After years of intensive study, Kacey Boos knew everything she needed to know to become a Chinese herbal medicine practitioner and a licensed acupuncturist. However, she would need to learn about starting a new business from scratch.
Kacey’s life changed when a family friend’s mother, a doctor of Chinese medicine, introduced her to Chinese herbal medicine in her late teens. Before that, she said that she was “getting sick a lot” and had a suppressed immune system. Western treatments did not help enough.
“I was introduced to herbs. I changed my diet. I got into yoga. And my entire life was just wonderful after that. I felt great,” Kacey said. “It brought me to do my undergrad in nutrition and my grad degree in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.”
Kacey now knew what she wanted to do with her life. She wanted to bring the benefits of nutrition, herbal medicine and acupuncture to improve the lives of others as much as hers was improved.
Initially, her thought was to get a job right out of grad school.
“I was pursuing options in Boston. I got three job offers and I was going to head there. Then, I halted and rethought everything. I realized that I wanted to be here,” Kacey said. “I really want to help the people here in Pittsfield.”
Kacey quickly realized that in order to open a clinic and run a successful business, it was not enough to be an expert on Chinese medicine. She needed to know much more.
“Yeah. It was like, where should I do it? Where am I going to get the funds? I didn’t know anything about starting a business because I wasn’t a business major,” she explained.
Her first step was to talk to other acupuncturists in Berkshire County to get ideas. They were extremely encouraging. She then started to look at real estate on North Street. It was her real estate agent, Billy Keane, who put her in touch with Laura Mick, Community Development Specialist for the City of Pittsfield.
Laura Mick’s expertise includes connecting the right applicants to the correct, available resources for small businesses. In addition, she administers programs, including loans and grants, from the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation (PERC).
“I had no idea that the City could be a resource for a startup,” Kacey recalled. “I wished that some kind of grant would be available to me. But, I had no idea how to go about getting one.”
Kacey met with Laurie to describe her vision and goals, but she had not put together a business plan. At the meeting, Laurie told her about the Technical Assistance Grants that are available for startups. However, a business plan would be needed to apply. Kacey had no experience with business plans and did not know where to begin.
Laurie put Kacey in touch with Nancy Shulman from the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center’s offices in downtown Pittsfield. The MSBDC is part of the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts. It provides free, confidential, one-to-one business assistance.
“Who knew that the University of Massachusetts had people here in Pittsfield?” Kacey said. “They helped me think about my business and to put a business plan together that I could use to apply for a grant from the City. And, I got it. I got the grant!”
Technical Assistance Grants are matching grants from PERC of up to $5,000 to be used for professional services including accounting, bookkeeping, business consulting and marketing. Grants never need to be repaid. The program is funded by the City of Pittsfield through its Community Development Block Grant and administered by PERC.
“Laura Mick, Nancy Shulman, and Billy Keane have literally made this dream come true. They have been amazing and so generous,” Kacey said. “They believe in me. They’re supporting me. They’re encouraging me. It’s amazing. I can’t thank them enough.”
Shire Acupuncture is located at 55 North Street, Pittsfield, MA.
– by Roger Matus