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Location for Your Alternative Health Practice


Sure it sounds easy enough.  But the location of your prospective business could make or break you.  This is a fact that I’ve come to realise in the last few weeks as I pondered the potential location for my future clinic. 


I had always assumed that the next place my husband and I moved to would be in the country somewhere.  A quaint little house in a small town.  Land to grow herbs, wildflowers, vegetables and maybe even have some chickens.  The idea sounded so appealing and even a little romantic.  As I chatted with my fellow classmates I realised that I was not alone in this dream.  Perhaps it’s part of being an herbalist – the desire to live closer to the land and to herbs.  As I talked and thought about it more, I began thinking that romantic might not be ideal or dare I say… logical.


There is no mathematical equation that will tell you the perfect location for your business, but there are some elements that every herbalist (or natural health or energy healing practitioner) should consider.  Herbalism, aromatherapy, reiki, therapeutic touch, homeopathy and many other professions are not covered by provincial health care or extended medical coverage.  That fact alone will help to dictate the right location for your business.  You will need to situate yourself in an area where the population has disposable income.


Now just because people in your area have a little extra cash doesn’t mean they will be willing to send it your way.  That’s where you need to look into the education, needs and desires of the population.  Not everyone has heard of, or is interested in, natural health.  Take a look at the shops and stores in your prospective city.  Are there natural health food stores?  How about naturopaths (which are often the main source of competition for herbalists)?  If these stores and business exist, are they successful?  Now be careful.  You want to make sure that the market you’re looking at isn’t saturated either.  Too much of a great thing is still too much.  Entering into a market that already has its needs fully met can be a daunting task.


We’ve talked about the income, education and needs of the population, so now we have to talk numbers.  According to Statistics Canada, one quarter of Canadians with a post secondary education sought the aid of an alternative healthcare practitioner in 2003.  In 2004, they also found that 59.1% of the Canadian population has a post secondary education (now remember this varies from province to province and from city to city).  So if the town you are interested in has 10,000 people, less than 1,500 will be potential clients.  Remember the first statistic said “alternative healthcare practitioner”, not just herbalist.  Many people will be competing for the attention of those 1,500 people, including those covered by extended health coverage (i.e. naturopaths, registered massage therapists etc.)  Now if you choose a city with 100,000 people, suddenly the competition doesn’t seem as stiff.    


The information provided was very general.  To get more accurate and specific information you need to look up the statistics on the city you wish to investigate.  This can easily be done at Statistics Canada’s website.


Deciding where you want to start your business (and potentially where you’re going to live) is a challenge, but a worthwhile one.  If you do the leg work and research early on in your venture, you can avoid learning some of these lessons the hard way. 


Here are some interesting links to get your research and thought process started:


Statistics Canada – Community Profiles


Patterns of use – alternative health care practitioners


How to Start an Alternative and Complementary Healthcare Business in Ontario


Home Based Businesses


Ontario Herbalists Association


Natural Health Practitioners of Canada


Blessings and best of luck!