In honor of World Vet Day (and Small Business Week!), we interviewed our founder and CEO, Dr. Chris Bessent. She filled us in on why she chose to be a vet, how her practice evolved over time, and what made her decide to start Herbsmith, Inc.
Q: Why did you decide to be a vet?
CB: I’ve always loved animals; I’ve always connected with animals. And, I also had a real logical mind and so I loved the idea of figuring out disease and then implementing different types of treatments to helped them. And it just made sense to me to use that medical thought process to help animals because that’s why I really connect with.
Q: What made you decide to switch to holistic veterinary medicine?
CB: It was really kind of interesting – I had been practicing for two to three years and I kept getting presented with cases of animals who didn’t respond well to traditional medicine. So, horse with back pain, and dogs with nerve-shooting pain in their back. A horse I remember in particular who had a terrible neck and with Western medicine all I could really say was “stall rest” and “anti-inflammatories” and just hope that it got better. Around that time, I got introduced to veterinary chiropractic by a wonderful veterinary chiropractor named Julie Kaufman. She showed me how she did adjustments for animals and I immediately thought, “Wow, I need to know that!” And then as I was learning veterinary chiropractic, there were so many other veterinarians in the course who also did acupuncture and they would talk about these amazing success stories using acupuncture and using herbs. So of course I thought, “I need to know that too!!”
So, I went to the best training available in the world to learn about holistic medicine, but I wasn’t completely convinced on my own yet. I went back to my veterinary practice and charged nobody for the first six months. I told my patients, “I have the best training in the world, so I absolutely won’t hurt your animal. But I’m not convinced that this isn’t just a fad.” And so I would adjust animals and do acupuncture on them, and not charge the owners at all. I would just ask them, “In your honest opinion, did it help or did it not help?” And after six months with every single patient I worked on, they dramatically improved. So I decided that it made sense logically, it made sense scientifically and I started implementing it into my practice.
The other component is that I looked at holistic medicine–veterinary chiropractic, acupuncture, the use of herbs, and nutraceuticals–as just another tool in my box. So when I looked at a patient I’d think, “would this animal do best with pharmaceuticals, or do they need surgery, or would acupuncture be the best option, or would chiropractic be what they needed…”. So I didn’t look at holistic medicine as different – I just saw it as another tool that I could use to make every patient that came my way as good as I could physically get them.
Q: What made you decide to switch from practicing to running a business?
CB: I had been a veterinarian for 30 years and I loved it. I had some of the most amazing pets that I cared for as well as some really wonderful families. But I kept thinking about how I could make an even bigger imprint on the world and how I could be a more positive influence on animals in the world. At the time I had wonderful herbal formulas I’d been using in my practice that I knew were very safe and very effective. We also had some wonderful pet retailers in our area. So I thought that partnering with them would be a great way to have a positive effect on more pet’s lives than by seeing patients all day every day. And that’s how Herbsmith was born, and now that’s exactly what we do. We produce fabulous formulas, fabulous products that are sold in great, independent retail stores that help pets all over the world.
And even though I’ll never meet that family and I’ll never meet that pet, just the thought that the product I developed had a positive impact on that pet’s life is very rewarding.
Hear the actual interview (and watch our fun animation) below: