Chiropractor expands expertise, business with advisor’s help

By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC

Spaulding-80WESTPORT, Wash. – The typical path for a newly licensed chiropractor is to become an associate under the supervision of another physician. That wasn’t the path Sean Spaulding took.

Six years ago, with graduation looming, he heard that a physicians’ group was trying to recruit a chiropractor to rent space in their medical building in Westport, a town of about 2,000 people at the mouth of Grays Harbor; he wanted to be that chiropractor.

Figuring he’d need a bank loan for startup costs, he began working on his business plan and contacted the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Grays Harbor College for free, one-on-one small business advising.

Revenue triples in three years

Every bank said no, but Spaulding didn’t give up. He continued working on his business plan, he continued meeting with Erik Stewart, his SBDC business advisor, and he met his most immediate startup cost by selling his television to pay for a used chiropractic table.

Stewart-80Three years later, in 2012, Stewart opened his Outlook account to find this email from Spaulding:

“You helped explode my company, taking it from a grassroots effort to a fully fledged respectable corporation. With your help I was able to go from zero
employees to four and grow our revenue from $72,000 a year to $265,000
a year.

“You have addressed our marketing shortfalls, human resource considerations,
business planning and all of the little stuff between the lines that as a
new entrepreneur I never even considered. This email is LONG overdue. Thank
you again for all of your help on and off the business. It has truly
been life changing.”

Targeting sports, recreation clients

Stewart is one of 26 SBDC advisors working in more than two dozen communities from the Canadian border to the Columbia River to help small business owners who want to start, grow or transition their business. SBDC advising services are free, confidential and customized to the needs of each client.

The Washington SBDC ( is supported by Washington State University, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other institutions of economic development and higher education.

Now, not yet 30, Spaulding is on the cusp of opening a second practice in an upscale community near Seattle. The new clinic, which he is opening with a friend from chiropractic school, will be more than three times larger than his existing clinic and will employ eight to 10 people.

“We will be surrounded by the type of clients who need and seek the services we provide,” Spaulding said. While he has treated a diverse clientele in Westport, his target demographic is people engaged in competitive sports or high-intensity recreational pursuits who want to learn how to help the body heal itself through exercise, movement and supportive manual therapies.

Holistic approach to body function

In the six years since earning his doctor of chiropractic, Spaulding has been relentless in not only building his business, but building his expertise in helping clients overcome injuries or chronic pain and avoid re-injuring their bodies as they strive towards their goals.

He is one of five chiropractors in Washington state to earn a diplomate from the American Chiropractic Rehabilitation Board. Among other advanced training, he has earned certification as a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a corrective exercise specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and is a practitioner of active release therapy.

Traditional chiropractic has tended to focus on spinal adjustments, Spaulding said, but the field is moving to a more holistic approach where spinal adjustments are just one in a full complement of tools and techniques to improve the way the body moves and functions.

Step-by-step business counsel

Just as Spaulding works one-on-one with his clients, he has benefited from working one-on-one with Stewart.

“It wasn’t just generic information,” Spaulding said. “He actually took the time to understand my business and what I needed to move forward.”

Spaulding had ambitious plans from the start: “Westport was always the test for me,” he said. “The plan was to see if I could make something happen in this community and grow from there.”

He remains committed to the Westport community and his clients there, he said, but his five-year goal was to open an expansion clinic. With the help of his SBDC advisor, he’s doing just that.

“He has helped me every step of the way,” Spaulding said.


Sean Spaulding, 509-998-2067,
Erik Stewart, Washington SBDC, 360-538-2530,