Hey everybody, It’s Luke Newcomer with The Newcomer Group, where exceeding your expectation is our standard.
I’m really excited to have gotten the opportunity to sit down with Kaitlin Halliwell and Maria DiMare. They are the owners of Little Sprouts Speech Therapy and they’re actually our first guest doing our small business feature. I’ll tell you all about that next week, and let you know how to get in on it, but essentially we’re trying to give back to the community right now. We’re helping create more content for business owners like you.
Until next week when we go into all of the details of our small business feature, please enjoy the transcript of my conversation with Kaitlin and Maria.
Luke Newcomer: So before we dive into everything, tell us a little bit about yourselves and about the business. I’ll give you the floor first Kaitlin.
Kaitlin Halliwell: All right, I’m Kaitlin Halliwell, I’ve been a speech therapist for a while now. I’m from St. Augustine, and this is Maria.
Maria DiMare: And I’m Maria DiMare and I’m also from St. Augustine. We both have graduate degrees in speech therapy and we’ve been speech therapists since we graduated.
Luke Newcomer: Yes, so, quick question about that. Very rare combo! Both from St. Augustine, right? Did you know each other prior to going to school? Did you go to school together? How did you collaborate to create this business?
Maria DiMare: So, we went to high school together, but we didn’t become, we’re actually best friends. But we didn’t become best friends until college, when we were roommates together.
Kaitlin Halliwell: We were at UCF in Orlando together!
Maria DiMare: So and then it was after that that we kind of… We weren’t in the same job for a while, and then eventually we ended up at the same place. And then this kind of was born from that.
Kaitlin Halliwell: We didn’t go to graduate school together.
Luke Newcomer: That’s a super small world! Okay, so you knew each other, went to college together,
Kaitlin and Maria: Yes!
Luke Newcomer: Both had different backgrounds before starting this business. What was…
Kaitlin Halliwell: They’re like, the same!
Maria DiMare: Yeah, they’re like the same background, but at different times.
Luke Newcomer: So with that said, like how did you collaborate to create this concept? And on top of that, tell everybody what Little Sprouts Speech Therapy is, because I think a lot of people are like, “What is that?”, right.
Kaitlin Halliwell: What is that, okay. So it’s a locally owned speech therapy business. We provide pediatric speech therapy, while a child is in their learning environment. So we’re eliminating the need to go to a clinic. We travel to pre-k programs, daycares, private school, and we do all of our services right there at the child’s school.
So we’re mainly seeing kids that don’t qualify to get services through St. John’s County School District or early steps, and we’re targeting those children to get the help that they need, and it’s helpful for parents too.
Luke Newcomer: That sounds like an amazing concept, especially, I mean that resonates huge with with parents. I mean most people, it’s dual income, so they’re both working. So to create a schedule around their work, to get their child somewhere, that’s a big convenience factor. How did you come up with this concept?
Maria DiMare: So we both have backgrounds working in the school system, and then an outpatient clinic. We just found when we were working in the school system, there’s just so many kids that need to be served, so sometimes there’s individual needs that are not being all the way met.
And then in the outpatient clinic, we just saw that families were really strained to bring their kids to therapy. The parents were very stressed having to make this a part of their daily routine. And so we just thought, how could we serve this population, while causing the littlest inconvenience.
Luke Newcomer: Sure! Did you guys come up with this concept, or is this something that people are doing in different segments? I mean, it sounds like, to me, hearing about something like this. I don’t have children, but that’s something that would be massively beneficial. Was this a concept you created, or did it branch off of something else?
Kaitlin Halliwell: It’s sort of unique, I would say. When we created it, we were sitting there at our old job, kind of like thinking about the barriers in that setting. Thinking about, like what should we do to be more helpful to these children and these families. So that’s where the idea sort of sprang from.
Luke Newcomer: Sprouted?
Kaitlin Halliwell: Yeah! It Sprouted! We sprouted!
