Hope Pharmacy: Demonstrating Small Business Resilience

When Shantelle Brown launched Hope Pharmacy in 2019, she knew how to make it work: by centering on the needs of the community

Starting and growing a new business is challenging at any time; it becomes even more difficult when you’re faced with a pandemic barely a year after launching. And as a result of health and social inequities, the pandemic impacted Black communities and minority-owned small business owners more acutely. 

In Richmond, Virginia, Dr. Shantelle Brown, Owner and Operator of Hope Pharmacy, sits at the intersection of these public health and business challenges. Since opening her business in April 2019, she’s navigated the pandemic both as a Black business owner and as an advocate for her customers. At the same time, she’s found ways to grow her business and engage the community amid the pandemic.

Hope Pharmacy sits within a grocery store that filled a critical need for residents of the Church Hill neighborhood. The Market at 25th–and the pharmacy–are part of the Church Hill North Retail Center, in which Capital One provided a multi-million dollar New Markets Tax Credit investment in 2018. Capital One has long supported economic and financial sustainability in the Church Hill neighborhood and throughout the Richmond area.

“When development started, there were two things that community members wanted: fresh seafood and a pharmacy. I couldn’t give them seafood, but I could give them a pharmacy,” Brown says. 

Brown delivered on that promise. And she’s also tailored her services and offerings to accommodate the needs and wants of the diverse patient population within Church Hill, while ensuring they receive quality, affordable medication and pharmaceutical services. 

We sat down with Brown to see what tips she has for both aspiring and seasoned business owners.

Start With a Passion for What You’re Doing

Brown’s business is about more than just dispensing medications. At its heart, her business is about helping people live a better life, and that’s really what she can get behind emotionally. 

“You have to have a passion for it. You have to love it. You have to love people,” says Brown. After all, building a business is hard. There are a lot of decisions to make. Your passion is what will carry you through the difficult times, the tough choices, and the long hours you need to work. It’ll serve as the magnet that can pull you through those sticky situations when other people might give up.

Focusing on how your passions can be used to help the people around you will also help transmit your business’s authenticity and value to your customers. “People know it, and they can feel it when they walk inside,” she adds. 

Build a Team That You Trust

An entrepreneur wears many hats, especially at the start. But perhaps an even more important skill is knowing when to take those hats off and hand them to other people who can help you multiply your efforts. 

“Building a strong team is probably the best thing that I’ve done,” says Brown. “I’m not a big delegator, but I’m learning to become one.”

Brown knew the pharmacy business well, having worked in pharmacies for big corporations for years. But it was only by learning to spread out the work among her team members that Brown had the time to focus on shaping her business to best serve the community.

Keep a Focus on Your Finances 

Managing finances can be one of the least appealing parts of the job for some  entrepreneurs. Yet, it’s key to running a well-managed business. “Everything has to be in order,” Brown says. “Keep your finances in order and keep your credit in order.” 

Brown shares that she faced obstacles in accessing a loan when she was first getting started, even though she knew her numbers and knew the community’s needs. “There’s still a systemic amount of racial inequality as it relates to ownership, and you can be profiled.” 

Another way to learn good financial management is by seeking out support from others. For example, you might receive help from a local Small Business Development Center, another small business owner, or a financial mentor.

Know Your Industry and the People You’re Serving

Above all, Brown’s success is rooted directly in her community. At the heart of every business decision, every financial transaction, and even every customer interaction, Brown grounds her actions in the needs of the people around her. 

When COVID-19 emerged, she quickly stepped up and started making and distributing hand sanitizer throughout the city to meet the growing demand. “This was the biggest driving point when COVID-19 hit. Not only were we serving the community, but it also allowed people to see that we’re here and to see the services we provide.” 

At the same time, she expanded out into the community, offering delivery to customers at local senior centers.

Another step she took was to start selling pet medications. “The pet medication initiative was very pivotal as well... We want to serve the whole family.”  And the whole family, of course, includes its four-legged members too. 

“We make decisions based on doing the right thing,” she says. “[Customers] come to you because of how you’re going to treat them. You’re making sure that you’re educating them, that you’re taking care of them.” 

Preparing for Future Challenges and Growth Opportunities

Brown is a member of Capital One’s Supplier Diversity Mentoring Program, a mentorship program that provides tools, resources and counsel for Black and Latinx small business owners. 

At the onset of the program, Brown identified her vision and destination for Hope Pharmacy. Now, she says, she and her mentors are “mapping out how to achieve those goals and discussing the obstacles I may encounter along the way.”

Specifically, they’re working to position the business for long-term growth through communication and education initiatives. And at the heart of these initiatives will be passion, a sense of community and a commitment to doing the right thing.

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