Switching Careers: From Medical Practice to Entrepreneur

Carrie McCulloch, M.D.The recession has been deep, but it hasn't stopped those who want to be their own bosses from switching careers to pursue that dream. In 2008, 626,400 employer businesses were started, according to the Small Business Administration. Another 552,600 employer start-ups joined their ranks in 2009.

Carrie McCulloch, M.D., (right) is one of those who left the well-worn path of medical student to physician in private practice to tackle entrepreneurship instead. She shares her story of how she founded a business to combine her passions for medicine, fitness and education.When McCulloch entered New York City's Mount Sinai Medical School in 2004, she thought she'd do what medical students generally do – get a degree, set up a practice and make a decent living. But a funny thing happened on the way to her 2009 graduation: she founded a Pilates studio and created a company that integrates movement with medicine.

After two years of being a journalist at Chicago magazine, the New Jersey native decided to pursue her interest in the human body and apply to medical school. She left her editorial job and freelanced in order to pay for the credits she needed to fulfill her med school pre-requisites. While working toward medical school, she also studied to be a certified Pilates instructor.

"I thought it would be a way to learn about the human body and help others while earning some money for medical school," McCulloch told WalletPop in a telephone interview.

Her Pilates experience did indeed prove to be lucrative: she used it to co-write Gray's Anatomy for Fitness with fellow student Stephanie Pieczenik Marango, her Pilates-instructor husband Matt McCulloch and Jeffrey Laitman, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's director of anatomy. She also co-designed living anatoME, a course that teaches medical students how bodies work through yoga and Pilates.

She also helped create a four-day course for fitness professionals to learn about the human body in a medical school setting, called the Functional Anatomy for Movement and Injuries (FAMI) Workshop.

But perhaps the biggest career venture integrating her passions for writing, movement and medicine was launching -- with her husband -- a Pilates studio, Kinected, in the Chelsea section of New York in 2008 with the aim of integrating medicine with Pilates and GYROTONIC.

Tweaking her career was scary at first, recalled McCulloch, now 32. "When you step off a known path, fear can creep into the equation. But at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself: what would I do if I knew I could not fail? The answer to this question indicates the path to take. When you let fear come into the equation, fear of failure especially, it can thwart your creative outlet."

To start Kinected, the McCullochs bought an existing studio after stumbling upon a For Sale ad on a Pilates industry website one day. The studio had a well-established reputation. Purchasing it "was a fantastic solution to entry," she explained. "The previous owner established a wonderful reputation for the studio as a forward-thinking place that helped people with injuries. Its focus dovetailed with our mission to bridge the fields of movement and medicine and allowed us to expand its clinically-oriented services, like physical therapy. So when people are ready to transition from an acute program to a more long-term fitness program, it's all under one roof."

Kinected opened its doors one month before Lehman Brothers imploded and the economy went into a tailspin. Still, the studio has grown 25% between 2009 and 2010. "Taking care of yourself – especially when it comes to rehabilitating injuries – is not a luxury," said McCulloch, Kinected's Medical Director, overseeing its clinical services and education. "It's more of a necessity."

It also helped that the McCullochs honed the studio's services and trained and nurtured a team of committed teachers. They also renovated the 3,000-square-foot location to provide clients with the best space to focus on their health. To finance all this, they took out personal loans and relied on friends and family and good old fashioned elbow grease.

"We dug in our heels during that first year," she recalled. "It was not uncommon to finish a 'regular' workday at 3 a.m."

Added McCulloch, "To run your own business successfully, especially in these times, you have to be willing and able to passionately play every role, from sweeping up drywall dust to dreaming up a new anatomy course."

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