shop (yes, I like coffee!), hair salons, at the clinics you relief at…
I still do not get phone calls everyday. BUT with this type of mobile business, I would have too many patients to handle if I did! I am very excited to see how Acupetvet has grown and yours can too. If you are planning to use your new founded skills to start a business of your own- Go for it! Take that leap, you will see how much fun it is to fly!
Tasha Wilson DVM CVMA