For Stacy Welling, business has always been personal.
The journey to discovering her niche began in 2005 when her brother, a pharmacist, chose to pursue a career outside retail pharmacy rather than take over their father’s pharmacy. Their father, Darryl Hubble, asked Stacy to continue the family business and be the next owner of Whaley’s Pharmacy in Missouri. At first, she hesitated. Stacy wasn’t a pharmacist, but her father pointed out the benefit of having someone separate from the pharmacy operations who could focus on the behind-the-scenes work. Stacy agreed, and she decided to continue the legacy alongside her father at Whaley’s Pharmacy.
A year later, Stacy gave birth to her first child. She experienced difficulties with breastfeeding, and when she asked her nurse where she could find supplies to help her, the nurse replied, “You know, I really don’t know who would really have those kind of things, but Whaley’s probably does.” At the time, Whaley’s didn’t offer any motherhood or baby-related items, but the nurse’s comment made Stacy realize that there was a need in their community for more nursing products and services.
She began by stocking breast pumps and replacement supplies in a small corner of the West Side location. Stacy explains her initial choice to offer pumps. “When I bought my pump, I had to go to a retail store, and there’s nobody there who can help you,” she remembers. “Most of them are stockboys who are stocking shelves and praying you don’t ask them the big question!” As a mother herself, Stacy knew that offering breastfeeding products in a medical environment would prompt mothers to walk in and feel comfortable to ask questions about their purchases. Stacy made sure her staff was educated, supportive, and attentive to customer needs.
The local health department approached Stacy after noticing the blossoming motherhood-focused section within her pharmacy. They asked Stacy to consider offering lactation services through Whaley’s Drug because the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program in Jefferson City was forced to turn away mothers who didn’t qualify for its assistance. Stacy took the initiative and became a certified breastfeeding educator and offered lactation consultations through the pharmacy, thus launching Mommy & Me:
We have a 3,500-square foot store, and over half of it is devoted to our Mommy & Me department. We have a lactation consultant on staff three days a week who offers private appointments. We have two support meetings each month where moms can come in with their babies and learn more about that month’s topic. Afterwards, they can ask all the questions they want and have private meetings if they’re having more problems and need specific support.
The Mommy & Me program goes beyond servicing mothers and infants; it has been a great profit resource for Whaley’s Pharmacy, as well. When it initially opened, the West Side location grew quickly, then experienced a plateau. Rent was high, and a large pharmacy chain opened a location across the street. Stacy wondered if the West End location would actually be profitable enough to sustain itself. She and her team began monitoring prescription growth and tracking customer leads. “In 2012, we went back at the end of the year to track, and we saw we had gained 276 new patients that year directly related to Mommy & Me. We watched our script count grow in that store by 25 scripts a day,” Stacy recounts. She realized that specific mothers who had come into the store with questions or consultations later became pharmacy patrons. “We were noticing these mothers come in for support or to buy Mommy & Me products, and then all of a sudden, their babies get their first ear infection. These women, who had previously come into our store and became comfortable with our staff, were coming back to support the pharmacy when they needed a prescription.”
Mothers aren’t the only members of the community who support Whaley’s Pharmacy. Local physicians, nurses, pediatricians, and OB-GYNs are the program’s biggest referrals. Out of these relationships, a breastfeeding coalition was birthed in Jefferson City, and more lactation consultants are available to local mothers. Stacy is excited to see a need — one she had first-hand experience with — finally be met by more providers and specialists. “In the end, we’re all trying to accomplish the same thing. That’s to make sure the families in our community are taken care of.”
Today, the Mommy & Me program continues to grow with Stacy launching Whaley’s Baby, an endeavor she describes as “a turnkey marketing and consulting company for independents who want to recreate what we’ve done with Mommy & Me.” When other pharmacy owners saw how successful Whaley’s Mommy & Me program was, they reached out to Stacy for information on how to market their own nursing services. Whaley’s Baby is multi-tiered program that trains pharmacies to build their own breastfeeding business, and it supplies them with their own trademarked logo, marketing materials, Stacy’s firsthand operational knowledge, and access to a group purchasing organization (GPO) discount.
For Stacy, her niche is more than just front-end sales. What started as a personal need has grown beyond a small corner in her pharmacy. Mommy & Me is a way for her to build stronger relationships with her customers and providers, and Whaley’s Baby encourages other owners to be more innovative with their businesses. “It’s a passion that has impacted us,” Stacy concludes. “I really hope it impacts others, too!”