So there really aren’t a lot of, you know, speech therapists like us. That are traveling around to the child’s learning environment and providing the services there.
Luke Newcomer: Okay that’s, that’s really cool. How has this concept, I mean this is you guys said before we hopped on the camera, this is year four, right?
Kaitlin and Maria: Yeah.
Luke Newcomer: Right, so year four. You’re newer, but I mean you’re definitely quite established. How has the response been since getting things up and running?
Maria DiMare: I think it’s been positive! I mean, it did take us some time to grow into different schools and just to find kind of what our niche was going to be. But I definitely think we’ve had a very positive response. Parents really like that they can just sign their kids up for this, and we can go, and they can get communication from us, but they don’t have to take their kid anywhere.
Especially at the daycares, because I think a lot of times the daycare population is kind of underserved. Mostly because they’re just kind of unsure as to whether their kids need services or not.
So we’ve been doing screenings at some of the private schools and daycares, and that can be really helpful. Because the parents, if they just have a tiny concern, they can decide like okay, it’s $25, I’ll sign my kid up for a screening, and then they get to talk to us and kind of see what our feedback is on where their kid lies.
So I think that that’s really helpful for parents too, and that’s kind of where we get a lot of our clients from.
Luke Newcomer: So that’s a huge value proposition! I mean that was a lot to take in, but I understand the concept. And I think any parent out there that’s watching this video, that’s a huge value proposition.
So the word kid to me, that’s a huge range, right? So like what is, I shouldn’t say ideal client, but like what does that kid look like for you? Is there an age gap for this? And then my follow-up question on that is, like at what point do they graduate? And can they graduate?
Kaitlin Halliwell: Yeah, well they definitely graduate! That’s what we do. We graduate. But we work with kids that are young babies, like 12-15 months old. A lot of people think, oh they’re babies they shouldn’t be doing anything! But there’s definitely speech and language milestones you should be hitting as an infant. So you know our youngest ones are 12-15 months old, and then we go up to kids middle school aged or older. We usually see those on teletherapy.
I think our main population is the preschool age. So think two to five, is like mainly who we see.
Luke Newcomer: Sure. So, and then this is just off the top of my head, I think that a lot of people, unless they’re kids going through it, don’t really understand what you do or why. How would you simplify identifying if your child needs this type of service?
Kaitlin Halliwell: Yeah, you want to talk about speech and I’ll talk about language? There’s kind of like two parts.
Maria DiMare: So there’s speech, and then there’s language. The speech is the articulation of certain sounds. So let’s say that your child instead of doing the k sound, they might do a t sound. That’s in the front of the mouth, and so those things are things that we can work on with them. We believe in early intervention, so at a young age, starting to target things that they should be doing by now.
This is really helpful so that people can understand them. When kids go, and they have all this confidence to start talking and then nobody understands them, they just start to get really shut down. And then if that goes on for years and years and years, then it really hurts them.
Luke Newcomer: There could be some serious long-term effects, right?
Maria DiMare: Right! So that’s kind of the articulation part of it. And then there’s the language.
Kaitlin Halliwell: So language is what you’re able to communicate and understand. So we work on, let’s say a small child, that’s two or three years old, they understand everything you say, but they’re not saying anything. So we work on having them become verbal communicators. You know, starting with single words, moving into phrases.
We also work with kids that don’t understand what you’re saying. So they might talk, but you know, you say hey go get your diaper and bring it to me, and they have no idea what you’ve said. So we work on following directions, and understanding what’s being said to them. So that’s more of the language piece of speech and language.
Luke Newcomer: So again, a lot to take in. You know, I would think that this service probably gives parents a really big sense of relief. Knowing that someone like y’all are in this community to help the parents. And while the parent obviously wants to be involved to an extent, I would assume. Or at least they want to know what they can be doing after these sessions. How do you answer that question? And how does that get handled?
Maria DiMare: So we have good communication with our parents. We like to communicate with them the whole time.
