Natalie Schwartzel – owner of a Medicap® Pharmacy in Lafayette, Indiana, has known she wanted to be a pharmacist since she was just 12 years old, when her science teacher – who had formerly served as a medic in the military – encouraged her to consider a career in healthcare.
He gave Natalie some career guides to flip through – and as soon as she saw the pharmacist job description, she knew it was the career for her. It combined her love of science and her love for helping people.
Natalie’s journey to an independent pharmacy owner took a little more time. After graduating from Purdue University with a pharmacy degree, she spent years working in mass merchant and chain drug stores. Then she opened a closed-door pharmacy located within a mental health provider’s office. That’s where she found her true passion.
“I got the pharmacy up and running within the clinic, built relationships with prescribers and providers, and really enjoyed the interaction with patients,” she said. “That 1:1 patient interaction was so helpful in building respect and accountability…I could directly see the positive impact I was having on health outcomes. I was practicing at the top of my license and using the very best of my abilities.”
Natalie returned to chain retail pharmacy, part-time, for a short while after that — but found herself craving true work-life balance, control – and the meaningful patient interaction that was her true calling. So, with the support of her husband, who is a successful entrepreneur, she went to work putting together a business plan to launch an independent pharmacy. She’s never looked back since. Here are Natalie’s three key pieces of advice for fellow women pharmacists considering pharmacy ownership.
- Done right, pharmacy ownership can deliver the work-life balance you crave. Natalie says that in addition to enjoying her work far more than she has in prior roles, owning her own pharmacy also gives her much better work-life balance.
“As a pharmacy owner, you determine the hours of operation, you decide what kind of services you offer. You make the hiring decisions, and you can set your own schedule, too,” said Natalie. “By surrounding yourself with truly great people, you can provide your patients with that next level of care…and you can also confidently delegate. I have a great team of back up pharmacists who can work the full day or just a few hours – depending on what kind of support I need.”
- Know that your network can be a surprisingly valuable resource for growing your business. Before opening her own pharmacy, Natalie spent about a decade working in various pharmacy roles. In that time, she built a strong reputation in her community – for being a good pharmacist who sincerely cares about patients and dedicates the time needed to meet their needs. That reputation served her well when she opened her own pharmacy.“You’ll be surprised at how much community support you’ll get from people who know you personally and professionally,” she said. “Our store gets a high percentage of its business from referrals from doctors, hospitals, patients, even fellow pharmacists who aren’t able to allocate the time to deliver the personalized care their patients need.”
- Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back. No person can know everything about any career path until they walk the path themselves.
“Don’t let fear of failure, or fear of the unknown, hold you back from your ability to really make a difference in the lives of patients,” said Natalie. “Just go for it. Have confidence that you can do it.”
- You don’t have to know it all. Natalie felt confident in her ability to practice pharmacy, build patient relationships and generate referrals. She didn’t feel quite as confident in her business prowess, so she filled in those gaps in knowledge by tapping the expertise of others. Her husband helped her fine-tune her business plan – and together, they also researched various pharmacy franchise models.
“We ultimately chose the Medicap® Pharmacy franchise model because it not only offered a PSAO to help with contracting, but it also provided me with a business consultant – someone who had already opened pharmacies, understood how to create a niche to differentiate my business, and can serve as a sounding board as I build my business. With the support of the franchise network and Cardinal Health, I don’t feel like I’m doing this alone, I feel like I have a full team of experts behind me.”