Coronavirus (COVID-19): Relief options and Additional Resources

Iowa 2011 Small Business Person of the Year

Iowa 2011 Small Business Person of the Year

From left to right in photo are: Terry Branstad, Governor of Iowa; Gina Blean; Kelly Heysinger; Pat Brown-Dixon, SBA Region 7 Administrator; and Joseph Folsom, SBA Des Moines District Director.

Iowa Small Business Persons of the Year
Kelly Heysinger and Gina Blean, Co-Owners
Unified Therapy Services, Inc.

Dubuque, Iowa

Kelly and Gina's motto is "Together We Can Make A Difference."

Unified Therapy Services, a pediatric-focused outpatient clinic offering physical, occupational, and speech therapy services, opened its doors in 2006 with three therapists, a staff person, and a vision. Owners Kelly Heysinger and Gina Blean believed in creating a business to provide patient-centered therapy services to address specific needs. Their philosophy is to collaborate with everyone involved in the care of their client, including physicians, teachers, respite workers, parents, grandparents,and others. This teamwork helps patients achieve their goals at a more rapid pace, allowing them to function at their highest potential.

Gina and Kelly developed a strong working relationship at a clinic where they both worked together. Both had an entrepreneurial spirit and their passion matched their vision. They shared a dream about a child-friendly facility offering physical, occupational, and speech language therapy services where patients would be treated holistically.

Gina and Kelly worked with the Northeast Iowa Small Business Development Center in Dubuque, Iowa to start, beginning with the SBDC’s Smart Start class in July of 2005. After a number of customized counseling sessions, e-mails and phone calls, Gina and Kelly perfected their business plan, cash flow projections and application for financing. The SBA backed $185,000 in SBA backed in December of 2005, now paid in full.

Unified Therapy Services opened in April 2006 in a 4,000 square foot facility built to their specific needs. By the end of the year they found they neede additionally space for four full-time staff and two volunteers and a rapidly increasing client load. Three initial patients. Had become 120. By the end of 2007, seven full-time and four part-time employees needed more office space. Their team approach demanded they all be in one location. They creatively converted storage space and the staff's break room into office space and treatment areas to total 5,700 square feet.

The business' continued growth became both a blessing and an obstacle. Kelly and Gina were hiring more employees to handle their ever-increasing patient load. With advice again from the Northeast Iowa SBDC, Kelly and Gina revised their original business plan, restructured the company to include building ownership, completed new cash flow projections, negotiated a lease, invested $200,000 of their own capital, and purchased the building next door. By the end of 2008 the business employed 11 full-time and six part-time employees, and renovations of Unified Therapy Services' new facility continued.

The held a Grand Opening of their new facility on the business' three year anniversary. Today, Unified Therapy Services occupies 8,800 square feet, which includes 9 private treatment rooms, a large gym, and a simulated apartment. They have added new programs and services, including more pediatric equipment, Interactive Metronome, and Social Skills Camps. Kelly and Gina continually assess the needs of their community and its surrounding areas and have worked hard to educate themselves and their gifted staff to meet those needs.

In 2009 Gina and Kelly recognized a growing number of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders on their caseload. Through research they determined that intensive, in-home therapy is the most beneficial method of treating this diagnosis. These services can be very costly and the average family in Dubuque would not be able to afford such needed services. With this realization, they partnered with a local college and applied for an educational grant that would pay for them to develop an intensive, team-based, in-home program and begin its implementation.

Advocating for these patients, the two went to Des Moines to meet with state legislators and spoke locally with representatives about the needs of the families their business serves. Currently many health care agencies are limiting the number of individuals they will serve that have state-funded medical insurance, due to the reimbursement; Kelly and Gina will not do that.

They believe every patient deserves the same treatment, and that is the way their business operates. Their billing department works with their clients' families, researches grants for assistance, helps the families complete necessary paperwork, and provides contacts with them for state funded waivers as appropriate. For their business to continue to grow and maintain this generous philosophy, they have had to be creative to keep that dream alive. In 2009 they received a 5% cut from Medicaid reimbursement; this cut was significant as 72% of their patients have Medicaid coverage. They watched many companies similar to theirs, and larger, cut staff and limit the patients they would treat with this coverage. The two women spent many hours making adjustments to the company's budget to continue to provide the same high quality therapy and not allow the adjustments to affect their patients or their employees' hours, salary and benefits.

Kelly and Gina's passion for helping is very strong; they continue to search for financial assistance for the families who desperately need their intensive, in-home autism program and are working on plans for a satellite clinic to lessen driving time for some of their patients and their families.

Unified Therapy Services' economic impact during its years of operation has been phenomenal. Seventeen full-time and seven part-time jobs were created, with a payroll over $780,000 with insurance benefits. State withholding taxes in excess of $65,000 and federal taxes in excess of $100,000 were paid, and their business generated over $1,250,000 in revenue. This economic impact can be expected to grow by 50 percent in the next few years with their proposed addition of a satellite clinic.

Gina and Kelly know the value of their employees and offer a benefits package of medical, dental, vision, and prescription insurance, paid-time off, sick days, holiday pay, bereavement pay, short-term disability, long-term disability, company-funded life insurance, continuing education packages, personal days, licensure reimbursement, and a retirement plan,. In 2011 they plan to implement paid volunteer time. Kelly and Gina feel it is important to give back to their community; they do so individually, as a company, and they encourage their staff to do so as well.

Gina and Kelly have worked hard to make Unified Therapy Services a contributing member of the Dubuque community. They participate in many Chamber of Commerce events, the Summer Bash for Kids, March Madness, Kids Expo, Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, Friends of the Community, Young Professionals, and Proudly Accessible Dubuque. This past year Gina and Kelly were approached about participating as board members for a few local non-profit organizations; this is on their agenda for 2011. Annually, United Therapy Services hosts a 5K Run/Walk for Autism that provides scholarships and camperships. They have donated time to train counselors for Camp Albrecht Acres and other summer camps for people with disabilities.

They have also conducted peer trainings for their yearly Autism specific camps, and their staff has donated time for sensory nights at Jumpin' Jane's, an indoor play center for children. Individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in therapy are welcome to observe and spend time with Unified Therapy Services staff; they also allow students to complete their internships at the clinic. These two women have opened their doors to Explorer Groups and parent support groups, as well as offering the facility to the Girl Scouts to hold their meetings. Gina, Kelly and their therapy staff have also presented educational classes for colleges and continuing education cour

The difference Gina and Kelly's partnership has made in five years is evidenced by its impact on Dubuque and surrounding region, but most signicantly, in the lives of their patients, their families and their employees.