As you know, we are big fans of locally-owned businesses and we have mad respect for people taking a risk on a new business. This month, we profile BellaVet, a mobile veterinary clinic run by Maya Bellapiante.
About three years ago, Maya Bellapainta took a big risk. She started a mobile veterinary business.
When she first started she was making house calls in her little Toyota Yaris.
That was workable for minor pet ailments. But she relied on renting surgery rooms from other vets for major procedures. However, leasing those rooms ate up all of her profits and she was not making money.
About a year ago, she stumbled upon a company in Deer Valley that made mobile vehicles that were sufficiently large and equipped to do most surgeries, such as spaying, neutering, mass removals, GI surgeries, foreign body removals, acupuncture and laser therapy for arthritis.
She can’t do orthopedic surgeries in the van, but the equipment that she carries in the van is mobile. So, she can handle larger animals that can’t move or who won’t come out of the house.
“Also, there are many times that a dog can’t go in to a vet’s office, but I can help in those situations.”
“We also do a lot of hospice and palliative care as well as euthanasia. It’s a sad topic, but when I come to the house we can make the passing as kind and as gentle as we can.”
There are, of course some surgeries that she can’t do in the house.
It was a huge risk for her, but she could not afford a full clinic and she could not continue to rent space from other vets. She had no choice.
But, once she took the plunge, she has seen the rewards. She drives all over the valley, typically within 45 minutes of her home base in Scottsdale. She says she puts about 100,000 miles on her car annually.
Her veterinary technician is also her driver. So, they are like a kind of a veterinary Batman and Robin, going to where the action is.
The problem is that they can never take the day off. Or, if either of them must to due to illness, they have to reschedule.
“That’s a hard part of running my own business,” she says.
“It was hard finding a vet tech who was comfortable working in a small space, but who was also comfortable driving a larger vehicle.”
I asked her what challenges she faces as a minority, female business owner.
She points to three things.
First, dealing with vendors who are trying to take advantage of her.
Second, predatory lending practices from vendors who want to charge you more for equipment. “Luckily, I have a good friend who is a lawyer and who looks out for me.”
Third, she says, “People are sometimes ridiculous. They don’t think that I am the doctor when I show up because I’m not white.”
When it comes to generating new business while she’s caring for pets, she runs in to the same problem that we realtors do: when its busy, there is little time to “feed the sales pipeline”.
“It seems that many animals are sick all at once, but then all of the sudden all of the dogs are healthy.”
During downtime, she is marketing. Trying to branch in to phone consultations. Trying to remind people about preventive services and to come in at the right time for scheduling.
What inspires her to keep going?
“Just getting to heal animals that can’t tell us what’s wrong. A lot of other doctors ignore odd behavior. But if you notice your animal acting out of sorts, you know best. If it’s not medical, I can help them too because I’m a behaviorist.”