Luke Newcomer: Can they, I’m gonna interrupt you, can they also be in on these sessions? Or is it encouraged to kind of be one-on-one with the kid?
Maria DiMare: Yeah, typically we’re happy for them to ask any questions. And at some of our schools they actually have cameras so the parents can kind of watch us. But typically it is kind of disruptive, because we are in the school environment, it’s a little bit disruptive to have a parent there. And actually some of the schools don’t want us to have the parents sitting in there.
So to kind of get good communication with them, without having them sit there, we do write notes home after every single session. We tell them what we worked on, and what they can be working on at home. Then we just have an open door of communication. So if they ever have a concern, they can email us or call us and we try to be really good about getting back to them.
Kaitlin Halliwell: We love talking to the parents, because they’re with the child the majority of the time. You know, if we see them twice a week in their 30-minute sessions, we’re with them for an hour. Don’t get me wrong, that is great, but really the parent is with them all the time. So if we can kind of teach the parent what we’re working on, they’re going to see great results.
Luke Newcomer: So, they can watch. You know, from a camera possibly. And they also have a full report, and there’s also a massive open line of communication with you guys. Now are the parents talking directly with you, do you have an assistant that’s handling that?
Maria DiMare: No it’s just us!
Kaitlin Halliwell: We’re the front desk! We’re the schedulers! We’re IT
Maria DiMare: We’re the billing department. It’s challenging sometimes, but we like it that way. We know our parents, it’s intimate. yeah and it’s a really great experience
Luke Newcomer: I mean it’s truly great. They’re talking to the people doing it. Right? Not this door in between that line of communication. I think, probably, it has to be very important for the parents. And I’m sure the response has been fantastic.
Maria DiMare: Yeah, I think it’s really helpful. And I think it’s helpful for the kids, because there’s only two people that they have to interact with ever. So even if they usually see Kaitlin, but Kaitlin’s out, they already have seen me a bunch of times.
Kaitlin Halliwell: We have built a really good relationship.
Luke Newcomer: Obviously! I can tell.
So tell me about the schools, I mean do you work with all public schools? Is it private schools? I know there’s daycares. How do these schools get involved with you, or how do you reach out to these schools?
Kaitlin Halliwell: All right, so, public schools we don’t go into, because they have their own speech pathologists. So those kids qualify, and are totally different things. We don’t go into those. We do go into private schools and daycares. Typically, when we start a school, we do like a big screening day for the entire school.
Every kid gets a flyer, and if they want to sign up for a screening, it’s a $25 fee. So we go in, and we do our screening, and then from there it’s all direct communication with the parent. There’s no, like scheduling through the school. So then we move forward from there. If they want to do a full evaluation, that’s when we really go and we do a standardized assessment. We write up a full detailed report with individualized goals, and that’s sort of the jumping point for therapy if the parent wants to move forward.
Luke Newcomer: Okay that’s great. So, going back, I mean how did you get dialed in with these schools? Did you just, like, go knock on their door? Or do they reach out to you?
Kaitlin and Maria: Yes! Door knocking. Exactly!
Luke Newcomer: I love that.
Kaitlin Halliwell: It was tough to start.
Maria DiMare: But it was a good experience though, I think, because neither one of us had ever done anything like that. So we were just knocking on people’s doors, and we were like, “Here we are! Do you want us?
Luke Newcomer: That’s the entrepreneurial spirit!
Kaitlin Halliwell: I think it has helped us grow so much, like you’re having to have like actually put in that legwork to get into these schools. But now we’re in, and I think right now we’re in about six schools in the immediate St. Augustine, and a little bit up into the Jacksonville area, but we have a great relationship with them. The teachers know us, you know, if they hear a kid that’s having some speech troubles. They know that we’re there to help them.
So they can tell the parents, hey we have Little Sprouts here, here’s their info if you want to give them a call. So it’s just it’s nice to be connected with our community right here.
Luke Newcomer: Absolutely, that’s kind of what I was segwaying into. How many people do you see on a daily basis? Monday through Friday.
