20s: Helping others on same path

Friday, July 12, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 28
By Harriet Wallace

Jessica Harthcock discovered a need for her business, MyMedMatch, after suffering a spinal column injury. Her company’s goal is to match those with similar injuries to the proper care and equipment.

-- Lyle Graves | Nashville Ledger

They may only be in their 20s, but Jessica Harthcock and Emily Daniel know life doesn’t always go according to plan.

What they also have discovered is that with creativity and imagination, it’s possible to found a viable business based on the curve balls life throws.

Harthcock, 26, began MyMedMatch as a response to an injury she suffered as a teenager. Daniel, 29, went her own way when she couldn’t find a job in her field, teaching Spanish.

Here are their stories:

Jessica’s story

When Jessica Harthcock imagined her high school graduation, it didn’t include a wheelchair. The then-17-year-old high school senior suffered a devastating spinal cord injury while practicing gymnastics.

Instead of heading off to college like most teens, she went to treatment center after treatment center across the country, seeking to restore her ability to walk.

“You’re whole life changes. All I knew is that Christopher Reeve was paralyzed. My prognosis was very grim. [Doctors] said I would never walk again,” Harthcock recalls.

The determined, upbeat and spunky teenager kept pushing her body and stayed focused on walking one day.

Her family helped her with the exhaustive search for facilities across the nation and the latest therapy tools and machines that could help her. Less than two years later, it finally paid off.

“We got about a year and a-half into it, and I got a muscle twitch in a right side from about mid-chest down. That turned into a controlled muscle twitch, which turned into function. Now I’m walking with the help of a dog,” Harthcock adds.

The road to walking wasn’t easy, and she doesn’t want others to go down that same exhaustive and frustrating path.

Six months ago, she founded MyMedMatch.com, a boutique business that matches people with physical barriers to the proper equipment and facilities.

MyMedMatch.com, which identifies where the best equipment and health support is specifically for a person’s needs, is in the incubation stage now with plans to launch in the fall.

“I run into patients all the time that say ‘Gosh. Where do I get this stuff?’ This is what we do,” she explains. “We want to match patients to specialized equipment in their area. Having something like MyMedMatch to do that is imperative, but we also help the facilities, and they can see a return on their investment.

“We say hey, if you have this, we will push patients your way. I look at us as a marketing tool. Some of this equipment is half-a-million dollars,” she explains.

Emily Daniel turned her knowledge of Spanish – she taught English in Honduras for a year – into a business tutoring school-age students and adults.

-- Submitted

She runs the company along with her husband, who is an athletic trainer she met during her rehab process. Harthcock says she’s excited about the launching due to the strong support of her family and the many tools and resources available in Nashville for new and small businesses.

“I wouldn’t start a business just any place,” she explains. “I think every city needs an Entrepreneur Center. Nashville is really becoming the place to start a business.

“I feel very fortunate to be in this place with all of these resources. There are a lot of mentors here, and I can learn a lot from them.”

Emily’s story

Emily Daniel, owner of Spanish Lessons with Emily D, houses her business at E Spaces, a base for small, successful businesses.

Small companies like Daniel’s, which often don’t have an office or work space, can utilize this center for meetings, Internet connectivity and work space.

“I would agree that Nashville is a great place to start a business because the people of the city just have a certain pride about local businesses, and they support local businesses,” she explains. “The fact that there is not a state income tax is a blessing for sure.”

The 29-year-old says starting her business wasn’t easy but it has been rewarding. The Harding University graduate studied Spanish with an emphasis on teaching.

On a whim, and with a desire to better speak and understand Spanish, she moved to Honduras for a year, where she taught English to elementary students. She soon moved back home hoping her experience would quickly land her a job. It didn’t.

So she turned to what she knew best, teaching Spanish to children. A plan to make money and remain afloat quickly turned into a profitable business.

“My naivety played to my advantage,” she says. “I also boot-strapped the entire start up. I didn’t even know what investors were or the procedure. I just did what I knew would work, and I did it one student at a time.

“Also, not having any debt is important. I don’t plan to go into debt. I just want to grow it organically one student at a time,” Daniel explains.

Since starting less than two years ago, she has tutored more than 300 students. She started off thinking she would only tutor children and young students.

Today, Spanish Lessons with Emily D teaches Spanish to companies, private organizations and groups, with 50 percent of her clientele between the age of 25-45.

Daniel says she didn’t study business or know much about business before launching, and says she believes learning on your own is key.

“Before you start, do your research and make sure it’s something that you really want to do and that you have time to do it in respect to your family commitments.

“Believe in yourself. Be realistic about what it takes to start a business because it is very hard, but it’s also extremely worth it if it’s something that you truly want to do.”