“LivePlan helped me figure out exactly what my options were.”

Jessica Champion recently opened her own mental health and family therapy clinic, Champion Family Therapy, in Eugene, Oregon.

Like many small business owners, Jessica wanted to start her own business in an industry that she'd worked in for years. But, she didn't have a business background. “The reason that I sought out learning about business was so I could do the therapeutic work—and get other people doing therapeutic work with me,” says Jessica. “I think the identity around being a business owner is something that is evolving, and will continue to evolve.”

Jessica had worked as a therapist for over 16 years, building her experience at nonprofits, at a university, and then going into private practice. “Throughout that entire time you know, I always had a vision of maybe doing something like this one day,” says Jessica.

“I think the identity around being a business owner is something that is evolving, and will continue to evolve.”

However, making the move from private practice to starting a clinic felt like a big jump. She had loads of experience in the field, but no experience in business. If you don't have a business background, how do you go from industry expert to small business owner?

“I had put the idea on the back burner,” said Jessica. But, an investor who was familiar with her work sought her out. “She approached me and said, I think that you should start a clinic,” says Jessica. From there, it was a matter of a push in the right direction, to actually get her idea off the ground. “We thought, well, what would we really need to do to make this happen?” says Jessica.

Jessica, at Champion Family Therapy
Jessica, at Champion Family Therapy.

Learning the importance of having a plan

Jessica knew that if she wanted to start her own clinic, she needed to have a plan in place.

“I loved the idea of having a system that could walk me through all the different elements that I would need, and I found [LivePlan] to be very user-friendly.”

But because she had never started a business before, she didn't know exactly where to begin. “I just started searching online and figuring out, okay what would I need?” she says. “Somewhere in there were the words ‘business plan.’ I immediately locked onto that and said, that makes sense. I need to know what I'm doing here, I need an overview.”

She started out by looking at sample business plans and using templates. “Then I found LivePlan and thought wow, this is really cool, let me check this out,” says Jessica. “I loved the idea of having a system that could walk me through all the different elements that I would need, and I found it to be very user-friendly. So, I signed up for it.”

Jessica uses LivePlan to manage her business and plan for growth
Jessica uses LivePlan to manage her business and plan for growth.

Using LivePlan as a tool for ongoing strategic planning

While Jessica started using LivePlan with the intention of completing a formal business plan, she also learned the value of planning as an ongoing process—rather than just a means to an end.

“I feel like that process really helped me to accept that this is really a working document—there would be multiple iterations of it and I didn't have to have all the numbers,” says Jessica. “I still have multiple iterations of my business plan; I think I made three or four different plans within LivePlan,” she says. “I really like that it allows you to do that. It worked well with the way that I think—what's best case scenario, what are the worst case scenarios, what's everything in between?”

Ultimately, Jessica was able to do more than just create a business plan she could use once, and then leave on the shelf—she was able to gain insight into what it would take to run a successful business long-term.

“I made three or four different plans within LivePlan. I really like that it allows you to do that. It worked well with the way that I think—what's best case scenario, what are the worst case scenarios, what's everything in between?”

“I'm a girl who wants it all,” she says. “Yes, I wanted to write a formal business plan. I wanted it for something that I could potentially present to investors, or to a bank for funding.

“But I also wanted it to answer the question: Is this even feasible? I wanted to know how long it would take, what the biggest pitfalls are, and what my biggest expenses would be. I really wanted to understand from a budget perspective what it would take on a month to month basis. I wanted LivePlan's formulas to look at, to see how things change.

“All of that—and LivePlan has done all that for me.”

LivePlan and the SBDC's Business Plan Accelerator course

Jessica discovered LivePlan on her own—but she soon learned even more about how it could benefit her business.

She enrolled in the SBDC and Lane Community College's Business Plan Accelerator course, taught by SBDC business advisor Roger Wong and Peter Thorsson of Palo Alto Software.

Finding the class felt serendipitous; the fact that Roger's class uses LivePlan to teach business planning—even more so. “I didn't know that LivePlan was associated with it at all, but I thought, well, might as well take a class too,” says Jessica. “In signing up, I saw that the software I had already gotten started with was going to be in use. I thought—this must be meant to be.”

Finding LivePlan and learning the ins and outs of how to run and plan a healthy small business in Roger's class gave her the confidence to start Champion Family Therapy. “That's how I went from being a therapist to being a business person,” says Jessica.

“LivePlan helped me figure out exactly what my options were.”

Having LivePlan and Roger's expertise to guide her was instrumental in helping her learn the ropes. “I went into it really knowing nothing,” she says. “You know, when I first started in the class and was working through LivePlan, I didn't even really know what accounts receivable and accounts payable meant. I didn't even really know what cash flow was, or what a profit and loss would look like, or how that's calculated.”

Many new small business owners feel a bit intimidated by the process—especially around forecasting their financials. “I'm not an unintelligent person, because I understood it as we went through it, but I've just never really had to have any exposure to it,” says Jessica.

In addition to learning business planning basics, Jessica was also able to benefit from Roger's expertise as a long-time SBDC advisor and mentor who has helped many new entrepreneurs learn the ropes. “I continue to meet with Roger periodically,” she says. “He always gives me perspective and is a good cheerleader. That's been incredibly helpful.”

The front desk at Champion Family Therapy
The front desk at Champion Family Therapy.

Using LivePlan to build a team

Jessica knew her biggest challenge would be hiring, as having the right team in place was crucial to the success of her business. How would she attract the perfect hires to her brand-new business—one that didn't yet have a track record of success or reputability within the local community?

However, Jessica had built a strong foundation—and was able to use the business plan she had created within LivePlan to prove to prospective hires that her new business was poised to be successful. “I couldn't have recruited them without LivePlan,” she says. “Understandably, because they're smart people, they had a million questions about what everything was going to look like. A lot of questions had to do with salary and benefits, and how quickly we could build, and our productivity expectations.

Because she had used LivePlan to not only create her formal plan, but also to model different scenarios, Jessica was prepared for questions. She knew how she planned to pay her employees, she knew what was available to her, and she knew what to expect when it came to building a team. “LivePlan helped me figure out exactly what my options were,” she says.

LivePlan helped Jessica become a small business owner
LivePlan helped Jessica become a small business owner.

LivePlan makes business planning accessible and approachable

Starting her clinic was always about being able to do the work Jessica feels passionate about, on her own terms and with her own vision. LivePlan helped her create a formal business plan that she needed for investment, and it also made it easier to model different financial scenarios, so she could make good business decisions with confidence.

“Having a resource like LivePlan, where for very little financial investment I can learn these things and get access to resources and support to help me dream something up and do it, is pretty incredible.”

“I am the only person in my family to attend college,” she says. “Then, of course, the only person to have an advanced degree, and then to be a business owner. I come from a background that sort of suggests things aren't attainable. You won't have that, or you can't break through to that, or you can't access that.”

She is passionate about the importance of accessibility; after all, it's a key focus of her work. “That's part of why in the work that I do, that access is so important to me,” she says. “Do I have an MBA? Obviously not, that's not my area.”

“Having a resource like LivePlan, where for very little financial investment I can learn these things and get access to resources and support to help me dream something up and do it, is pretty incredible.”


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