Citrus Hearing Clinic is a small business located in Clermont, Florida whose owner and Doctor of Audiology, Dr. Laura Bradley Pratesi, prides herself on working in the community where she, her friends, and family live and socialize.
Founded by Dr. Pratesi, hearing impaired and a hearing aid user herself, Citrus Hearing Clinic aims to be a full-service audiology practice specializing in aural rehabilitation, balance therapy, pediatric testing, and patient education. They like to say, “We listen. You hear.”
“No one in the area was offering my services so I saw an underserved market in my own backyard,” Dr. Pratesi remarked. “Now I am working with local physicians, treating our shared patients and coordinating their care closely with those doctors, which is all important. Thanks to this community, I’ve become successful in my new office.”
Although enjoying a warm reception in Clermont, there were challenges faced by Dr. Pratesi on the road to opening her clinic. For many of those, she turned to the Florida SBDC at the University of Central Florida’s (FSBDC at UCF) Lake County office and its Area Manager and consultant Eddie Hill.
“I’m an expert in audiology but I’m not an expert in business,’ Dr. Pratesi recalls. “I know a lot of businesses don’t do well in the first few years. I didn’t want to be one of those; I wanted to be successful. For me it wasn’t just getting to practice audiology, it was also about learning to run a profitable business.”
And that’s what Dr. Pratesi did. She used the FSBDC’s market research services to conduct a risk analysis of the area. She attended the FSBDC’s online seminars to sharpen her financial and marketing skills. And she took advantage of the FSBDC’s no-cost, expert business consulting by meeting with Eddie Hill.
“Eddie was very helpful in developing a business plan and getting it ready to take to a bank,”says Dr. Pratesi. “I’d gone to a couple of my own banks and been rejected. They wanted me to put up my home as collateral and that made me nervous. But Eddie helped me find a local bank that would make a business loan to me.”
“And that was important to me. I liked getting a loan from a bank and not a particular hearing aid manufacturer, like many audiology businesses do,” continued Dr. Pratesi. “It means I am able to work with all the different manufacturers and free to always choose the best product for my patients. As someone with a hearing impairment, I have been in my patients’ shoes. I really like that I can help make the best, most well-informed decisions about their hearing and balance health care.”
“The FSBDC has been a wonderful resource. My experience with them has been overwhelmingly positive,“ Dr. Pratesi concluded. “They helped me find a local bank who made me a loan that helped get me started. It was important to me to be independently owned and operated and I was able to do that because of the FSBDC.”