Finding staff with a shared vision, solid skill sets and a positive attitude is the greatest asset as a small business owner.
Vernon’s Jodi Cunningham is finding that out first-hand.
Cunningham owns and operates the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy on 31st Street in Vernon. Her investment in her staff is reflected in their investment in Cunningham’s business, and she always makes sure to recognize and acknowledge their efforts and contributions.
“Success is never guaranteed, but there is a much greater chance to succeed when you create a culture where people feel valued and respected,” she says.
Getting to know Jodi Cunningham
What is it that drives you in your work?
I believe that communities thrive when they are engaged in supporting both the physical and mental wellness of individuals. I have a passion for practising pharmacy in a way that focuses on personalized care for all individuals. This is driven by my desire to create strong connections with customers and patients. Having staff who align with my vision of compassionate, relationship-driven care has allowed me to build a team that’s equally committed to supporting all patients and helping them to navigate complex health issues.
The opportunity to create an environment where patients and staff feel supported and empowered motivated me to open my own business. Owing a pharmacy is an avenue that allows me to actively participate in patient care while ensuring I can make decisions that are in the best interests of customers and my staff. As a small business owner, I can set priorities and react more quickly to changes, serving the needs of the community in a more proactive way.
What are you passionate about?
As a healthcare professional, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that my passion is in caring for others. Particularly, caring for those who are vulnerable, marginalized or may encounter multiple barriers to accessing care. I have a strong personal and professional interest in mental health and substance use disorder, both complex issues impacting our community, and affecting some of our most vulnerable citizens. I have a deep commitment to helping those who face these, and other challenges to accessing care. My passion is rooted in providing non-judgmental care and support for patients from all walks of life, through all stages of life, and often involves a “meet people where they are at” approach. This has led to collaboration with many other local health care and service providers and allowed me to take on an active role in improving access to care for many individuals, an incredibly rewarding experience.
How do you find work-life balance/what do you do to escape?
I honestly love what I do and feel privileged to play a role in helping people improve their overall health and wellness, so escape isn’t necessary! As for work-life balance, I’m still working on that! But, I do love spending my free time with my two daughters and our Bernese Mountain Dog, enjoying all that the Okanagan has to offer!
I also believe it’s important to be an active member in the community, and currently sit on the board of directors for Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon. I’m grateful for the opportunity to volunteer for an organization that plays such a critical role in our community, raising awareness for mental wellness as a key component of our general health, and providing programs and services that promote well-being and support healthy individuals in our community.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
This was the most difficult question for me… I don’t think there is much that would surprise people about me! I’m a pretty open book. I think perhaps this is one of the reasons I’m able to connect with people, I’m always open to sharing my own thoughts and experiences, which helps others identify with me. My goal is to develop a sense of genuine trust and understanding and I find that if I’m willing to be open I am often granted that same trust in return.
What advice would you give to young women who are interested in your field?
Women have dominated the field of pharmacy for many years now, although they are still underrepresented in pharmacy ownership. My advice would be if you have a desire to lead your own team and build your own practice, plan for it, and start early. Pharmacy school prepares you with clinical knowledge and patient care skills, but not necessarily to run a business. Business and accounting courses, human resources and management skills will be invaluable as you establish a career as both a healthcare professional and entrepreneur.
I would also suggest; surround yourself with good people. You can’t be the expert in everything, so find people who have knowledge and skills that complement your own and will support your business.