Hanging on Jennifer Katz’s door is an alphabet poster in a frame.
You can’t find this poster in a classroom supply store. It’s an original piece of art, painstakingly drawn by a child. Each letter cleverly depicted as an animal, from Ashley the Alligator to Zac the “Zeabra.”
This child’s artwork brings these letters to life, much the way Jennifer and her dedicated staff use speech and language therapy to open new doors of communication for the patients they serve.
The poster captures the spirit of Jennifer Katz, Inc., A speech and language therapy center where they help children with their ABCs–working with them on the fundamentals of communication and speech. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. They offer treatments for a wide range of issues, from feeding, to stuttering, to communication challenges related to autism spectrum disorder.
Watch the highlights of our interview with Jennifer Katz:
Jennifer Katz, Inc., and Their Patient-First Approach
With a focus on delivering a supportive atmosphere and great outcomes, the 16 speech pathologists Jennifer Katz, Inc., employs are all hand selected by Ms. Katz herself and they strive to provide the highest quality care:
Our professional mission is to maintain up-to-date clinical skills and ensure that we follow the most current research available.
Jennifer and her team take a holistic view of the patients and families they serve. “We really try to support the whole child and the whole family,” Jennifer told us, when asked how she tries to keep her clients happy. As promised on their website, the company therapists “provide customized therapy plans to support each family’s unique needs.”
They’ll take the extra step to communicate with doctors and other non-speech practitioners within their mutually trusted network of professionals, regarding their patients. Even the staff at the front desk take care of the families by trying to simplify and demystify as much of the paperwork and insurance processes as possible–leaving parents free to just be parents.
The personal quality of the alphabet poster pictured above speaks volumes to just how connected the Jennifer Katz, Inc. speech therapists are to the families they serve.
We really try to support the whole child and the whole family. – Jennifer Katz
From Humble Beginnings to Having Significant Community Impact
Today Jennifer Katz, Inc. is a thriving practice with 16 accredited speech pathologists. The premises are decorated thoughtfully and playfully for the children. There’s a bright cartoon mural by a local artist in the waiting room, and toys and bookshelves tucked into neat pockets in the speech pathologists’ offices. In the back of the building, there’s even a studio with pieces of an indoor playground stacked against the walls. They plan on converting it into a play area for the kids.
But the road to success was not free from challenge. Jennifer began working as an independent practitioner in 2006. In those days, it was wasn’t a cakewalk. “It was just myself, also still in my car (my trunk was my office), going from house to house.”
Eventually, she upgraded from car to basement space in Noe Valley. “I used to have to send clients across the street to go to the bathroom,” she laughs.
It was in that basement that she made her first attempt at marketing: a free day of speech and language screening. “I thought, I’m not even gonna be able to keep up [with the volume of customers who would come].”
For anyone who’s ever been a bright-eyed small-business owner, you might have guessed: No one came.
But Jennifer didn’t give up. In the next several years, through a combination of hard work and dedication to her patients, she moved out of “the basement,” was endorsed by a respected mentor, broadened her network, and brought a handful of other speech pathologists on board. Somewhere along the way, she tackled the immense challenge of accepting insurance, the logistics of which, she jokingly groans, is still a “nightmare” today. But it’s made her services accessible to a lot more clients–which is one of her main goals (indeed, she’s working on establishing a non-profit to make speech pathology care more accessible to financially needy families).
Regarding her success today, Jennifer reflects, “I never set out to say, I want to have X. It was more just this need, and this demand, that we fill and continue to fill.”
Above all, Jennifer Katz and her team of speech therapists are focused on the community they serve.
Thriving Practice Faces a Challenge
Jennifer and her practice were in a great place professionally a few years ago, when suddenly her practice hit a significant roadblock. Their landlord had decided to tear down and remodel the office space they were in. Jennifer had no choice but to quickly relocate to keep her practice afloat. But moving meant her rent would more than double, and she needed to find suitable facilities for her practice’s unique needs. She and her team needed to find new offices fast.
After a trying search, she finally found a new office in the same area. But her problems didn’t end there. The new space required a complete remodel to meet her practice’s needs. This meant coming up with a significant amount of funds for construction at a time when the budget was already strained.
I needed this chunk of money to pay for this build out, to put the majority of our stuff in storage, to move a couple of times, to find short-term month-to-month leases for our six therapists…and all the while, still make sure that we had capital to just pay our monthly bills.
Jennifer looked at some online lenders, but their onerous rates and opaque terms dissuaded her. At one point, she was concerned her entire practice, and the livelihood of her employees might be in jeopardy.
Community Lending Helps a Community Builder
Per the recommendation of a friend, Jennifer connected with the Small Business Administration who then put her in touch with CDC Small Business Finance. She went on to apply for a loan, and her CDC loan agent helped make the process as smooth as possible. “He was amazing,” Jennifer said of him. “We joked at the end that he just wanted to get me the money to get me away.” They had a great relationship, and he worked to get her the loan as fast as possible to avoid any interruption to her practice. Ultimately, she was able to get the loan to relocate her office, meet expenses, and keep the practice thriving.
“It would’ve been such a shame for our families,” Jennifer says now, of the prospect of having to shut down her business. “Here’s this business that’s doing well, and there’s a need, but I just don’t have a couple hundred thousand dollars that I could just put toward this.”
Thankfully, Jennifer connected with CDC, whose mission is to help small businesses like Jennifer Katz Inc. through a rainy day so they can continue to make a long-term impact on their communities.
Jennifer Katz, Inc. continues to flourish and serve patients across its Bay-Area community. Now, instead of running promotions out of a basement office, most of Katz’s clients come through word-of-mouth from other clients in the community. “That really has been our marketing—just trying to deliver really high-quality services and let that sort of speak for itself,” says Jennifer.
Jennifer’s journey serves as an inspiring example of the positive impact local businesses and entrepreneurs can have on the communities they serve.
Small businesses play a vital role in the U.S. economy and supporting them through affordable small-business lending is critical. Investors like you, who save with CNote help make stories like this possible. Click here to learn more about how you can grow your savings and community with CNote.
- Jennifer Katz, Inc.
- CDC Small Business Finance (The CNote-partner that made the loan to Jennifer Katz, Inc.)