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When Jared Swain first connected with the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (UGA SBDC), he had recently made a career transition from agriculture to pharmacy. After completing pharmacy school, Swain knew he could turn to Alyssa Foskey, area director at UGA SBDC at Valdosta State University, to help him develop a business plan to achieve his goal of owning his own pharmacy. Through a continued relationship with the UGA SBDC, Swain’s Pharmacy in Douglas has seen significant growth and now fills 6,000 prescriptions a month.
Swain has always had a genuine love for people and knew he wanted a career serving others. He was interested in medicine but did not want to attend medical school. Instead, he started focusing on pharmacy. Having already received a biology degree from the University of Georgia, he went back to school to build on that knowledge and earned his pharmacy degree from South University in Savannah.
“When I was working in agriculture, there was that voice in the back of my head that I wasn’t in the right place. I had a good job, I had great benefits. Nothing wrong with what I was doing from the outside perspective,” said Swain. “I just wasn’t fulfilled.”
Following graduation, he accepted a position at a large pharmacy in Douglas. He spent the next few years working at chain pharmacies while also taking fill-in shifts at independent and hospital pharmacies on his days off to learn the business and build valuable connections.
After a few years, Jared and his wife, Rebecca, who had two small children at the time, decided it was time to take the leap and open their own business.
“As a business owner, it’s important to have a constant in your life,” said Swain. “That constant for me has always been Rebecca, my two girls and my faith. I wanted to build this business for them. They are my constant drive.”
Swain left his full-time job and began to do fill-in work at independent pharmacies as he prepared to open Swain’s Pharmacy. With Foskey’s help, Swain was working on his goal behind the scenes by obtaining licensing, finding a retail space, purchasing computers and equipment, and securing a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Foskey also helped Swain tap into the knowledge and resources available from the UGA SBDC.
“When I told Alyssa I wanted to open my own pharmacy, she immediately jumped at the chance to help and put me in contact with all types of people at the UGA SBDC who could help me,” said Swain.
“I put all my contacts to use,” said Foskey. “That’s one of the best offerings of the UGA SBDC is we have a statewide network of business experts at our disposal.”
One of those contacts was Matt Lastinger, director of the UGA Entrepreneurial Innovation Program based at the UGA SBDC in Athens. Lastinger serves as preceptor in a UGA SBDC collaboration with the UGA College of Pharmacy. Through this partnership, the SBDC offers high quality, confidential consulting services to independent pharmacy owners geared toward improving efficiencies and profitability in their business. Lastinger and Swain spent many hours focusing on pharmacy projections to ensure the business would be a success.
Swain was also reassured knowing that he picked the right location. Through research, Foskey was able to see the number of cars that passed the pharmacy location each day.
“Opening a new pharmacy in a town that has strong competition is a challenge,” said Foskey. “There are only so many doctors and so many prescriptions. People sometimes choose a pharmacy that’s on the route to work or from home. Picking the right location was very important for Jared, as well as learning how to differentiate himself from the competition.”
The combination of location and quality service seems to be the key to success. Since opening, growth has exceeded expectations. During its first month, Swain’s Pharmacy filled 198 prescriptions. Two years later, it is filling around 6,000 prescriptions a month. Swain’s has grown from two employees to 15, and is working to add additional counterspace and computers, and recently added another pharmacist.
“There are 13 different pharmacies in our area. We do the same thing they do, just in a different way,” said Swain. “If someone needs us to go a mile, we go two. It doesn’t matter if it is a routine blood pressure medicine, or a life-saving cancer drug. We are always trying to save people money. We will even deliver them if needed. When people come through our doors, they get loved on.”
Going forward, Swain is continuing to partner with the UGA SBDC to enhance human resources.
“The human resources part of running a small business has been one of the biggest hurdles,” said Swain. “I had no clue. I didn’t know I needed signs on the wall about the minimum age of employment. I didn’t know how to develop an employee handbook, about hiring or interview protocol. Alyssa helped me with all of that and she still sends me human resource related tasks today.”
As with all her clients, Foskey recommends Swain spend one day per week working on the business instead of in the business. She noted how easy it is to get caught up in the business and not take time to do the necessary administrative tasks.
“Like most business owners, they just don’t have enough time to do it all. He wants to be the face when people walk in and serve each customer. And we’re here to help guide him on the rest,” said Foskey.
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