Local entrepreneurs promote specialty healthcare in Sanford
Theraplay and Sanford Pharmacy provide Sanford-area residents with specialty healthcare that other towns Sanford's size don't typically have access to. In doing so, the entrepreneurs behind both companies are addressing community needs that may otherwise have gone unaided.Posted — Updated
Wake County and the Triangle area may be juggernauts when it comes to world-class healthcare providers, but Sanford and Lee County are also home to their fair share of major medical facilities.
In addition to Central Carolina, a Duke Lifepoint Hospital and FirstHealth Medical Specialty Clinics, as well as multiple University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University specialists, local entrepreneurs are helping fill vital niches in the regional healthcare ecosystem.
Jeanine Morton moved to Sanford 15 years ago after persuasive efforts from her mother finally succeeded. With a background in speech pathology, Morton had a passion for helping children. Thanks to the low cost of living in Sanford, she was able to collect a nest egg and open her own pediatric therapy business, Theraplay.
Now, 12 years later, Theraplay is still going strong; but it was the support of the community that helped Morton build a lasting foundation.
"I started out at the Small Business Center when I needed to learn my next steps, and then later became a Chamber member. Through Chamber membership, I learned about Leadership Sanford, which was a big launching pad for me into just serving on the Chamber Board, and now serving on the Sanford Area Growth Alliance Board and getting to know area resources and other business owners," Morton said. "I think that's been imperative to my success, being able to refer our clients or patients to other service providers that they may need."
Theraplay's mission is to serve children and their families by providing three core therapy offerings: speech and language, occupational, and developmental. Since opening, Morton and her team have helped hundreds of children with their individual areas of need, whether it be articulation delays, autism, fine motor delays or down syndrome.
With aid from other local business owners, Theraplay has also been able to collaborate with a number of other Sanford professionals, including local pediatricians and mental healthcare providers, and that collaboration doesn't only apply to her work with children. In fact, in the past, Theraplay has partnered with their downtown neighbors, Cafe 121, to host a parent's night out, including discounts from the wine bar next door.
Working with not just the children but rather the entire family is part of Morton's mission to support local clients as holistically as possible.
"Let's work on the child's side," Morton explained. "But let's also ask questions for the parents. Are you working? Do you need employment? Do you need your GED? What resources can we provide for you? I would love to be that kind of one-stop stop — to be able to get parents everything that they need to get on their feet."
Similar to Theraplay, another local healthcare business, Sanford Pharmacy, is also using its resources to aid members of the community, offering low prices, payment plans and much-needed answers.
"When somebody has a question about medication, we take the time to answer whatever that may be. Sometimes other pharmacies don't have time to entertain those types of questions," said Rushi Patel, son of owner Priyakant Patel. "We also have a significant Hispanic population in town, and we like to always have an employee around who speaks Spanish so they can facilitate those types of conversations."
Originally from India, the Patel family moved to New York before Rushi was born, but relocated to North Carolina several years later in search of a more family-friendly environment. The senior Patel worked in chain pharmacies in Sanford for years, but noticed that many of the companies were under-staffed and overworked, leading to long wait times and neglected patients. And so, Sanford Pharmacy was born, largely out of a desire to improve the patient experience.
Since starting two years ago, the Sanford Pharmacy has grown from filling just 40 prescriptions in the first month to now filling around 3,000 prescriptions a month, thanks in part to exposure from doctors in the area and a commitment to reasonable pricing.
"We work closely with dermatologists in town and the general walk-in clinic down the street. We have some good working relationships with a few of the doctors in Sanford," said the younger Patel. "We've just let them know, 'Hey, if you're prescribing medications to people who don't have insurance, our prices are very reasonable.' We try to keep our price points lower."
Both the Patels and Morton recognize the Sanford community has unique struggles — struggles that many other businesses in the area aren't equipped to help with. In providing their specialty healthcare options, they hope to fill a gap in much-needed services in the community.
While starting a new, specialized business like Theraplay or Sanford Pharmacy comes with its own set of unique challenges, the environment in Sanford has allowed for quick and steady growth — growth which may not have been possible in a larger area.
"Working in Sanford, you're always well-connected with other resources. Even if that means knowing the mayor who works two doors down and the financial advisor next door. They may have had children or they know of children that may need a speech therapist, so there's referrals everywhere," Morton explained.
Added Patel, "Opening in a brand new location is pretty tough, because nobody really knows you. But here, a lot of people already knew my dad, so once they realized he had moved, they just drove down the street. Most everyone who comes through is really happy because we try to get people in and out quickly. They tell their friends and family, which is great — it's one of the best ways to market."
Although both businesses have already experienced significant growth, Morton and the Patels hope to continue expanding their operations. For Morton, she hopes to add a few service offerings to Theraplay's repertoire, as well as get more involved on community boards. At Sanford Pharmacy, Rushi is currently enrolled in pharmacy school and hopes to join his dad behind the counter in a few years, helping to preserve their low wait times and stand-out customer service.
At the heart of both businesses lies a desire to continue striving to offer premium specialty healthcare to the Sanford community.
Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.