Physiotherapist and business owner takes her venture to the next level with EMBA program

Feb 27, 2023

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young woman filipina smiling in physiotherapy clinic

Andrea Mendoza, physiotherapist and EMBA student at SFU’s Beedie School of Business.

Andrea Mendoza, a physiotherapist and business owner, knew that in order to take her business to the next level, she needed to gain a better understanding of the financial and business aspects of running and expanding her clinic. That’s when she decided to enrol in the Executive MBA program at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.

Mendoza entered the field of physiotherapy with a focus on pediatrics, working with children and teens with sports injuries as well as those with disabilities and gross motor delays. A few years into her career, she found herself working with teenagers who had scoliosis, which results in a three-dimensional curve of the spine. As she investigated the condition further, she realized that there was a lack of training and resources available in Canada and decided to seek out additional training in the U.S.

As she worked with these patients, Mendoza noticed patterns and common challenges among the families with whom she was working. She realized that she could help fill a gap in the medical system and ultimately decided to open her own practice, The ScoliClinic—the first physiotherapy clinic in British Columbia focused on treating children, teenagers, and adults with scoliosis.

“Business ownership was never part of my life plan,” says Mendoza. “But as it turned out, I was the only person in the whole Lower Mainland who had this specialized training. Word spread on social media, and I went from helping three or four families with scoliosis to having it turn into a majority of my caseload.”

In the seven years since opening her practice, Mendoza’s business has grown significantly. She now runs multiple clinics in the Lower Mainland, with a team of 30 staff. Mendoza explains that, despite being a technical specialist, she’s had to be a generalist in business ownership, running every aspect of her business from posting on Instagram, to developing front desk systems, to managing the finances.

“I went to the university of Google and had to google everything about running a business,” says Mendoza. “I think our team has done a great job—the clinic certainly now serves a purpose in the community. We’ve helped over 4,000 clients to date —from newly diagnosed teenagers to elderly adults who didn’t have this kind of support when they were younger.”

As the business grew, Mendoza became aware of further gaps in this area of treatment across Canada—opportunities to expand. For example, there isn’t a clinic of this sort in Toronto; the nearest other ones were in Ottawa and Edmonton. But Mendoza felt that she needed a more comprehensive grasp of business awareness and realized that there were still areas where she lacked knowledge and information. She realized that if her business were to expand, the stakes would be much higher, and she couldn’t afford to make any large mistakes.

After much research, Mendoza decided to enrol in the Executive MBA program at SFU Beedie. Through the program, Mendoza aimed to gain a better understanding of the financial and business aspects of running and expanding her clinic. She was looking to learn the skills required to analyze the market and make informed decisions about growth and expansion for her business.

“I didn’t want to fall into the capitalist trap of always pushing growth for the sake of growth,” says Mendoza. “I wanted to be able to analyze the pros and cons of growth—what are some good reasons to grow? What are some good reasons to stay the size that we are, while improving our operational and technical excellence? These are all questions that the EMBA is teaching me how to address in terms of making strategic decisions for my business and avoiding costly mistakes.”

Some of the key skills that Mendoza has been learning in the EMBA program include intelligent financial modelling and exploring ways to secure business funding. She also previously had little knowledge of the venture capital world and all the different kinds of investors, as well as opportunities to leverage grants and government funding and other partnerships.

Being an entrepreneur and a business owner has largely prepared Mendoza to succeed in the EMBA program. She brings her experience running and growing her business to almost every aspect of the coursework and applies her learnings right away in her clinic. “I’m able to find a lesson in almost every part of the program and extrapolate the relevant pieces to my business,” says Mendoza. “I’m taking away nuggets every day from our conversations.”

Although her business is a private practice, it operates much like a social venture and focuses on the importance of helping and connecting with patients. “It was important to me that my chosen MBA program wouldn’t focus on maximizing profit as the only business goal,” says Mendoza. “The EMBA program has done a great job of teaching us about good decision-making in business while factoring in all important facets, including the human element. It confirmed for me that SFU Beedie’s EMBA was the right program for me.”

Mendoza also shared her experience of stepping out of her comfort zone during the program. She wrote and recorded a parody song about the EMBA program, an experience that helped her to overcome her performance anxiety and encouraged her to put her skills out into the world—and her song was very well received by her cohort. (You can watch it here.)

“I went to physio school where I learned about the anatomy of the body,” says Mendoza. “Now, in the EMBA program, I’m learning about the anatomy of business.”