A Doctor’s Venture Into Entrepreneurship

From treating patients to writing business plans: Dr. Meghan Walker is learning how running a startup differs from running a clinic

Written by Andrew Brown & Robert Gold

As Dr. Meghan Walker now knows first-hand that many paths can lead to entrepreneurship. The naturopathic doctor, who is the guest on this week’s BusinessCast podcast, now can add “entrepreneur” to her many titles.

Last June, after eight years in practice, Walker sold her clinic to pursue a venture she believes has tremendous growth potential. “I had a fundamental vision that technology was going to transform our industry,” she says, “and had a vital role to play in health care in general.”

She knows from years of practising that when it comes to alternative health, the general population has more questions than answers. “I found that people wanted something natural, they wanted to find a practitioner in that realm and they didn’t know where to go,” Walker explains. “They didn’t know how to differentiate someone who had regulated credentials and had spent eight years in school from someone who had done a lot of reading and taken some weekend courses. Each are valuable; there’s a difference between the type of care provided.”

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And it just isn’t feasible to expect time-strapped practitioners to be able to clear things up—not without interfering with their core work. “As clinicians, we work with patients. We run businesses on the side,” Walker explains. “It’s really hard when you’ve spent eight hours with patients to then sit down and come up with a marketing plan.”

That’s how Walker became co-founder of Bright Almond, a just launched online platform that aims to connect the public with licensed and regulated alternative health-care practitioners. Here are her three tips for new entrepreneurs:

1. Enlist whatever talent it takes to get launch-ready

Sometimes, the talent you think you’ll need to get launch-ready isn’t quite enough. In the past year, Walker has learned the value of bringing in fresh capabilities. “We started working with one development team,” she explains. “We’ve now worked with three in bringing this application to market, to produce a customized application that works for both practitioners and the public.”

2. Get people excited

As the developers were finalizing the technology, Bright Almond also was working to ensure high brand awareness at launch—not after. “We’ve been trying to establish a strong online presence in anticipation of our launch,” explains Walker. “We’ve hired a full-time community manager who really engages both the public and the practitioners in that online space.” This meant, for instance, redistributing information from practitioners to the public before launch to get people familiar with one another.

3. Be nimble

Walker is a huge advocate of lean startup thinking. “It’s a really small team that’s making this happen,” she says. “Like any startup, we’re really nimble in how we execute with our small set of resources. We believe really firmly in resourcefulness; not necessarily in really deep resources.”

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From the archives: Inside Connie Clerici’s Efforts to Reshape the Health Care Industry

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