Dr. Tonya Mister, owner, SOW & REAP Physical Therapy.
Dr. Tonya Mister, owner of SOW & REAP Physical Therapy, shares the business lessons she's learned since becoming an entrepreneur. — SOW & REAP

Dr. Tonya Mister followed her husband, who is active-duty Air Force, wherever fate took them. The plan was once he got close to retirement, she would start her own business. With his retirement two years away, she took the plunge.

As the new owner of SOW & REAP Physical Therapy, Mister began seeing patients in the fall of 2020 in Bossier City, Louisiana. After years of working in skilled nursing facilities and hospitals, she fulfilled her dream of opening a physical therapy clinic dedicated to women’s health, specializing in the treatment of pelvic floor disorders, and more recently also pelvic health for men. She discovered her passion for pelvic floor therapy at OU Physicians in Oklahoma City.

SOW & REAP also offers traditional physical therapy for musculoskeletal issues, as well as alternative treatments, including dry needling, where a thin needle penetrates the skin to manage muscle pain and impairments.

A big challenge has been educating people about the services she offers. Marketing is a big expense. “When you meet with doctors, you bring them lunch or take them to lunch,” she said. She also advertises in magazines and on Instagram and Facebook.

Starting during COVID was also challenging, she explained. People didn’t want strangers touching them and for a time, doctors weren’t in the office to market to. She applied for a line of credit, but lenders viewed her new business as risky and offered so little she walked away. “I used savings and thankfully I have low overhead,” said Mister, who is also a recipient of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB) 2022 Enhancement Grant.

She rode out the storm and ended up seeing a rainbow. “I was blessed to get a grant,” she said. She got a boost, too, from good publicity, being named by the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce as the Emerging Business of the Year in 2021. With a few notches on her belt, she shared her insights with CO—.

Network relentlessly

I didn’t really get the importance of networking until I opened my business. It’s about who you know,” she said. As a way to give back, she also volunteers with local charities and organizations. “You can’t keep receiving and receiving. God blesses those who bless others,” she said.

I didn’t really get the importance of networking until I opened my business. It’s about who you know.

Dr. Tonya Mister, owner of SOW & REAP Physical Therapy

Conquer the numbers

Being financially savvy in business is key, and Mister plans to hire an expert to help. “I am not on top of my numbers. You need to understand cash flow statements to be good at budgeting, [so] I am interviewing CPA candidates,” she explained. “You don’t want to run out of money before you reach the point of making profits.”

Validate your concept

If you think you have a good idea, consider backing it up with market research. “Do it yourself or hire someone,” she said. “Be sure there is a need for your service or product.”

Her unique business has potential, and she foresees multiple locations. “I want to be the top choice for pelvic floor therapy in the Southeast, then nationally and on every U.S. military base.”

Don’t give up

Mister says it’s lonely being a Black woman in business in her field. The mother of two gets through her days with her faith. “I believe this is God’s plan for me,” she said. “Don’t let imposter syndrome get the better of you. You belong where you are.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published December 20, 2022