Barbara Munar, is the co-owner of the Core Skills Therapy Center (CSTC), formerly the Center for Speech and Language Intervention Company (CSLI) located at Medocare Building, 30 Quezon Avenue, Quezon City.
CSTC is a partnership among Barbara, Nancy Lumantan, and Suselyn Pascual, all graduates of University of the Philippines Manila, College of Allied Medial Professions (CAMP).
The trio decided to go on their own in 1998 after working a few years in a special school.
CSTC aimed to provide speech pathology services for children with special needs.
Putting up the center was not a walk in the park for the trio. They raised capital funds with their own savings and personal borrowings from their relatives.
They felt like “crabs tossed into a boiling pot of water that had no choice but to stay and get our hides cooked.” After all, none of them had training nor experience in business management.
The first few months of operation became their crash course in business education. They learned the hard way. By choice and by force of circumstances, they had to take a hands-on approach – from applying for business permits to buying furniture to marketing and even to painting the walls and carpeting the floors of their office/center.
Aside from serving as clinicians, the three partners handled the daily operations of CSTC – answering the phone, paying bills and dues, scheduling, bookkeeping. They had no secretary for two years as they couldn’t afford one.
Today, the Center has nine speech pathologists, eight occupational therapists and a psychologist. As of last count, the Center has over 200 clients whose ages range from 1-1/2 to 15 years old.
Below, Barbara Munar recounts her and her partners’ motivations for putting up CSTC, the struggles of the early years, and the rewards they have reaped from the business.
First and foremost, I am a speech pathologist. “Entrepreneur” is not even a label I’d use for myself.
I seized the opportunity to go on my own with friends for professional growth rather than for anything else. I wanted to develop ethical skills in a setting conducive to professional independence, where clinical decisions are respected. I thought having our own center would promote that. My partners and I didn’t think about profit; it wasn’t even a secondary motivation.
With the growing number of children with special needs and the limited number of service providers, especially in the field of speech pathology, we were confident our center would thrive. There were schools then for special children but very few therapy centers.
Our vision was to provide a one-stop shop for therapy and support services that these children needed.
Getting a share of the market and starting the Center is one thing. Keeping it going is another matter.
The first years were fraught with problems. We had to grope trying to learn things like bookkeeping, accounting and legal requirements. We were dismayed how tedious it was to deal with government, especially in getting permits. But we learned to be patient.
We had to build our name. At the outset, finding new clients was a difficult challenge.
But we have gotten by with more than a little help from family and friends.
Our friends help us in scouting for a location when we were just starting. They helped in marketing – acting as messengers sometimes or simply spreading the word around to make us known.
Some friends who have migrated abroad continue to send us materials that we can use.
Each time we have an in-house program, our friends don’t fail to give a hand. They would serve as speakers, technical assistants, even usherettes.
How have we gone this far? I think because we are oriented to quality, ethics and holistic therapy. We hire only the best therapists and teachers; and we make sure they deliver by providing them with opportunities for continuing education.
We are also scrupulous in sticking to ethical standards, making sure everyone in the staff knew their professional code of ethics by heart. These ethical principles are, of course, also incorporated in our policy manual. Also fundamental for us is the need to collaborate and work as a team in meeting the needs of a special child in a wholistic way.
We like to believe we are changing lives and directly affecting how these children function in the community and society in general.
You may say we have developed relationships not only with our clients but also with their families. We have seen the children and their families grow. To some extent, we have become an extension of their family.
A parent of a child we were helping once told me that they stayed with our center “because you are very ‘personal’ in dealing with my child and my family.”
The psychological rewards from our business are many.
Seeing our young clients excel in school, say their first words, write and read well, learn to interact with other people, take care of themselves independently make us continue to do what we are doing.
(Get in touch with Core Skills Therapy Center by calling Tel. +63(2)410152)
Adapted from Dreamers, Doers, Risk-takers Part 4: Iskolar ng bayan gives back, the enterprising way, published by the SERDEF and the UP ISSI
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