Valerie Gause knows about chronic pain. After a car accident in the 1980s, she developed degenerative disc disease and reverse lordosis of the cervical spine, resulting in pain in her neck, shoulders, and jaw. Gause managed her pain with massage, chiropractic treatment, and ice and heat during flare ups.
In 2008, Gause suffered a pain flare-up she couldn’t beat. She had left her career in nursing to go back to school for a nutritional counseling degree, and didn’t have health insurance to be able to afford the recommended surgery. She tried to cope, but her chiropractor warned her reliance on chiropractic adjustments could result in permanent nerve damage.
Her last-ditch effort to manage her pain was light therapy. At first, she didn’t think it was working. But after a series of visits, most of her pain was completely gone. “Had I not experienced it personally I would have never believed it,” she recalls.
She began to investigate light therapy technology and took a sales job so she could learn more about the devices and treatments that improved her condition. In 2015, she opened the first business in the United States that uses photobiomodulation therapy to manage pain and inflammation.
Dunn and Gause met several times over the course of a few months during a period when Gause’s equipment was unavailable. “I essentially started over while it was away and reopened in August 2016,” she says.
Gause says that Dunn helped her take “the final leap of trust” and create a business model that could be duplicated, instead of one that relied on her presence. She plans to take what she learned to license or franchise her business after a few years.
Gause called upon her experience as a nurse and her passion for light therapy to build her business model, but she faced several challenges: adhering to regulations for an industry that was not yet regulated nationwide; educating clients; and figuring out pricing that worked for both her business and her clients. Plus, Gause wanted her practice to feel like a spa instead of a doctor’s office.
Gause contacted SCORE for help with her brand messaging and sales tips. “I have never taken a formal sales course, and I thought it would be a good idea to address that weakness with a mentoring program rather than a course,” she says. Gause attended “The Close: Techniques that Increase Sales” to assist her with building upon the techniques she had learned with her mentor.
Volunteer mentor Jim Dunn helped Gause work through pricing models, return-on-investment concepts, and brand messaging. “He also helped me understand quality staffing and he need to delegate and be in a management role instead of a ‘do it all’ role, which was what I was trying to do,” Gause says.