Dr. Andrew Thomson and Dr. Steph Romero met while undergraduate students of Kinesiology at Wilfrid Laurier University, but really connected when they found themselves in the same lab group at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College. A couple for five years now, Thomson and Romero dreamed of opening up a practice together after their graduation. They could not have predicted that they would see their dream realized during a global pandemic, but nonetheless, function health + wellness opened in March 2021 in Guelph, ON. Offering many services, including registered massage therapy and yoga, function health + wellness is designed to be a space where patients can focus on their health and well-being, and where everyone is welcome.
Here, we speak with Andrew and Steph about the challenges of starting a business during the COVID-19 pandemic, their relationship with their community, and their goals for their practice.
On using social media to connect with potential patients during the pandemic
Steph: Trying to get our name out there has been a bit more challenging during COVID. Ideally, we would have liked to be physically at events and places where people could meet us and interact with us. Since we couldn’t meet people in person, we pivoted to using our Instagram to introduce ourselves. We’ve seen the value that our social media presence brings to our business. It’s definitely something that’s evolved, and that we put a lot of effort into, because we’d like to show who we are as people first, as opposed to just: “we’re chiropractors.” We want people to get to know our personalities, so that even before they come into the office, they can feel some sort of connection, and feel comfortable coming into the space and meeting with a new practitioner. Meeting with complete strangers during COVID is already nerve-wracking, and we want to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible.
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On their practice, growing their business, and spreading positivity
Andrew: We are trying to build a reputation for being trusted, healthcare practitioners within the community. At the clinic, we aim to build a truly collaborative team and a multidisciplinary practice. We don’t want people to just come in and see a chiropractor, we want them to experience and get value from all the different disciplines that we have in the clinic. We’re building a team that understands how health is impacted by a multitude of factors. We feel that it’s our duty as practitioners to educate, guide, and support our patients, to empower them to make lifestyle changes and habits that will best support their health needs and goals.
So far, we are very pleased with how things have been going, despite the world that we are living in right now. Down the road, we can definitely see potentially expanding to another location within Guelph.
Steph: Optimism is something we’ve had to carry throughout this entire past year, to continue pushing forward and really try to take that positivity and hope that spreads in the community, whether or not they come to our clinic. We want to be equated with something positive in the community.
On the importance of community to their practice
Steph: Our vision is deeply rooted in community — it’s one of our practice’s core values. We are making sure that we participate in events outside of our roles that focus on community building. We recently participated in the Tour de Guelph, a cycling event in the city. Their mission is to encourage a healthier Guelph and to raise funds for Guelph General Hospital. That really aligned well with what we’re trying to do, so we put a team together and created a training program. Once we were able to, we did the ride altogether. We wanted to provide an opportunity for people who might not want to do that on their own, to give them the chance to find a group of people to join in giving back and helping a worthy cause in the city.
Andrew: In April, when the government announced the third, most recent shutdown, we were really fortunate that our practice wasn’t really affected, and we wanted to figure out how we could give back to other businesses who were highly impacted. Via our social media, we offered small business owners who were shut down or severely affected a complimentary service by one of us, or one of our registered massage therapists.
Steph: We opened it up to our followers to nominate a small business owner that they knew, and the response was great.
Andrew: We had 15-20 business owners come through, which was really nice, because you could tell that a lot of them really needed the time to themselves, just to unwind. A lot of people would say that when you’re running a business you’re putting your body on the back burner, for many people, it’s their last priority, so the business owners were really thankful for the opportunity, and we were very happy to be a part of that.
Steph: You could really see the support from the community, and it seemed to me that everyone really cares about the people behind the businesses, because I think that in Guelph it’s apparent how important and valuable small business is to our city. There’s just something unique and different here, in terms of the sense of community. It meant a lot to us to be able to support local businesses in Guelph, because they contribute so much to the city.
On how using Square helped them with the unique challenges of opening a business during the COVID-19 pandemic
Andrew: When we were getting ready to launch, we knew nothing about point-of-sale software. We shopped around, but ultimately we loved that it was just a one-time purchase of the Square Terminal and software, and we didn’t need to rent anything. Square is awesome, because we don’t need to worry about the technology behind it, it’s just so seamless. Our clients love it, they always mention how it looks really modern and cool, and of course, during the pandemic, the ease with which they can make contactless payments has been key.
Steph: We saw that Square is integrated with Jane, which made going with them an easy decision. Pulling reports and sending them to our bookkeeper is so simple, saves us a lot of hassle, and allows us more time to focus on our patients. It’s been so easy and we’ve never had any issues with Square whatsoever.
On learning from other small businesses in Guelph
Andrew: We’ve become great friends with the owners of Robusta Café in downtown Guelph. They are a young couple who took ownership of the cafe during the third week of March 2020, so they can relate to our challenges launching our business! We also have a lot in common with the owners of the Crazy Carrot, a couple of entrepreneurs whose goal is to make healthy food more approachable and accessible. We’ve learned so much from the crew at F45, as well. They really had to adapt during COVID, but they are still so committed to bringing physical activity to the city. We’re fortunate to be able to learn from the experiences of our peers in the community, and we really appreciate their support.
You can find function health + wellness in Guelph, and learn more about them online.