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Meet Dr. Erin Kempt, Co-Founder of Choice Health Centre and 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards RBC Momentum Finalist

Dr. Erin Kempt-Sutherland is a Doctor of Chiropractic and co-owner of Choice Health Centre. As a young competitive gymnast, chiropractic helped Erin overcome various injuries and provided her with wellness and performance care to attain optimal health and perform at her best. Erin co-founded Choice Health Centre in 2009 after having worked in various multidisciplinary clinics in Ontario and Nova Scotia since she graduated from university in 2004. 

My first job ever was… raking wild blueberries in rural Nova Scotia. I was 12 years old, and it was the only job I could get (other than babysitting) at that age. A school bus came to pick me up at my house at 6 am and dropped me back off at 5pm. The rate was something like 50 cents an 8L bucket. I was tough but I was very, very small — probably 80 lbs and 4 foot nothing. I think I lasted 2 days and only made $10 for those two full days! 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I have a creative side that needed to be fed. Before going into chiropractic school, I chose the profession because I knew it would fulfill both my love of science and need to help people, as well as put me on the cutting-edge of health care. I also knew it was one of the only health care professions where there were no salaried positions (at that time), and everyone made their own opportunities through hard work and creativity. This spoke to me from a very young age, and as an 8-year-old I actually began envisioning my future health care clinic as a beautiful space for healing, wellness and innovation. 

My proudest accomplishment is… being able to prove myself that you can have a successful career and a successful personal life. My generation of little girls were raised to believe that we could “have it all” but as we grew into young adults, this societal message changed and reality was forcing many to choose between career and family. I will never forget the high school philosophy teacher who lectured, “you can’t have the BMW and the kids” — which was the first time I’d heard that message — and it shocked me into making decisions for years to come that ultimately led me to the work-life balance I enjoy today. 

My biggest setback was… probably this year, with Covid-19 forcing us to shut down our clinics, including our newly expanded clinic, which was a considerable risk even in pre-covid times. I overcame it together with my partner and team by setting a calm and focussed precedence, working diligently each day to brainstorm ways to keep Choice top of mind for our clients, and working on developing new business — such as an online shop and virtual assessments and treatments — to keep the company alive. As business leaders we attended webinars about leading a team through this crisis. We worked harder than ever to ensure our success. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I grew up sailing and living abroad aboard my family’s sailboat in the summers. This is not the bliss you may picture — our engine caught fire in the middle of the English Channel, and we were in an unexpected gale on the North Sea!   Through this form of travel, I was exposed to different cultures, adventure and danger. As an older teen, I worked as crew for 2 years on Bluenose II, representing our country through sailing internationally, an amazing experience that also put me in a few dangerous situations that altered my perspective on life to this day. 

When starting my business, I wish I knew… how much of an impact I could make on others’ lives and the growth I was capable of creating in the business so I would have been more confident and taken more risk in the early years. I would have followed my intuition, started Choice sooner after graduation, began as a bigger clinic, and grown the company at a more aggressive rate in those first few years.   

My best advice for people looking to grow their business is… “it isn’t what — it’s who.” You need to focus on and ultimately find that right person who can bring your business to the next level. A new piece of technology will not help you if you do not have the right people administering it. Similarly, the right partner, assistant or consultant will bring you to the next level by fulfilling a skillset that you struggle with, allowing you to focus on putting your unique abilities to work.   

A great leader is… someone who makes a positive impact, however seemingly insignificant on each person they interact with throughout their day. Great leaders are excellent listeners, empathetic, intuitive and act with integrity. A leader is passionate about her cause, unwavering in her purpose and someone whose actions lead to outcomes extending far beyond herself. 

The future excites me because… it is just so darn bright! It is a very exciting time in history to be a chiropractor in Canada. I am grateful to now have the tribe behind me that I need to support Choice’s future growth and my own personal and professional growth. I am excited to witness Choice’s mission unfold — that of changing the face of health care, one successful patient outcome at a time.

Success to me means… accomplishing your goals without losing yourself or any of the relationships you care about in the process. Success is being able to look back on your actions from that place of accomplishment with confidence that you acted with authenticity and integrity throughout the process.