Before I had even spoken to Dr. Brown about re- opening, I had met with Mrs. Sheila Keeling about running our accounts. She said yes, which was super exciting for us! If she had turned us down, we would have never opened that year, and we may have never opened. She has been there for us through thick and thin, and during our first year it was 100% thin!
After we stocked our truck, it didn't take long until we were doing house calls. We started working one day per week in the clinic, and spent the rest of the time in Tennessee. By the end of June, we were doing enough work to hire our first employee, my childhood neighbor, Mrs. Bonnie Douthit.
We started taking surgery dates and seeing appointments in the afternoon. We were mostly small animal in the beginning, and the first six months were very hard on us all. We relied heavily on vet students from UT Knoxville for animal help. mrs Bonnie, mrs Sheila, and I kept the records and accounts. There were no computers, no diagnostic equipment of any kind, and no in house telephones. What we did have was my cell phone for calling, an old time cash register for change(dad bought at the pawn shop for $20), and a $100 investment dad gave me to open the business account. ( Dad always has been an "adventure" capitalist).
I told everyone, from the start, that If the account became overdrawn, that would be the end of the business. We came close to zero many weeks during the first year, but so far it has maintained at least a $100 balance.
The business slowly gained momentum. By July and August, we were looking at equipment to purchase. The initial estimate to equip our clinic was 70 to 140 thousand dollars! We knew we couldn't afford that, so we chose instead to save our money and buy used equipment one piece at a time.
Our first purchase was our microscope; followed closely by our anesthesia machine. The anesthesia machine was important to us, because we could provide surgery patients with oxygen throughout the surgery and also inhalant anesthetics to keep the patient safely sleeping during the procedure. During the winter of 2014, we met with a vet in Louisville; she sold us our first dental machine and x ray processor. My friend called me from madisonville and offered to sell me an x ray table, during the summer of 2014. we rapidly purchased it and re-constructed our back room to fit it.
We were now functional. With business picking up, we moved to four days a week in June of last year. Slowly, we continue to grow, we are adding new employees and new clients.
Dr hatcher donated in house blood work equipment to our cause, and offered to give us an ultrasound if we could have it repaired. Computer software has replaced our hand written data, and e mail has replaced our fax lines. We searched the US for microbiology equipment, and purchased ours in Minnesota for our lab. We now have the ability to culture mastitis for our farmers, and help them produce better quality milk for their consumers.
Our diagnostic equipment is very advanced, and our team continues to grow. It's been almost two years since we started our journey home, and it's been the best two years of our lives.
We accomplished what we set out to do, we restarted a local tradition of veterinary care, that had previously spanned three generations. It's our goal now to build on that tradition and create a business to serve our people for the next three generations. Our community is a special place to live and work, and we are thankful daily for the chance to be home. Thanks for reading,