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Transforming Health Care

SWMI Health Matters, Jenny Opdycke, PAC and Marti Peters-Sparling, MD

Title / Role: Owner/Provider
Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Formed in: 2019
What do you do?

We are a membership-based family medicine & holistic wellness center. Our providers are traditionally trained, holistically minded, trauma-informed, and relationship-driven. We specialize in integrative medical care, nutrition education, trauma recovery services, hormone health, and stress management.

What inspired you to start your business?

Both providers worked in traditional medicine for 15+ years and were unsatisfied with the level and depth of care they were able to provide within the traditional model. They desired to see fewer patients offer a more customized approach to health and higher quality care based on longer appointment times and one-on-one support. Lastly, we were consistently disappointed by insurance - what it would cover, what it wouldn't cover, and the endless paperwork. By cutting out insurance (as much as we possibly can), we are able to take care of our patients and ourselves better than ever before. In addition to the burnout and work/life balance discussion, we are able to negotiate prices with pharmacies and labs directly. This offers HUGE cost savings for our patients. Example: We have a type 1 diabetic who was reliant on his medication. Through insurance, they were paying $500 every few months. When he transferred his care to us, we were able to negotiate the price for the same medication for $150, saving them $350 every few months! Another example: Vitamin D was not covered for one of our patients. Through their insurance, it would have cost $243 for the test. Through our practice, it cost them $21, a savings of $222! Those savings get transferred directly to the patient in this model. These are just a few examples of why we were inspired to start a Direct Primary Care (DPC) practice!

What's special about your business?

We have two very important features of our business that are unique. One, because we are a membership model, our patients are able to have direct access to their providers and receive the most individualized care available. In this model, you are able to call, text, or email your provider directly, as needed. With this model, we are able to see you the same/next day, offer discounted pricing on labs and medications, as well as collaborate with specialists. Our providers are the hub of your care team and we aim to fill in the gaps to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. The second unique aspect of our business is that we are bridging the gap between traditional medicine and holistic health modalities. This integrative model allows us to use both traditional medicine and implement holistic modalities that support true health and healing.

What have been the high and low points of being a business owner?

Since most direct primary care practices are traditional medicine only, our integrative model could not be replicated so in addition to starting a business from scratch, we didn't necessarily have a model to replicate. This creates both high/low for the business. It's exciting to create something new and it can be overwhelming at the same time. In addition to the typical starting your own business highs and lows, we realized pretty quickly that the number of patients we projected our model to be able to care for was much less because of the level of care that we strive to provide our patients. With that realization and starting our business right before the pandemic, we have had to broaden our services to include workplace wellness programs, additional programs, and partnerships. It has taken us longer to grow our practice than we originally expected but we are slowly growing and we couldn't be more grateful! Lastly, we are passionate about our elderly population and decided to accept Medicare. Learning the ins and outs of Medicare has been a huge learning curve over these past few years. It has taken a significant amount of time and energy to figure it out but as of today, we have a Medicare biller and are able to care for over 70 Medicare patients. To end on a high note, here is our 2021 recap that we are so proud of as a young business:
Throughout 2021, we have:
Cared for 205 members including 17 families, 8 couples, and 6 college students.
Cared for 70 Medicare patients.
Facilitated 25 wellness classes and workshops - including Dr. Marti's first 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course and Silent Retreat!
Participated in the monthly law design team for the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation community initiative.
Presented to One Million Cups - a monthly event that brings entrepreneurs and the Kalamazoo community together over coffee and conversations.
Recognized as 20 of the most notable businesswomen in Southwest Michigan by the Greater Kalamazoo Business Resource Network in November!
Piloted a multi-disciplinary "Transforming Wellness" membership tier that includes integrative medicine and holistic health modalities such as acupuncture, massage, nutritional coaching, mindfulness, and hormone health. We couldn't do this without our partners, Acupuncture Center of Kalamazoo and Hands of Harmony. Thank you!
Provided biometric screenings to Bell's Brewery and 100 of its employees.
Provided virtual wellness classes to one employer, one school district, and one governmental agency.

What is your relationship with SCORE? SCORE client How SCORE helped.

SCORE mentor(s) and the SBDC were the building blocks of our business. We have been able to lean on both organizations for start-up support like taxes, fiscal projections, and business planning. It is incredibly helpful knowing that we have SCORE mentors available to us if and when something comes up. We also really appreciate the One Million Cups, the Greater Resource group, and the online classes offered each month.

What's great about my mentor?

There is so much about our experience with SCORE and SCORE mentors that was outstanding. We were challenged, encouraged, given homework, set deadlines, personalized approach, and offered community resources that we didn't know existed. I don't think we would have gotten off the ground as quickly as we did without the mentorship and resources that were available through SCORE. It was also heartwarming to know that SCORE mentors donate their time, energy, and expertise to help us learn, grow, and thrive. Thank you, SCORE!

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a small business?

Utilize SCORE and SBDC resources, classes, and mentorship. Be strategic yet flexible.

What have you learned from your experiences as a business owner?

1. Take the time to build the foundation and put down specifics in a business plan.
2. Budget Management and Projection: Conservative income, and liberal expenses.
3. Take care of your current clients/patients first.
4. Build multiple streams of income.
5. Trust your intuition and ask for help.
6. Learn to be flexible, pivot, and change courses if need be.

Additional media
Jenny and Marti in office
712 H St NE PMB 98848
Washington, DC 20002
(269) 888-6667

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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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