Boulder Acupuncture and Herbs is a small business that is founded, run and owned by Norah Charles, an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. What makes Boulder Acupuncture and Herbs unique is that Norah works primarily with patients over 70 years old. Norah treats senior clients with a host of difficulties, including chronic pain, depression, and isolation. In addition to her acupuncture, Norah uses over 300 Chinese herbs for distinct wellness purposes.
Starting a business is not often easy, and it certainly was not for Norah. “I started up with virtually no money, which was really challenging,” said Norah. “I had to do everything on a shoestring and that meant that I had to learn to do everything by myself. That was initially the hardest part.”
Norah first reached out to the Boulder Small Business Development Center in May of 2015. She has since worked with consultants at the SBDC in regards to her budding business, specifically marketing.
“Before I even started my practice I went in to the SBDC and did some one-on-one consulting, which was great. We talked about basic finance, like recurring costs versus one-time costs, and all these things that I had never thought of. It helped me feel like I had the intelligence to run a business. I knew I had skills as an acupuncturist, but no business skills. The SBDC consulting team really showed me that I could do it.”
Even with some consultation, establishing yourself as a prominent and profitable business is a tough task, especially in the first couple of years. According to Norah, “When I eventually went into practice, the first year was very hard, but the first six months were particularly brutal. Sometime over that time period, [an SBDC staff member] called me and asked how I was doing. At the time I was really not doing well. I wasn’t going to fold my business, but I was worried I was going to run out of money.”
Norah continued, “But when he called out of the blue to just say, ‘hey, how are you, we’re here for you, and if you ever feel like you’re going to shut down your doors, please come talk to me before you do that,’ it was so powerful for me. When you’re a solo entrepreneur, you feel pretty alone so to have that lifeline, and to know that if I needed to shut my business I could call [and the SBDC] would find a way to help me, it was a big deal.”
Norah now has a multitude of clients, and her business is growing. She is also a volunteer acupuncturist with the Colorado Acupuncture Medical Reserve Corps, offering acupuncture on-site to first responders and community members affected by natural disasters or catastrophic events. She continues to be ambitious and has serious aspirations to expand her practice and impact on the community.
“I have a pretty big vision for my business. For the business itself, I hope that it thrives and continues to serve seniors in Boulder, but my real larger vision for what I’m doing is that, in my profession, there is not a lot of specialization, and specifically there are very few people who focus their practices on seniors. I feel like this is an underserved population that can benefit from what I do. My plan is to get the skills I need, and then help train other acupuncturists to work in eldercare.”
Norah’s focus and dedication coupled with her ambition and readiness to reach out to the Boulder SBDC has enabled her successful business.