Leaving A Geologist Career To Start A Wellness And Acupuncture Center

Published: July 15th, 2020
Moira J McCarthy
Acupuncture Welln...
from Austin, Texas, USA
started August 1997
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello guys, my name is Moira McCarthy and I am a licensed acupuncturist in Austin, Texas. I am the owner of Acupuncture Wellness Center, LLC, and have been in practice since 1997. I offer acupuncture and cosmetic acupuncture services.

I have been affiliated with Whole Body Health since 2008 and we offer wellness services such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage therapy. Our customers are wellness-minded individuals seeking a holistic approach to health care to achieve optimal wellness and a better quality of life.

I recently reduced my practice to one client per hour so that I could spend more time with each client and offer more services such as Acugraph computer analysis, Pointoselect digital auricular therapy, and cupping, as well as traditional acupuncture therapy and cosmetic acupuncture. My practice averages about 65 to 70 clients per month at an average cost of $90 per session.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My first career was as a Geologist in Houston, Texas, after graduating from the University of Texas in Austin. I was introduced to Martial Arts as a form of self-defense and was hooked! I went on to earn a Black Belt in both Tai Chi and External Martial Arts through the Wu Shu Kung-Fu Federation. I even fought in a Martial Arts World Tournament in Las Vegas. This experience led me to an interest in Eastern Medicine and how it differed from Western Medicine.

I learned of a school opening in Austin in 1989 that was offering a degree in Eastern Medicine and decided to attend their program. I moved back to Austin working as an Environmental Geologist for the State of Texas while earning my degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

I continued to work as a Geologist until in 1994 the Texas Legislature passed a law that established The Texas State Board of Acupuncture Examiners which provided a path to becoming legally licensed to practice acupuncture under the Texas State Medical Board.

That is when I had to make the decision to launch a new career as a Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc) or stay in my current job with the State of Texas as an Environmental Geologist.

I loved the idea of working for myself and being my own boss but wasn’t sure where to start. I loved learning the art of acupuncture in school, but could I make this a full-time job? I had been employed as a Geologist for a big oil company for 10 years and then for the State of Texas for 6 years, was I capable of starting a business and working for myself?

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

I didn’t have a product to design or sell as most new small businesses, but I did need to build a practice and get clients to know that I existed. I didn’t know how to begin this process or how to run my own business. Then, opportunity knocked when I was contacted by an acupuncturist in 1997 who was looking to sell her practice in Austin and this gave me the launching pad I needed to begin my new career.

Tracking referral sources is an extremely helpful tool in determining where to focus your marketing efforts.

Through the purchase of an established practice, I was able to leave my job with the State of Texas and start my new career. I also needed a plan to market myself and continue to build my newly-purchased acupuncture practice. Over time I found my niche successfully treating neck, back, knee, and joint pain as well as seasonal allergies. I also became certified in Cosmetic Acupuncture to further expand my specialties.

Describe the process of launching the business.

There were no “social media” at this time, so the way I grew my practice was making public appearances (to any audience that would listen) and to attend numerous health fairs to teach the public about the benefits of acupuncture. And of course, that old book called the Yellowpages was our first exposure to advertising.

I also learned over time how to submit to insurance for reimbursement and today I have an insurance expert handle this for me.

One of the biggest boosts to my practice back then was joining a professional networking group that helped individuals promote their businesses. Building these referral relationships among other professionals was very beneficial to my practice and led me to my affiliation with Whole Body Health for the last 12 years. I found that I much prefer working with a team of great professionals vs working alone. I also worked with a career coach for a while who taught me valuable organizational skills and tools for running a business.

When the age of the internet emerged I was lucky enough to have a friend that knew how to design my first webpage. That area of advertising was just beginning and has evolved in a way I could not have imagined.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Today most of our marketing efforts are through social media, posting on our Facebook page, making videos on YouTube, and encouraging reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. We also have a marketing expert to manage our website. Tracking referral sources is an extremely helpful tool in determining where to focus your marketing efforts. When a new patient calls to schedule one of the key questions we ask how they found us. Our intake form has the same question as well. My two biggest sources of referrals are current patients (60%) and the internet (40%).

I frequently use email campaigns to reconnect with past patients that have not been in for a few weeks to a few months and find that it is very effective in retaining customers. I would say 90% of my clients return for follow-up appointments.

Our scheduling software allows us to track patients that have canceled appointments and those that have not rescheduled appointments so that we can send out emails campaigns or make what we call reactivation phone calls to help get them back on the schedule. Most patients love that we follow up with them and are grateful that we do.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Business is doing well and I continue to build relationships both personal and on social media to grow my practice. Such as posting on Facebook, Twitter, and encouraging reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook.

The growth of my practice has evolved over time and I learned that it is essential to delegate certain duties to others. We have a receptionist to answer all calls so that few calls are missed and all messages are promptly returned, an insurance expert to file claims, and deal with the insurance companies and a website marketing manager to keep us current on SEO, blogs, and videos. I also love working with a team and find that referrals increase when you share an office with other healthcare professionals.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

You have to continue to grow your business. The more energy you put into your business the more you will get in return.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We are Mac based in our office and are currently using Square as our scheduling and point of sale software.

We market through our websites and Facebook

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

My best resource early on was my career coach. I still use the skills he taught me to keep my business organized and to track what is working and what is not working. My favorite inspirational authors include Wayne Dyer, John O'Leary, Ken Blanchard and Dr Andrew Weil, MD.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and believe in yourself.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!