Entrepreneurship! also, New Book!

When I wrote my last blog post about gainful employment regulations and what acupuncturists earn, and I said,

I hope somebody does something —

12 acupuncture schools suing the Department of Education to challenge their failing debt-to-income scores was not what I had in mind.

“Because acupuncture and Oriental medicine are not covered by most insurance plans, the schools say, most graduates of their advanced programs start independent practices, which take time to build. They say their students understand this from the time of enrollment, and are making an educated decision about their futures…Despite the low early-career income averages, the schools say, they “turn out graduates who become entrepreneurs and small business owners, who pay back their loans and enjoy successful careers in the practice of AOM [acupuncture and oriental medicine.]”

So entrepreneurship is the reason that AOM schools should be exempt from gainful employment regulations? Hmm. Entrepreneurship is one of my favorite topics. I love talking about it. In fact, it’s hard to shut me up once I get going.

So much so that I wrote another book about it. You can find it here, on Kindle; the paperback version will be available here.

Please do find it: it’s a fundraiser for POCA Tech. Also, for everyone who’s afraid that I might write a memoir, I just did. Better go buy it and check out the gossip. (Just kidding! There’s no gossip.)

But seriously, we need to talk about entrepreneurship.

My experience as POCA Tech’s Director, and also the person who reads what comes through our general inbox, is that a lot of people do NOT in fact understand that enrolling in acupuncture school is the equivalent of signing up, after graduation, either to be an entrepreneur or (in the POCAverse ) to work for one. And even if you tell them, a lot of people don’t understand what that means.

Overall I think it’s a big improvement for the acupuncture profession to cop to the reality that there are virtually no jobs out there for acupuncturists, but I think there’s a lot of work to be done around describing entrepreneurship in detail, so that prospective students are indeed making an educated decision about their futures. I’d like to do a better job with educating people about what entrepreneurship is like for an acupuncturist (and social entrepreneurship is a whole other can of worms which POCA Tech specifically needs to address).

One owner of an acupuncture school wrote: In fact, many people choose to practice acupuncture precisely because it is a career where one can be successful and independent while attending to life’s other demands.

That’s… not what I had in mind in terms of educating people about entrepreneurship. I was thinking maybe multiple choice questions? For example:

Starting your own business is like introducing ______ into your life.
a. a new baby
b. a jealous lover
c. a hurricane
d. all of the above simultaneously.

The correct answer is d! If you’re expecting entrepreneurship to politely recede into the background — while obligingly filling up your bank account — so that you can attend to life’s other demands, you’ll be disappointed. Entrepreneurship is potentially a great thing; it was for me. But it was not an easy thing.

So I made some choices I may well regret with this book, in the interest of being very specific about what my experience of social entrepreneurship was like. TMI, possibly; consider yourselves warned. But it seems like being less specific hasn’t worked.

POCA Tech’s cohort 1 is getting close to graduation, and some people want to or will have to start their own clinics. We have a series of classes in the third year devoted to what people are going to do after graduation, and I realized I didn’t have the materials I needed to teach them. The lack wasn’t about practice management, but about entrepreneurship itself.

So let’s talk about it. I’d like to do a series of posts about social entrepreneurship. If you read the book and have questions, send them to me at points@pocatech.org. If possible, I’ll answer them here on the blog. If the acupuncture profession is talking about entrepreneurship, POCA needs to be part of that conversation.

And did I mention? The book is a fundraiser! All proceeds go to POCA Tech and POCA Tech always needs money. Please buy a copy!

Author: lisafer

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Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


  1. Just finished reading Lisa’s new book. I know that I will read it again to get even more out of it, but it struck me in the heart. It felt like I finally heard the full family history and all the pieces came together and I now know the complete truth. I have just passed my ten year anniversary of my journey with Lisa, CAN, owning my own CA clinic, POCA and this book puts it all together for me. Thank you Lisa for putting into words your journey which is intertwined with those of myself and others on this crazy ride. I can’t wait to see where we are in another ten years!!

  2. Will there be printed copies sometime maybe pleeeease? 🙂

    I loved the book. It was really timely on a lot of levels for me. It’s so easy to feel like you’re a balloon floating away in the details of just running the clinic every day, and then oh, someone caught the string, thankfully. When I was opening my clinic almost 6 years ago I felt like I was running headlong and fullspeed towards the edge of a cliff and leaping off – with zero idea of what I’d find once I went over. That’s how I approach most things, leap and the net will appear. Looking back I wonder how come I didn’t work for 6 months, rest from school, and then open it. I just really wanted to do it. I felt like I had already been waiting to for a very long time. I had read Noodles and had that same OF COURSE! moment so many of us had reading that book. This one was similar.

  3. Thank you, mitylene and kcasey and Spartacus for the kind words. I appreciate the support very very much.

    There is a paperback version in process, and you can find it here: https://www.createspace.com/7090290

    I think there was a formatting glitch somehow or it would be available already; I know it’s being worked on. We’ll post an announcement when it’s happening, but you can also just check the link.

    Thanks again!

  4. I read “Noodles,” shortly before attending a CA 101 workshop in Portland at WCA in 2011. That one felt like the textbook, a path forward for a new grad who was staring down the face of boutique acupuncture feeling deeply uncomfortable.
    I read “Fractal” last year, while finally breaking through that atomic number (reference to the new book!) at a clinic that had let me go for having too slow of a shift in 2012 and then rehired me in a show of faith.
    I read this book in two days. I had a hard time putting it down. It made me cry, rage, cheer and feel so grateful.
    I feel like “Noodles” was the hands, “Fractal” was the head, and “Holes” is the heart.
    Thanks so much Lisa for writing it and sharing it. Because of you I got to work at 4 (!) different community acupuncture clinics right out of school, because they existed and I felt like I’d found a place where I could do what I loved while being useful and being a real person. What a gift. Prefigurative intervention made manifest? I’m going to have fun looking into that more and making it real in my life.
    Get your reading on, fam. I recommend it.