Growing a Business | Marla Ahlgrimm R.Ph. on Creating a New Business Plan

Marla Ahlgrimm

Marla Ahlgrimm

Marla Ahlgrimm is the founder of Madison Pharmacy Associates and Women’s Health America – the nation’s leading provider of bioidentical hormone products for women and men. She learned the hard way that getting started isn’t easy. Now, Marla Ahlgrimm offers up wisdom to young pharmacists and entrepreneurs looking to break into the businesses.

Healthcare is constantly changing. How can I, as a pharmacist, keep up with what is in demand?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Listen to your patients. There are no studies in the world that can compare to what you learn by talking to those you serve.

What benefits does a compounding pharmacy offer over a traditional dispensary?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Compounding pharmacies provide medications that are not commercially available for persons who must take a specific dosage.

How to I prepare to apply for a loan?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Prepare a request for loan proposal and include an executive summary letter as well as a personal resume and any pertinent information that will convince the loaning entity that your business will create demand.

How many years should I include in my narrative?

Marla Ahlgrimm: A five year plan and financial projection should suffice.

How much cash on hand do I need to start my own business or buy an existing operation?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Typically, 20 – 25% up front is needed to obtain financing.

What information should be included on my Income Statement?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Your current financial management, anticipated needs, rent, utilities, insurance, employee training costs, and equipment and inventory.

What exactly is a business plan?

Marla Ahlgrimm: It’s an exhaustive and objective review of your market, competition, resources, assumptions, and conditions needed for your success.

Should I hire a consultant to write my business plan?

Marla Ahlgrimm: No, the person who will implement the business should be the one who writes the plan. This way they have an understanding of the plan and know where they need to be to get things done.

How do I develop a niche?

Marla Ahlgrimm: It all goes back to listening to your clients.

What are marketing activities really directed toward?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Contrary to the surface, marketing isn’t just about the sell. It’s more about developing relationships and maintaining those that are most beneficial to both parties.

What is Market Segmentation?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Focusing on a product or service that will appeal to a very specific demographic.

Who should I focus on creating relationships with?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Physicians are an invaluable resource for referring patients when they believe the pharmacy is of value.

How do I get people to talk about my product?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Make sure it actually solves a problem. People will buzz about you if you provide a superior product.

Compounding can be dangerous. How can I protect my staff?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Train them to understand personal exposure limits, provide a HEPA filtration and humidity control unit, utilize glove boxes and barrier isolators, and always follow SOPs.

Do I really need to hire a full time staff?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Remember that you cannot do it all on your own. You are trained as a pharmacist and should focus on doing that job right – your customers depend on you. You cannot do this alone.

How should I price my products?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Start off by valuing the expertise you bring to the product. Then you can focus on material costs, etc.

Why wouldn’t I just work for someone else compounding?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Starting your own business allows you to own your time, be your own boss, and do things you wouldn’t have the opportunity to do working for someone else.

I’m ready to plan my start up. What are some general tips to get things rolling?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Determine if you will be a sole-proprietorship, partnership, or a corporation. And, select a name – that’s always good for motivation.

What legal aspects do I need to consider?

Marla Ahlgrimm: You should have a complete understanding of all licenses and permits required to operate a pharmacy.

I know I need liability insurance. What other insurances do I need?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Theft, damage, vandalism, robbery, accident…the list goes on and on. You must protect your business and interests from all perspectives.

Marla Ahlgrimm founded Madison Pharmacy Associates in 1982 with the idea that women should have healthcare as individual as they are. The idea was radical for the time as hormone imbalance was relatively unknown. She believed in the work she was doing compounding bioidentical hormones for women who would otherwise be relegated to a life on sedatives, painkillers, and anti-depressants. Her conviction paid off and she is now a well-respected and successful business women, speaker, and author. For more information about Marla Ahlgrimm visit her online at


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