Q. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
A. Work In Progress Acupuncture Studio is a comprehensive Eastern medicine practice located in New York City with a team of Board Certified specialists experienced in treating Musculoskeletal Pain & Dysfunction, Gastrointestinal disorders, Women’s Health & Fertility, Emotional Health, Dermatological issues, Pediatric Care and more.
Q. Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
A. Dr. Erin Lee, DACM, LAc. is a Doctor of Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine and NYS licensed acupuncturist. She is Board Certified in Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine, Chinese Herbal Medicine and Biomedicine, and is a NCCAOM Diplomate of Oriental Medicine.
- Master of Science in Oriental Medicine (Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, New York)
- Doctor of Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine (Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, New York)
- Founder of Work In Progress Acupuncture Studio
In a past life: founder of many side businesses including a gift and event concierge company and jewelry design company, with a foundation in real estate.
Q. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
A. Acupuncture and Eastern medicine have been used for thousands of years, and today is at the forefront of a rapidly growing trend towards complimentary and holistic healthcare in the US. In response to the recent and ongoing opioid crisis, the CDC, Joint Commission and American College of Physicians all endorse acupuncture as a first line of defense for back pain prior to taking any pain medications. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes over 90 conditions that have been shown in controlled clinical trials to benefit from acupuncture, including depression, headaches, digestive issues, addiction, cancer, stroke, arthritis and countless more conditions.
However, the majority of acupuncturists in the US are solo practitioners with limited time, resources and marketing effort, making it difficult for the average person to know where to go. There are very few visible brands and what they offer may or may not be a complete healthcare solution that provides what the patient needs for their condition to improve. In addition, what we actually do and treat as acupuncturists and Eastern medicine practitioners is still shrouded in mystery with the majority of the US population unaware of the full capabilities and extent to which Eastern medicine can treat and prevent so many different conditions.
From the beginning, I have always wanted to create a visible, full-service Eastern medicine brand to make it easy for people to know where to go, with an emphasis on education to promote awareness of a safe, holistic solution for many health concerns that may not have previously been considered.
I have always believed that a team of positive, compassionate practitioners can create synergy and be greater than the sum of all their individual talents, allowing them to help others heal on a wider scale and accomplish so much more than I or anyone can do on our own. That is why it was important to me to build a team practice to create a collective of skilled practitioners who excel in what they do and offer specialized areas of expertise.
Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A. All of these may sound cliched and repeated by every entrepreneur, but these are the top lessons that I have truly adhered to and learned along my journey:
Set your sights on a goal and no matter how long it may take or how far away it may seem, just start towards it and keep going. If you hit obstacles along the way, find a way to maneuver around them or think about if it’s a lesson provided to guide you on a better path towards your goal.
It’s never too late. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself no matter if you’re in your 2nd or 3rd or 4th career, in your 30s or 50s or 70s, life is a journey that should never end until you feel happy and fulfilled. And even then, it should never end because life is about growth, progress and movement. In Eastern medical theory, stagnation causes disease!
There is no such thing as failure. Each and every desire that actually moved us to create and do something will be valuable in the lessons it provides later on. Whether it ends up the way you want it to or not at the time, every experience will increase your skill set and first-hand knowledge to know what works or can be improved on – it gets easier every time as that experience will allow you to work faster and more efficiently next time. It’s important to completely throw out the concept of “failure” and re-conceptualize it in your mind as valuable “experience” that most people don’t have!
- Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Most important: a positive mindset – and this also means it’s important to surround yourself with positive people
Q. How many hours do you work a day on average?
A. It varies depending on if I have my practitioner hat on or business hat on. When I have a long list of things to do, I’ll work day and night until everything is knocked out, which could be days or weeks on end. Luckily I can do some self-acupuncture though to de-stress!