Kaitlin Halliwell: It varies by day. So I think a lot of people don’t realize the travel time. So we’re also driving our car all around, getting to the schools but it varies. Upwards to like 15 kids a day, and that session is 30 minutes.
Luke Newcomer: Okay 30 minutes. So talk to that concerned parent, that’s like hey. I know something’s off. I want to get them help.What’s that first conversation like? And what’s that expectation you set when you’re talking to a parent that wants to get their child into this program?
Kaitlin Halliwell: You say just call us. We want to talk to you. You know your child best, if you have the feeling as a mom or dad or caregiver, like hey something’s just not right, just give us a call. We’re happy to chat with you.
You give us a call, and if we say, hey yeah, you know we hear your child’s five and they still can’t make an L sound, let’s set up a screening.Then give them the necessary paperwork, and we schedule with the school, make sure it’s a good time, and we go into school do that screening. We’ll then get in touch with the parent again to say ‘We heard what you heard, let’s do an eval’ or ‘No, your kid’s okay for now.’
Luke Newcomer: So transparency, it’s the biggest thing I’m taking away from this conversation. You’re creating an open line of communication, full transparency, I love that. It’s a boutique company in the sense you guys are doing it all, which is really cool. I mean that’s a massive, intimate proposition for a concerted parent.
Tell us a little about pricing, I’m sure it’s not a one size fits all. Do you work with insurance? I mean, that’s obviously another concern for parents. What does that look like?
Maria DiMare: So we do not accept any insurance, we’re self pay only.
When we were working at the outpatient clinic, there were so many times, it started this kind of trend I guess, where insurances were not covering speech therapy for children unless they had a significant diagnosis. So the majority of the kids that we serve, are just kids who maybe have an L to work on or have an S to work on or something like. So the insurance is sometimes not even covering that. Then these parents would get this huge bill after the fact and be like ‘Oh I thought this was going to be covered by insurance.’
Kaitlin Halliwell: Insurance would be like ‘Yeah we’re going to cover!” and then months later…
Luke Newcomer: Yeah, insurance can be tricky.
Maria DiMare: So we decided self pay would be the best way to go, and we tried to make our rates really reasonable so that families can afford. So for our screenings, they are $25 and that’s just a brief look to know if we should do a further evaluation. Then our evaluations are $90 and that includes us administering a standardized assessment and we have a written report and a follow up phone call with the caregiver comes with that. We talk with the parents about what we saw in that assessment. Then our sessions are the 30-minute sessions and they’re $60 dollars a session.
Luke Newcomer: That sounds like very reasonable pricing.
Maria DiMare: Yeah, we tried to.
Kaitlin Halliwell: Yes, so while we don’t accept insurance, a lot of people have an HSA or an FSA account.
Luke Newcomer: Elaborate on that. Some people have no idea what that is, myself included.
Kaitlin Halliwell: Oh no? Okay, so sometimes through your insurance they’ll set up an account, and you have like a debit card that’s kind of connected to it. Then you can buy things like a copay at the pharmacy, or you can buy cough medicine with it. They’re called a healthy spending account (HSA) or flexible savings account (FSA).
So most of the time speech therapy is covered with that. A lot of times people don’t know that. So we always like to tell our parents, double check to make sure speech is a covered expense, but you can use that for speech therapy.
Luke Newcomer: Sure, kind of my last question on all this before we wrap it up, what’s the success rate? Obviously it works, it’s super helpful, but how do you give comfort to a parent or one of the kids within this program? How do you say hey this isn’t forever, we’re going to help you fix this.
It’s not a one-word answer, I’m sure, but what does that timeline look like?
Maria DiMare: Every parent asks, like how long is it going to take. It just depends on the child. It’s so difficult for us to actually predict. It depends on their participation, how many things they have to work on, how often they’re seen per week, that kind of thing. So I feel like and if they’re doing practice at home, There’s just like so many things. So parents always ask us that, and we always wish we could tell them like oh six months, that would be great. But I mean some kids stay in speech for years, and some kids are a couple months.
