"All of this was new to us because we’ve never even taken a business class. We’re therapists, not business people. We needed help just getting these things in place" After almost ten years as a physical therapist, Thibodaux resident Michele Bower saw a growing need for therapy services for children in the area. With the closest pediatric-therapy clinics an hour away in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, services were virtually non-existent. When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the further loss of therapy services in South Louisiana inspired Michele to join forces with two other therapists and start her own clinic.
Founded in 2006, the Center for Pediatric Therapy is a place where physical, occupational and speech therapists help children learn how to walk, function and focus better in the world. It is the only pediatric-therapy clinic in Terrebonne Parish and treats children from newborns to age 21 with both group and one-on-one therapy that focuses on play and movement. Some of its patients face such ailments as autism, cerebral palsy and attention-deficit disorder. Bower had always dreamed of opening such a center but lacked some of the knowledge of getting a business off the ground. She originally came across the LSBDC Business Continuity Center at Nicholls State University when she approached the South Louisiana Economic Council about a grant for marketing expenses. Immediately tapping into the newly discovered resource, she found expert advice, assistance and consultation on a variety of business matters.
“All of this was new to us because we’ve never even taken a business class. We’re therapists, not business people. We needed help just getting these things in place,” said Bower. Bower utilized the center’s assistance for everything from determining what kind of computers they needed and how to build the right staff to creating the building components and getting the right permits in place. The LSBDC also helped Bower become certified under the Small & Emerging Business program (SEBD) provided by Louisiana Economic Development. The SEBD program helped send two of the co-owners to a manager’s clinic in California. “They [co-owners] were able to learn better management skills, about hiring and firing, how to staff therapists, coding and all kinds of things we needed to know,” she said. Partial SEBD funding was also received to develop marketing materials and redesign their website.
The Center for Pediatric Therapy recently turned to the LSBDC to investigate the feasibility of expansion to St. Charles Parish. The center was able to send a consultant to the area to gather information on demographics, insurance, Medicaid usage and locations. “They gave us this wonderful binder with all the statistics we needed. If we do expand, we’re going to seek assistance with a new business plan. We’ve really taken advantage of many things they’ve had to offer,” said Bower.