SLP Toolkit

SLP Toolkit // Helping Speech Language Pathologists manage their caseloads [UP077]

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Sarah Bevier 0:00
We had agreed very early on, like we’re doing this, we’re going full force into this. And what does that look like? Oh, I’ve got credit cards, and I have a life insurance policy that I can take from and my husband can borrow from his 401k. And, you know, Lisa moves in with her parents. And you know, so we’re making all of these like, Okay, how are we going to pull up this money and and where is it going to come from?

Jay Clouse 0:20
The startup investment landscape is changing. and world class companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. We find them, talk with them and discuss the upside of investing in them. Welcome to Upside.

Eric Hornung 0:48
Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the Upside podcast, the first podcast finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Eric Hornung and I’m accompanied by my co host Mr. Educational upbringing himself, Jay Clouse. Jay, how often were you smacked on the knuckles with rulers growing up?

Jay Clouse 1:11
Not enough. Honestly. I needed more of that. No, that was not the form of what is it? Corporal punishment, capital punishment.

Eric Hornung 1:20
Catholic punishment, mostly.

Jay Clouse 1:21
Catholic punishment. That was not the form of punishment in my household. But you are right, which I think we talked about on the show before both my parents were high school teachers growing up, took both of their classes in high school as a matter of fact, and just about my entire extended family, high school or middle school teachers, including my sister and her husband, my aunt’s my uncle’s, my cousins. Everybody’s teaching Eric, did you try harder when it was your parents as the teacher or less hard when it was your parents the teacher, I wouldn’t say I tried more or less hard, but I can tell you that my mother’s class is where I was closest to getting an A minus in high school?

Eric Hornung 2:02
Wait, you get an A in every class in high school?

Jay Clouse 2:04
I had over a 4.0. I was a valedictorian.

Eric Hornung 2:07
You with your little subtle bragging there. Look at that. You tried it, you try to sneak that by?

Jay Clouse 2:12
No, I thought it was obvious.

Eric Hornung 2:14
It should have been. That’s my fault. You know, 200 episodes in I should have known that. You were the valedictorian of your high school.

Jay Clouse 2:20
And here’s where that really plays against you. I thought my mom’s class was boring. There. I said it, I didn’t appreciate it at the time she taught English. I forget exactly how I’m so sorry, mom. I forget exactly what the class was. I think it was.

Eric Hornung 2:34
Your mom listens to this podcast.

Jay Clouse 2:36
Oh, she does. I forget the class. But I just thought was kind of boring. And I would fall asleep sometimes because it’s in the afternoon and you know, our classes, like we got to school like 6:30 in the morning. And I slept in class from time to time, which would come up at dinner. And she would say, you know, I think you need to go to bed earlier because you’re falling asleep in class. And I would say, well, your class is boring. Yeah. rough, rough semester.

Eric Hornung 3:05
Do you ever think that maybe that’s the reason you were close to an A minus in that class?

Jay Clouse 3:08
It’s very possible.

Eric Hornung 3:12
Well, teachers have just a bit of a tough go of it. Jay. I feel like there’s, I think a lot of people are seeing now with this whole COVID thing. Dealing with one little human is a lot but dealing with 30 of them at a time all day every day.

Jay Clouse 3:25
Yeah, I think working at an elementary or even just a K-12 level is a really difficult job both as a teacher and as we’ll probably find out today, Eric, because we’re talking with Lisa Kathman and Sarah Bevier, they are the co founders of SLP Toolkit. SLP Toolkit is a web based app with built in assessments and tools that give a school based speech language pathologist the confidence she needs to take charge of her busy caseload. Eric, I have a feeling that The speech language pathologists in the school system are struggling just as much as the teachers are these days, and I’m sure that will come up in our conversation.

Eric Hornung 4:10
I think she wanted to go by Bevier. It just so we’re on the same page.

Jay Clouse 4:14
She wanted to go by Bevier, but can you confirm it’s pronounced Bevy air, and I will not apologize for pronouncing it correctly.

Eric Hornung 4:20
It’s like the Colbert. Colbert thing. You know, when he became famous, he went from Stephen Colbert to Stephen Colbert.

Jay Clouse 4:27
I don’t know all that much about speech language pathologists. I do know that it seems like a really noble profession and helps people with speech and language challenges to live their best life. And speaking of living their best life. This episode is sponsored by Ethos Wealth Management, helping people live the one life they have to live the best way that they can.

Eric Hornung 4:49
And you can find out more about ethos@upside.fm/ethos. We’re gonna jump into this interview in a second here, Jay,

Jay Clouse 4:57
But one more thing that we should mention, SLP toolkit, which was founded in 2015 has been bootstrapped this whole time.

Eric Hornung 5:04
And I love talking to a bootstrap company because you have the optionality. If you’re profitable to raise capital and grow like crazy or not.

Jay Clouse 5:12
Bootstrapped in Phoenix, Arizona, no less, and I believe this is our first, definitely our first Phoenix company, if not at first Arizona company.

