Prairie Animal Center - Success Story Spotlight

Prairie Animal Hospital Provides Local Care

By Kelcie Eminian, Journalism Intern, Illinois Small Business Development Center, Bradley University

Dr. Rachael Kuhn-Siegel describes herself as being fiercely independent. “I don’t like asking permission for things, I like to ask for forgiveness instead.” 

After graduating with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 2005, she worked for a large corporation for a year before deciding to develop her career independently. She found it especially important to herself to branch off away from the corporate world and start her own veterinary clinic.

“I always knew I wanted to own my own vet clinic, I just didn’t know where to start,” she says.  Rachel Pic

She began taking business and management classes, conducting feasibility studies, and soon found her way to the Illinois Small Business Development Center [SBDC] at Bradley University.

“I had more ideas than I could put into action, and I needed someone that would hold me accountable and responsible for those ideas,” Kuhn-Siegel says. 

The SBDC provided her with guidance in several areas of business operation, and was the most beneficial in assisting her with obstacles she faced during startup.  

When she faced financial difficulties and began running low on funds, the SBDC helped her get back on her feet by assisting with negotiation of financial terms.

In February of 2014, she opened Prairie Animal Hospital, a veterinarian clinic with a goal to create a stress free environment for both pets and owners alike. Dr. Kuhn-Siegel places a special interest in preventative medicine, and clinic services range anywhere from medical boarding and training, to radiology and diagnostics. 

Dr. Kuhn-Siegel wears multiple hats within the clinic, and finds herself being challenged often. “I’m just a doctor, but I have to know a little bit about everything to make the business work.”

The clinic currently has around five employees, but Dr. Kuhn-Siegel says that staffing “comes in waves and depends on the season.” She mentions that business is slower in the winter but tends to pick up in the spring and summer seasons, creating a higher demand for staff. 

One of the difficult factors in running her business, she adds, relates to this issue. “It can be very difficult to find skilled labor, and we do our best to keep those skilled employees around once we have them.”

Another challenge she often faces includes client retention. She mentions that she is currently trying to reach a more targeted demographic, and uses social media sites such as Facebook to communicate with clients. Her goal is to focus on retention, rather than gaining new patients. She notes that when it comes to veterinary practice, 90 percent of clients reside within one mile of the clinic. In most cases, if clients move more than eight miles away, they tend to switch veterinary clinics.   Rachel with Puppy

“It’s all about keeping that community there, and the people within it.” 

Dr. Kuhn-Siegel says this may seem like a challenge, but it can actually be a great benefit. “In owning my clinic, I decide the business direction, I just have to lead and get everyone to go with me. You have to get comfortable with failing because at some point you will make the wrong decision. It is not an if you fail but a when you will fail. So trust yourself enough to take the leap knowing you could fail."

To learn more about Dr. Kuhn-Siegel and Prairie Animal Hospital, visit them online at  http://www.peoriapetvet.com