In reflecting back on this past year (and a half), it is no secret that it has been very trying for everyone, but imagine trying to scale a new business during the pandemic! In our ongoing Tenant Spotlights, we are meeting the people and places that are the driving forces within First Capital neighbourhoods. In this second installment, our spotlight is on Jennifer Halfin and Hillary Abramsky – two incredible women changing the face of physiotherapy in Toronto – with a youthful twist!
This past year has been an interesting one for many, but no year has been more eventful for the women behind Toronto Kids Physio, Jennifer and Hillary. While the idea of launching and scaling a business on the cusp of the global pandemic sounded daunting, Jennifer and Hillary were up to the challenge and have been crushing it.
The dynamic duo behind Toronto Kids Physio met at Camp Kadimah, an overnight camp in Nova Scotia, with Jennifer acting as Hillary’s counsellor one summer. This created a bond which led to years of back-and-forth discussions about life and career paths, resulting in a brief overlap at another Toronto based clinic. Whether or not they realized it at the time, their partnership would turn into a great entrepreneurial story, resulting in two Toronto-based Kids Physio practices.
Finding a job in the specialized area of paediatric physiotherapy is quite difficult for a new graduate, despite the significant need for services in the community. This ignited Hillary’s entrepreneurial spirit as she knew there must be a better way. She needed to think creatively after experiencing difficulties getting job placements. While she was working alongside Jennifer, she followed Kids Physio Group, a kids-only, physiotherapy-only company in British Columbia, on Instagram.
It wasn’t long after that she reached out to Laura Patrick, CEO and Founder of Kids Physio Group, and set out to Vancouver to work there for a year. She then coordinated with Jennifer to take the plunge and start a Kids Physio Group franchise in Toronto – the first outside of BC. For Hillary and Jennifer – the idea of creating a complete one-stop-shop for kids to get the therapy they needed was an exciting opportunity.
They saw firsthand the need for this service in Toronto – and after almost a year of working to build a business, including Jennifer’s signing of loan agreements from a hospital bed just after delivering her third child – the two were ready to open their practice. However, they still needed a great location to open up shop; one with convenient access for their clientele. It was through a familial connection that Hillary heard of 3080 Yonge Street, First Capital’s mixed-use property on the corner of Yonge Street and Lawrence Avenue. 3080 Yonge Street is situated atop the Lawrence subway station and only a 5 minute drive from the 401, a location perfect for their first location in Toronto.
The pair knew that after bootstrapping their way to this point, using credit cards and small business loans to fund such endeavours, they needed a space that would be easily transformed into the practice they envisioned from the start. A space on the 5th floor had recently become available, a former small office with some self-contained rooms. The location checked a lot of the boxes for their practice, and the pair began a buildout and within 2 months, had the grand opening in November 2019.
Responding to COVID-19
Fast forward to March 2020. Like the rest of us, the first lockdown caught the newly minted entrepreneurs by surprise. The pair was left to shift their practice from in-person to a fully virtual experience. Hillary and Jennifer needed to think quickly and make difficult decisions, while also balancing the needs of their families. It was during this time that their partnership proved to be most valuable, in which their hard work really paid off.
The practice was able to sustain itself in its new digital capacity, but by no means measured up to the physical space they had just built. Taking consultations online meant Jennifer would often use her own kids as subjects in various exercises and stretches. It wasn’t long before the pair was able to rehire their existing and new employees and reopen their physical location, albeit in a very different capacity. New stringent cleaning protocols and safety measures left the team adapting their practices day-by-day to keep employees and clients safe. These safety measures and a team of dedicated volunteers enabled them to continue growing their practice and work towards opening their second location in Leaside Village!
Hillary and Jennifer quickly recognized that they were ready to add a second clinic. Strong relationships with physicians in the field meant that they were able to connect with existing tenants at the newly completed mixed-use medical building in Leaside Village, and knew that it was the ideal location. First Capital’s new building, an extension to its Leaside Village Shopping Centre, allowed the pair to build a custom space and reach an established community in the Leaside neighbourhood.
The Road Ahead
On the heels of International Women’s Day in March, Jennifer and Hillary served as true examples of leaders in our community. Today, through the hiring of new grads and interns, they are working to build the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. They continuously credit the people they surround themselves with for helping them get to this point.
We look forward to seeing where this pair of entrepreneurs take their business next!
I really loved building a team and sharing success with them…It’s really all about the people!– Hillary Abramsky