Stillpoint Community Acupuncture opened in August 2011, in the small town of Langford BC, a pocket community of Victoria. Since we opened, we have provided over 13,000 treatments, and have only twice dipped into our overdraft, something that we are quite proud of.
About a year ago we began thinking that we would like to make more of an impact in the Greater Victoria area, and decided we would work towards opening a second clinic. About 5 months ago we began looking in earnest for a location that would be suitable.
This search turned out to be more difficult than we thought it would be; commercial leasing in Victoria is very expensive, and while there are many vacancies, we couldn't find the right mix of location and affordability.
At one point we found what we thought would be a perfect location: located in a light industrial area, the space itself was beautiful with high ceilings and skylights, rough beams, painted concrete floors, affordable price. The only hitch was that, as it was zoned as light industrial, our 'personal service' designation would not be allowed in that space. What *was* allowed in that space was a crazy list of things, from pickle factory, to church, to inkmaking, to steel foundary. Also, clubs.
Clubs. We had a thought. We are co-op members, and as such we pay a fee to be part of it. Could the co-op be 'massaged' into a club designation? There are precedents here, such as grocery stores that masquerade as 'buyer's clubs' that don't actually ever charge a membership fees. But we didn't want to be dishonest about what we were doing.
So we thought, what if we *actually* charged that fee, and it went directly to the co-op? What if we set our First Treatment fee at a level that we could afford to include a POCA membership with it, so that every new patient became a member of POCA, at least for the first year? What if we started offering sales that benefitted POCA members specifically, as a way to encourage our existing patients to sign up?
As it turns out, the City of Victoria has no imagination, and no real desire to work with small businesses (hence the HUGE amount of commercial vacancies in the city). Our idea of Stillpoint as a club was turned down by the bureaucrats at city hall with hardly a second thought. However, the thought remained that we should, wherever we land our second location, go ahead with this membership idea.
For me, it has always been a struggle to engender a greater sense of community within the clinic. People come in, they get poked, they leave. Very seldom is there any cross dialogue with other patients, or a sense that the clinic IS the patients. It is my hope that this 'automatic membership' model will help people feel more connected to the clinic, to CA, and to each other.
They'd be part of a club!
We have decided that our First Treatment fee will be a flat CDN$45. A POCA membership costs anywhere between CDN$27-30, so we'd only really be taking in about $15 for the first visit, and the rest would go directly to POCA. Besides the usual POCA membership benefits, we also plan to offer a discount on products we sell, and sales that will be specifically geared to members as a way to 'value add' this initial fee.
We are two or three weeks away from opening our second location, not far from the original location we had been eyeing up. I don't know if this will work, whether the fee will create another barrier to acupuncture, or if my hopes for greater community will be borne out. Once we have been doing it for a while I will get back to you.