Interview with Julia McMahon, founder of St Margarets Physiotherapy

Julia McMahon had always dreamed of running her own business. Find out how she finally launched St Margarets Physiotherapy and how she spreads the word about what they do.

What’s your career background?

I am originally from New Zealand, which is a very sporty country. I was involved in a variety of sports there including gymnastics, athletics, netball, football, and most notably, judo, where I was the national women’s judo champion from the ages of 14 and 18.

In 2000 I decided to come to the UK for my overseas experience, and did a whole host of jobs, including travel agent, call centre operator, bar tender and painter and decorator!

Once I settled in London, I became a mature student at King’s College, and qualified in 2010 with a BSC in Physiotherapy. Since then have worked in the NHS and private sector.

I have completed the PPI Pilates course, levels 1-3, and pre and post natal Pilates courses. I have also completed certificates in hydrotherapy and acupuncture, and post-natal physiotherapy care.

How did your career change after having children?

I had my eldest daughter whilst at university. Fortunately my tutors were very understanding and allowed me split my final year into two years and so I completed my home study in the first year and my clinical placements in the second.

I had my second daughter six months after qualifying and was lucky enough to land a part-time physiotherapy role at a private hospital when she was six months old, where I stayed for six years and learnt the ropes.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I always dreamed of owning my own business and so it was in the back of my mind whilst at university, however having children, and all that goes with it, put the idea on ice for a while.

Luckily I have a very supportive husband who reminded me of my dreams on a regular basis and who, when I felt ready to pursue the idea further, helped me to find my own clinic.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

The idea had been growing for a while, and once we found the premises, things moved pretty quickly. Once the planning permission and building works were out of the way we opened up, and have now been up and running for seven months.

What’s your USP?

We are a one-stop holistic health shop and we cater to the local community. I like to think our clients feel at home in the clinic and we aim for a friendly approach in our classes and treatments – professional but informal.

Also, our physio-led Pilates classes are unique to the area.

Who’s your target audience?

The local community mainly. We have clients of all ages, and are happy to see anyone with illnesses and ailments, and anyone who is keen to look after their health and wellbeing.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

The business website is our main ‘shop window’, and we use social media – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter regularly – although this is all fairly new to me so I am still navigating my way through the world of social networking! Thankfully it is quite forgiving and also a great way to connect with other local businesses and the community.

I also use the old fashioned way of promoting with leaflets and flyers, and have recently become a member of a local business networking group, through the Richmond Rugby Club.

Word-of-mouth is also an important way to reach the public and this of course means being on excellent terms with my customers!

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

I recently completed a women’s post-natal physiotherapy course and now offer a ‘Mummy MOT’ assessment at the clinic. I initially promoted this by doing a talk at a local Mothercare Expectant Parent event to drum up local interest, and have since advertised the treatment in our clinic window, as well as promoted it on social media and targeted local mum and baby groups and nurseries with flyers.

I also attend local NCT Nearly New Sales, which generate great interest from local mums. It all seems to have paid off so far as we have had several bookings!

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Being a mother can be the toughest job in the world, but when you throw a full-time job into the mix, things can become quite overwhelming. Like most working parents, juggling childcare and school stuff, along with keeping everyone happy and fed, are my main obstacles while also running the clinic. Also while working on Saturdays is great for business, I’m sure my kids would beg to differ.

And your proudest moment so far?

Just last week actually – we won ‘Highly Commended’ in the Richmond Business Awards 2016, for the Best New Start Up category. I am really proud to get this award in such a competitive market.

Why is work so important to you?

I really enjoyed building my career and since having kids have felt it is important to keep my own identity. I also want to be a role model for my daughters, and let them see that with hard work and the right support, it is possible to achieve your dreams.

Who inspires you?

I think that anyone who starts up their own business, with or without a family, and still keeps smiling, deserves some kudos!

How do you balance your business with your family?

Fortunately my husband is also self-employed, and so we can share the ongoing juggling of childcare. My children are both at school and so holidays pose a bit of a problem, but with the help of other parents, clubs and my mum – who is currently staying with us – we make it work.

My eight year old has actually helped out at the clinic a few times on reception, a role she took very seriously, but as a long term solution its probably not going to work! Having said that, owning my own premises means that I can bring them into work with me in emergencies.

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to set up a healthcare business?

  • Make sure you know what you are talking about. You can’t blag healthcare, so make sure you have the right qualifications for the job.
  • Working hard and being nice and respectful to people is sound advice and will get you far.
  • And finally, surround yourself with people who have a different skill set to you – the more you and your employees know, the more you can offer as a business.

You can find out more about St Margarets Physiotherapy on their website.