Sara Hodson is founder and president of LIVE WELL Exercise Clini, a leading edge health and fitness enterprise that offers sedentary people with health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease customized, medically-designed fitness programs and nutritional counseling in a safe, supportive and supervised environment.
She’s an entrepreneurial star, recognized by Chatelaine/Profit W100 Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs, 2015 as a Rising Star and as a SheEO Radical Generosity Finalist, 2015. Sara was declared the 2016 Surrey Women in Business Winner: Entrepreneur and has been nominated for the 2016 Metro Vancouver YWCA Women of Distinction Award: Entrepreneur.
You were practicing cardio-rehab for the Fraser Health Authority in 2011. Where did the LIVE WELL concept come from?
I was on mat leave with my fourth baby, and I realized I didn’t want to go back to work. Was it the job that no longer engaged me? Or was it my profession? I came to the conclusion that I was passionate about my profession, but Fraser Health just wasn’t the right setting for me anymore. Medical fitness, the idea that exercise is medicine, was an emerging field of practice and I knew I wanted to be a part of the movement.
Did you have a plan?
I’m an entrepreneur at heart. When I was eight, I turned my parents’ one-acre property into a golf course and charged the neighbourhood kids $2 to play! I knew I could figure this out.
In British Columbia, cardio-rehab is fee-for-service, so I knew there was no fee barrier. I was confident I could count on physician referrals. I worked on a comprehensive business plan. I knew my start-up costs. When my mat leave expired, I left Fraser Health and cashed in my pension. I borrowed 10 percent from my family. I applied for and received a federal government guaranteed loan for the balance.
You weren’t content with opening only one clinic…
My plan was always to open multiple locations. We opened in Surrey in 2011 and pretty quickly filled the space, so I opened another location close by. We soon had so many members coming from Vancouver, I decided to open a clinic there – I went back to the bank and got a second government loan.
You’re planning to franchise LIVE WELL in 2016. How did that come about?
We opened our Vancouver clinic next door to the head office of Nurse Next Door, a PROFIT 500 home health care services franchise company. A man from Nurse Next Door used to come by and ask me questions, like what our conversion rates were. I didn’t have any idea. I didn’t know who he was till he left me a business card: he was John DeHart, co-founder of Nurse Next Door. He mentored me for two years, holding me to task and challenging me - he is now my partner and the head of our franchise division.
What would you tell other young entrepreneurs?
Never lose the feeling that you’re standing on the edge of failure. That feeling keeps you focused, driving you to succeed.
You have a project in mind?
Build and optimize your business idea with the tool that will guide your entrepreneurial thinking.
Photography: © Michael Ford, editing: Martin Flamand, 2016
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