Q. To what do you most attribute your success?
A. I would not be who I am without my parents who have instilled a solid foundation and set of values. My mother passed on an inherent interest and passion for helping others to heal – she was a nurse at one point and comes from generations of healthcare practitioners, so I guess it’s in my blood! My father was a Catholic priest when he came to this country and left the Church after marrying my mother, after which he worked hard to support his family looking for opportunities and starting several businesses over the decades – I grew up watching and admiring his self-reinvention, determination, focus, perseverance and entrepreneurial spirit.
Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A. In a way, I am fortunate to be in a healing profession that is not yet fully understood. The most successful form of marketing comes through word of mouth and referrals from happy patients who find it amazing that their health issues disappeared through acupuncture, and then tell all their friends and family about it!
Q. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
A. I did not obtain any investors for my venture. I started out practicing as a solo practitioner out of my apartment, mostly on friends and through referrals. I also worked part-time at another practice. Eventually I made enough to start looking for a space where I practiced on my own for awhile, and began the journey that led me to the launch of Work In Progress Acupuncture Studio.
Q. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
A. Do something you feel passionate about, and just keep going in a direction that feels right to you. Embrace change and growth and reinvention along the way, not only for your business but in yourself – as a practitioner I am constantly learning and seeking more knowledge and skillsets to apply to my patients to help in their healing process, and as a business owner I do the same to apply to my company to help it grow.
Q. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
A. I see my practice as a well-known Eastern medicine brand synonymous with quality holistic healthcare, with several locations throughout NYC.
Q. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
A. I admire CityMD and One Medical as Western medical models in that they are well-known brands that make access to healthcare easy and approachable, with many locations, services and specialists available.
Q. What motivates you?
A. As a practitioner, I am motivated every day by seeing my patients heal and helping them to improve their quality of life. It still amazes and delights me every time, to see how powerful and effective Eastern medicine can be. As a business owner, this is what motivates me to get the word out, as I believe everyone should know and experience the value of Eastern medicine and what it offers.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
A. The ability to make my own schedule and rules!
The ability to create something greater than yourself to make a meaningful impact, that stretches your imagination and your currently perceived limits, to know that anything is possible if you can just think it and decide to accomplish it.
Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
A. I believe there is a difference in perceived comfort and what makes either one happy, with neither better or worse than the other. For some, comfort and happiness may mean a steady paycheck with nice benefits, without having to worry or stress about all the extra work, hours, responsibility and risk that come with running your own business.
Sometimes, all that extra stuff IS an uncomfortable feeling and it can be a tough road that requires LOTS of patience and times of doubt and insecurity, but it makes me even more uncomfortable to live by someone else’s rules unable to create and go after my own visions. Despite everything, at the end of the day when you’ve accomplished what you want to, it’s exciting and fulfilling!
Q. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
A. FUN. CREATIVITY. GROWTH.
The culture I try to instill within my practice is to just have fun and enjoy what you’re doing, because a practitioner’s positive mindset and approach is an integral part of helping someone to heal. I try to encourage growth and the creative expression of each practitioner’s healing methods, as each practitioner offers their own individual style and patients are encouraged to experience them all to find a practitioner that fits them best.
Q. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Q. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
A. My greatest fear as an entrepreneur is not succeeding in what I set out to do, but I always remind myself that I am being led with passion and conviction, and that can never be wrong. It truly is not the destination but the journey of learning and growth, and where I end up is where I’m meant to be to lead me to the next stage. I manage my fears by recognizing that it’s a negative, debilitating thought pattern and try to stop it in its tracks by turning it around into a more positive mindset. Meditation always helps!
Q. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
A. I enjoy chasing the sun, wherever it may be. In New York City, depending on what neighborhood or block you’re on it’s sometimes hard to come by, so I value the small patches of sunlight (even off reflected buildings) and make it a point to cross the street to the BRIGHT SIDE. When I’m not chasing the sun, I also enjoy golfing and spending time with my mini American Eskimo dog.
Q. What makes you happy?