Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Gabriel Wong, founder of Westcoast SCI, located in Coquitlam, BC, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Westcoast SCI was established in 2010. Since our inception, we have been pioneering a new path forward for physiotherapy and its role in the health and wellness spectrum. In the past, people viewed physio as only a place to go when you get injured. Yes, we are still that, and we also play a role in the entire spectrum of health and wellness.

We provide a full complement of physiotherapists, kinesiologists, exercise specialists, and personal trainers. We care for a wide range of people, from acute and chronic injuries such as whiplash and chronic back pain to people with diabetes and osteoarthritis, and also athletes/weekend warriors, including soccer players and competitive powerlifters.

Our therapists pride themselves on staying up to date with our education. As a group, we frequently meet to teach each other about the newest courses we've taken and share our knowledge. Here at Westcoast SCI, we know that making our team better makes our clinic better. Our staff is our family, and by taking care of each other, our clients ultimately benefit.

Tell us about yourself

I started Westcoast SCI in 2010 because I felt there was a need for a different approach to how physiotherapy was delivered. When I graduated from physiotherapy school, I worked at a place that put people into 'boxes.' Their business strategy was to see as many people as possible per day. This model can produce great financial reports but really poor patient outcomes and poor customer experience. I burnt myself out working in this capacity and was left questioning my career path. I was disillusioned by what physiotherapy was in the "real world" and felt that the core of physiotherapy was corrupt. I didn't want to be a physiotherapist any longer.

As a result, I tried to distance myself from the profession. I took an administrative role at the hospital. I was still able to work with a team of healthcare professionals, so I felt I could use my skillset in a different way besides direct patient care. I didn't want to throw away a three years master's degree completely!

The team I worked with consisted mostly of older individuals nearing the end of their careers. A lot of nurses didn't want to handle the stress and physical labour of bedside nursing, for example. We worked in cubicles and sat at computers all day long. As I'm sure, many of you can attest, especially during the pandemic, sitting all day long, day in and day out, at a computer can actually make you pretty sore.

My teammates were constantly complaining about their aches and pains. Since I was still a registered physiotherapist, I wanted to offer my teammates my help. I started meeting with a few of them after work at the park behind the hospital. I would bring a mat and some small weights. I would assess pain and provide some hands-on therapy but mostly relied on an active-based approach. I really just wanted to get them moving and show them that getting them moving would actually relieve their pain and discomfort.

They really liked what I was doing and got the results they were seeking. They started to feel guilty that they weren't paying me, so I looked into getting a business license, and because I was providing physiotherapy services, we could actually use their extended health benefits. Eventually, they started asking if they could tell some of their friends and colleagues at work about what I was doing with them, and next thing you know, I was making more money with my "side hustle" than I was working my 9-5.

Long story short, I had to look for locations and hire staff. As all entrepreneurs know, it wasn't as smooth as that. I started off by renting space at different gyms; I converted my detached garage into a small studio and then eventually grew enough to actually open our own locations that we could call our own.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Seeing people rise up. The COVID pandemic has been the most trying time in our 12-year existence. Seeing my team really step up and lead the team has been humbling and inspiring. I want to make sure that I give credit where credit is due to the people that really make Westcoast SCI possible. I may be the face of the organization, but it's really the people in the background where the magic happens. Our clinical directors, chief vision officer, patient experience specialists, and clinicians deserve all the credit for making Westcoast SCI a really magical place to work and, therefore, for our clients. One of our mottos is "we work better together."

Seeing my staff thrive during times of crisis. The pandemic really put a spotlight on who the leaders are in my organization. Leaders show themselves in different ways and not always in a stereotypical fashion. Some lead by example, some are charismatic, and others are visionaries.

I was so proud of my team, who helped lead us out of the grim days of COVID. Knowing I've got a solid group of people to lean on when I'm going through my own personal stress is both relieving and provides me with the confidence that the legacy of my business is in good hands.

I also really enjoy being a valuable part of the community. I feel we play an important part in keeping the community healthy. When people require help when they suffer an injury, need guidance to manage a chronic disease such as diabetes or arthritis, or want to start exercising because they want to age well into their golden years, we're here for them.

We have developed really important relationships with schools and other healthcare professionals such as doctors, counselors, and even teachers and coaches that know they can count on us when their patients, clients, or athletes need our help.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

We realize that the majority of customers will drop a business after just one bad experience. This is so much more serious for healthcare services like ours, such as physiotherapy. Our customer experience is something that we are always looking to improve. The service we provide is never compromised. We understand that loyalty is very difficult to maintain. If a client comes in and doesn't feel like they are cared for or feels our team treats them poorly, the chances of them not only not returning but telling their friends and even their doctor that we did a poor job is a reality for us. We strive to continually work to keep our staff at all levels with continuous education in not only the latest breakthroughs in evidence-based science but also on the use of empathy and compassion.

Additionally, finding, hiring, and retaining talented individuals is just as important and difficult. Given the environment we find ourselves in at the moment, people want flexibility, a place where they can grow and have a positive impact on our society. As an organization, we are constantly evolving to create a work environment that does all these things. It is one of the most important, difficult, and time-consuming things I work on in my position.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. If you think starting a business is difficult, it's 10x more difficult than anything you can imagine. Be prepared during the early stages that you'll work at least twice as hard as anyone else, put in twice as many hours, and sacrifice your personal life to make sure the business survives.
  2. Build a team around you who are much more skilled than you. Don't surround yourself with "yes people." Be comfortable with a team that questions you. Remember, you can't do it all by yourself.
  3. Show gratitude: to your team, your customers, your community, yourself, your family/loved ones, and God (or whatever else you believe in). The more you give, the more you get. Make sure you let those around you know how much you appreciate them, all the time, constantly.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

  1. Learning never stops.
  2. Find a coach/mentor that you can work with.
  3. Invest in yourself and your team.
  4. Give, even when you think you can't.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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