In the latest episode of the “Happy Practice Podcast,” we welcomed Dr. Kevin Semma, an optometrist who seamlessly combines his clinical know-how with his entrepreneurial spirit to launch Maple Eye Care and Eyewear in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Dr. Semma, a graduate with honors from Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, shares his insights on launching and managing a healthcare business, providing valuable lessons for healthcare professionals considering a similar path.

From Medical Dreams to Optometric Reality

Dr. Semma’s journey into healthcare entrepreneurship was not straightforward. Originally pre-med, he faced a pivotal moment when he did not perform as expected on the MCAT. “It was a really tough year,” Dr. Semma reflects, emphasizing the intense competition. This setback led him to explore other avenues in healthcare which ultimately pointed him towards optometry—a field that uniquely integrates clinical practice with brick-and-mortar business.

The Entrepreneurial Itch

During his academic tenure, the seeds of entrepreneurship were sown. He was actively involved in understanding the business aspects of healthcare, participating in a small business club at his university and avidly seeking networking opportunities. These experiences helped him grasp the practical challenges of running a business alongside his clinical training. 

Dr. Semma emphasizes that making the leap from academia to entrepreneurship was not without its challenges. He recalls the stark transition: “You graduate and life hits you really hard.” He points out the financial burdens that many new graduates endure, especially those saddled with substantial student loans. The reality of balancing financial obligations with the desire to start his own practice was a formidable task, yet it was these early struggles that shaped his resilient approach to business and healthcare.

Stepping into Business Ownership

Dr. Semma’s initial professional experience came as an associate in a private practice, where he quickly became the primary optometrist. This role expanded beyond patient care to include managerial responsibilities, foreshadowing his capabilities as a future practice owner. Yet, the desire for something more—his own practice—persisted.

The turning point came during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Semma encountered Eye Care Advisors, a consulting group that supports optometrists in opening their practices. With their guidance, he navigated the complexities of business planning, securing loans, and the actual setup of his practice. “Someone’s going to hold my hand… I don’t have to start from scratch,” he remarked about the support system that enabled him to pursue his vision.

The Unique Challenges of Healthcare Entrepreneurship

Dr. Semma openly shares the hurdles he faced as he ventured into establishing his practice, particularly during the complex circumstances of a global pandemic. Securing financing was an uphill battle, as lenders were cautious and the economic climate uncertain. Finding the right location also posed significant challenges, as the pandemic affected real estate availability and suitability for a healthcare facility.

Each step of establishing his business brought unique hurdles, especially in terms of financial management and attracting patients. The pandemic introduced additional layers of complexity, affecting everything from patient flow to implementing health and safety protocols. Despite these difficulties, Dr. Semma remained focused on the long-term benefits.

He underscores that the process, though arduous, was immensely rewarding. Building a practice that not only succeeds commercially but also aligns closely with his personal values and vision for patient care provided a profound sense of accomplishment. This alignment has been crucial in sustaining his motivation and ensuring the practice not only survives but thrives in challenging conditions.

Cultivating a Distinctive Patient Experience

A significant part of Dr. Semma’s success stems from his commitment to creating a welcoming and unique environment for his patients, a setting that transcends the ordinary clinical experience. He meticulously focuses on the details that contribute to an enhanced patient experience. This includes the aesthetic design of his clinic, which invites relaxation and a sense of well-being. Beyond visuals, he also carefully considers the sensory impressions of smell and sound to create a peaceful atmosphere.

Dr. Semma emphasizes the importance of making each visit not just beneficial but memorable. “I want it to be like a memorable experience, but also different than you’ve ever had somewhere else,” he shares. This philosophy extends to how patients are greeted and how each interaction is tailored to their individual needs and preferences, making them feel valued and cared for. Through these deliberate efforts, Dr. Semma not only enhances the immediate environment but also sets a new standard for what patients can expect from a healthcare experience, fostering loyalty and encouraging word-of-mouth referrals.

Looking Ahead

Reflecting on his journey, Dr. Semma acknowledges the continuous learning curve in entrepreneurship, highlighting that adapting and evolving are key components of building a successful practice. He offers advice to others embarking on similar paths, emphasizing the unique dynamics of starting a new business: “You’re poor on money, but you’re rich on time.” This perspective underlines that while financial resources may be limited initially, new entrepreneurs often have the advantage of time to invest in their ventures. This time allows them to meticulously plan, shape, and refine their practice’s operations and the way they interact with patients.

Dr. Semma points out that this phase of being “rich on time” should be seen as a crucial opportunity to establish a strong foundation for the business. He suggests using this time to focus on creating efficient systems, developing thorough understanding of patient needs, and implementing processes that enhance patient care and streamline operations. Additionally, it’s a period to build relationships with patients and the community, which can lead to increased trust and a growing client base over time.

A Call to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

For healthcare professionals contemplating their entrepreneurial journey, Dr. Semma’s story is both instructive and inspiring. His path demonstrates the importance of resilience, adaptability, and the critical role of having a supportive network.

For those eager to dive deeper into Dr. Semma’s experiences and gain more detailed insights into starting a healthcare practice, check out the full video here:  

This episode is not just a narrative of success but a roadmap for those ready to forge their own path in the challenging yet rewarding world of healthcare entrepreneurship.


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