In order to successfully open her healthcare clinic Carol Lewallen sought help from the Iowa Small Business Development Center at Iowa Lakes Community College in developing her business plan, working through the financial projections and understanding the loan process.
Healthcare made simple and being provided at hours convenient to the patient—that has been Carol Lewallen’s main goal since she began her nursing career 27 years ago. Now it has become a reality with the opening of Spencer Convenient Healthcare, LLC. Carol has been providing healthcare services to those unable to leave work in the middle of the day or who have a health problem arise during the weekend.
Carol’s journey started with taking nursing classes at Western Iowa Tech Community College, Iowa Central Community College, and Briar Cliff University. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing, all the while working at the hospitals in Pocahontas and Spencer. Through those years of experience Carol noticed that there was a need for basic health services to people in her community who were “slipping between the cracks”. She wanted to be able to use her years of experience to better help those patients, so she went back to school to get the degree and certifications necessary to do so.
Opening a clinic in her community was a big entrepreneurial leap because very few nurse practitioners open their own clinics. Some day Carol, now an advance registered nurse practitioner, would like to add “doctor of nursing practice” to her credentials, but this mother of five wanted to establish her Spencer clinic first and then get a clinic running successfully in Spirit Lake before going back to school.
While larger cities are more likely to have a nurse-managed clinic, it is not customary in small town Iowa. But when Carol can help 16 patients between noon and five on a Sunday, some who have traveled nearly 100 miles round trip, obviously there’s a need for her services.
Serving as a nurse in the same-day surgery unit at the local hospital, Carol is connected to all of the local surgeons, doctors and specialists; this allows her access to referrals for more complicated matters.
“The practice is building up much quicker that I expected,” Carol admits. “I knew it was going to be a success.” The Lewallens are planning on adding an additional nurse practitioner soon and have already begun the process of opening a new clinic in Spirit Lake this summer.
Carol did some research before opening her business, utilizing the services of the MBA Health Group from Vermont to perform a feasibility study and market analysis of Spencer and its surrounding area. She needed to know if there was an adequate population to support the clinic and a definite need for this type of clinic. When those studies indicated that it was feasible for a clinic like this to exist in Northwest Iowa, Carol’s next step was to visit the Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Iowa Lakes Community College for assistance in developing a business plan and financial projections.
Carol and her husband, John, worked with Kelly McCarty, regional director of the SBDC, for five months before approaching a local financial institution and a local revolving loan fund to secure the necessary funds to equip and operate the clinic. The Lewallens were successful in getting the necessary bank financing, plus a loan from the local revolving loan fund. They also injected a considerable amount of their own funds into the business.
Carol and John both agree that the assistance of the Small Business Development Center was very beneficial in developing their business plan, working through the financial projections and understanding the loan process. Carol says, “We are grateful for the SBDC help and we know we can go back to the SBDC for more assistance and feedback whenever we need it.”
When Spencer Convenient Healthcare opened for business in November 2012 jobs were provided not only for Carol and John but for a medical assistant and an office administrator. With the steady growth of patient care the clinic expects to add an additional nurse practitioner in Spencer and a medical assistant and office administrator when they open a second clinic in Spirit Lake.
Be sure to check out the clinic’s website at www.spencerconvenienthealthcare.com for more information on Carol, the clinic, its services, and its hours of operation.
Pictures that accompany this story are courtesy of Russ Oechslin, Sioux City Journal.