Kaitlin Halliwell: Sometimes we’ve seen kids that have so many goals, you’re like oh wow, like they’re going to be in speech for the foreseeable future.
Luke Newcomer: So no kid’s the same, obviously. No timeline is going to be the same.
Kaitlin Halliwell: But some kids pick it up really quick. There’s just no way to know. But there’s definitely a hierarchy that you move through when you are working on speech. We let the parents know like, hey if they’re working on an S they have to be able to make an S by itself before they can do it in conversation.
So it’s like a speech ladder you go up. So they know where they’re heading on the timeline, we don’t know how long it’s going to take to get there, but they know where they’re going.
Luke Newcomer: I love it. What else, like closing statements. I mean we covered a lot, seriously, I’ve learned a ton. I think this is a really cool business. I think more parents need to know about you, more schools need to know about you. Obviously it’s the two of you, are you still taking on new business? Are you looking for new clients?
Kaitlin Halliwell: Yes! We always are, because kids are always graduating. So spots are always opening on our schedule. You know, sometimes we’re super busy, sometimes we’ve got a bunch of people graduating, but there’s always room for more.
Luke Newcomer: What’s the best way for the viewers to get in touch with you? Is there an email, website, phone number? We can obviously put it in this video so they can kind of click it, and we’ll add links, but tell us the best way to get in touch with y’all.
Maria DiMare: Email is the best, because a lot of times we’re with students. So if we get phone calls and we’re with students, they have to just go to voicemail.
Luke Newcomer: So what’s your email address?
Maria DiMare: It’s email@example.com.
Luke Newcomer: Listen I really appreciate you all coming in, I think this is going to be an awesome video for everybody to watch. Definitely in the comments, share your feedback, tag, share, send it out to as many people as you can. We want to get the word out.
Last question for everybody, I want you both to have a chance to answer, what’s your favorite thing about St. Augustine? Since this is geared towards the St. Augustine community.
Maria DiMare: Okay, so I was born and raised in St. Augustine and so were my parents, it’s where my dad was born and raised. So I think it’s so beautiful. And I think that being close to the beach and also having a historic part is very neat. I just like that there’s kind of a local, small community that’s underlying this bigger thing that all people are moving to.
Luke Newcomer: I like that. With that said, how has the local community backed you guys? I mean has the response been really good?
Kaitlin Halliwell: Yeah we have two pretty prominent schools here, we’re in those schools and we’ve been welcomed by them. So yeah, it’s good!
Luke Newcomer: Kaitlin, favorite thing about St. Augustine?
Kaitlin Halliwell: Well, everything she said! And then also, this is kind of like a quirky little one, but do you know what pink sauce is? For fried shrimp?
Luke Newcomer: Yeah I just had it last week!
Maria DiMare: Had you not had it before?
Luke Newcomer: No, I was just saying I had it last week.
Kaitlin Halliwell: Okay, it’s a very St. Augustine thing! I was in Jacksonville, we were eating lunch, and ordered fried shrimp. I asked the girl for pink sauce and she was like “You want cocktail sauce?” I was like, “No, I want pink sauce.” She had no idea.
Luke Newcomer: So, I’m not from here, I’ve been here for 12 years, and that’s a thousand percent a St. Augustine thing.
Kaitlin Halliwell: It’s very much a St. Augustine thing! I don’t know what it i, but it’s great.
Luke Newcomer: Pink sauce, great community, you can’t beat it here. Listen thank you guys so much for hopping on, we really appreciate you also tuning in with us. We’ll talk soon, thanks guys.
If that interview didn’t convince you that Little Sprouts is the right group to reach out to for your speech therapy needs, I don’t know what will. If you want to get in contact with them you can call 904-878-4137, visit https://littlesproutsspeechtherapy.com/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Thank you so much for joining me today, I’m Luke Newcomer of the Newcomer Group.