Eric Hornung 5:19
Shout out to Matt Simpson, who connected with us on Twitter and introduced us to SLP toolkit. We’re excited to talk to more Phoenix companies, or just Arizona companies in general. If you are a Arizona company or know in Arizona and company that would like to be on the podcast, reach out to us on Twitter @upsideFM, or send us something a little longer at hello@upside.fm and we will get to this interview right after this. Let’s bring in Devin Spencer, and employment attorney at Taft Stettinius and Hollister teach us about handling employee matters. Taft is a full Service firm known for assisting entrepreneurs across the Heartland. As a reminder, the following remarks by Taft attorneys are for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. This information is not intended to create and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney client relationship. No person or organization should act upon this information without first seeking professional counsel.

Jay Clouse 6:23
Devin, something that comes up a lot with founders I talked to in Columbus and outside of Columbus is the difference between contractors and employees and when it makes sense to hire one or the other. Can you help us to understand that difference in when a founder should consider hiring a contractor versus an employee.

Devin Spencer 6:40
Your company must classify or treat workers as either independent contractors or employees. You also have to further classify employees as exempt or non exempt but I won’t go into that at the time we have. Employees generally must be paid minimum wage and overtime pay and the company pays employment taxes and Social Security employees. Independent contractors are not subject to those minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, and the company doesn’t pay those employment taxes for independent contractors. wrongfully classifying or treating employees as independent contractors can be a major source of very expensive liability. Unfortunately, there is no bright line test to determine whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee. The short answer is that it is all about your company’s oversight and control of the nature of the work and how the workers performance. If you are only controlling the results of the work, you may have an independent contractor. On the other hand, if you retain oversight over the method in the manner of the work, it is likely an employee, the law, not you decides whether you’ve hired an independent contractor or an employee, you must structure the working relationship to either retain or relinquish control to the worker, overall the nature of the work and how they perform it. If it is a task where you makes sense to only care about the result, not the means to that result, you may have an independent contractor. If your company controls the nature of the work and how the workers are performing it. You probably have an employee. I will say the Department of Labor which enforces these laws has been cracking down on misclassification like crazy lately, your company could end up paying a lot of back pay taxes and benefits if you get it wrong.

Eric Hornung 8:25
Devin, if people want to learn more about Taft or yourself, where should they go?

Devin Spencer 8:30
Our website is www.Taftlaw.com and you can search by practice group or individual attorney. If you search my name, you will find my bio that says a little bit more about the areas I practice in and it also has my contact information. So shoot me an email or give me a call.

Eric Hornung 8:54
Sarah, Lisa, welcome to the show.

Lisa Kathman 8:57
Hi, thanks for having us.

Jay Clouse 8:59
So before we start recording here, we had a lot of fun with some jokes and hypothetical questions that I don’t understand. And it was obvious to me that you guys have a lot of report together. So instead of hearing your individual background, I’d love to actually start with the history of your friendship and how you’ve gotten to know each other.

Sarah Bevier 9:15
Well, we’re not friends yet. We’re working on that.

Lisa Kathman 9:20
No, you know, it’s funny, we entered into this journey of business, hardly knowing each other, which we know in retrospect, is kind of crazy to start, like, you know, Hey, why don’t we do this and just start a business.

Sarah Bevier 9:31
Right.

Lisa Kathman 9:32
Like, it’s such an easy thing to do, but it’s worked out so far.

Sarah Bevier 9:35
Yeah.

Lisa Kathman 9:35
But we met as we’re both speech language pathologists, we were working in the largest school district in the state of Arizona, and I was the lead SLP. So I had known Sarah because I was part of the hiring process, and then met her a couple of times on some training things that I did, but really, we had zero history together before that.

Sarah Bevier 9:54
Yeah.

Lisa Kathman 9:55
Which could have maybe even been a good thing. I see that it was maybe a bad thing, but I think of like, even friendships when you try to do business or be you know, in a roommate situation or whatever, that can work out very differently than you expect. So we didn’t go in with any expectations other than the focus on our business.

Jay Clouse 10:11
How large is the largest school district in Arizona?

Sarah Bevier 10:14
Student wise, I think they’re around like maybe 70,000 students we had I always think of it in terms of how many speech therapists did we have in the district, and we were at about 125. So nothing like to compare that to something like New York City public schools, they have about 2000 speech therapists, but the way that Arizona does it is each little suburb has their own school district versus you know, it’s not consolidated like some of the bigger cities.

Eric Hornung 10:39
How does someone become interested in becoming an SLP?

Sarah Bevier 10:43
I think everybody’s story is kind of different. I know for me, I knew I wanted to go into something to do with education. I wanted to work with children. And so you know, it was that do I am I going to be a teacher? You know, what does it look like? What am I going to do? So going into college, knowing I’m going into that setting, and then hearing about the field of speech language pathology. And I’ve always said my only talent is talking. I feel like it’s my greatest strength. And so I thought, Oh my gosh, I think I could actually have something to offer here. I love communication. I love talking to people. And so if I can help other children who are having difficulties in that area, then it’s kind of just a win win. And so that’s how that’s how I learned about the field. And so then that kind of led me on the path to getting my undergrad in speech and hearing science, and then a master’s degree in communication disorders.

And I feel like a lot of people are drawn to the field because they have somebody that they know. So whether it be a sibling, oftentimes, that had some sort of communication, a disability that involves communication impairment. And so that draws a lot of people to the field, but I agree with you, everybody’s journey is a little bit unique.

Jay Clouse 11:49
This is the part of the show where I admit my ignorance which is coming in sooner than usual in the interviews. speech language pathology is something that a lot of my peers when they went to college that they’re gonna start For and I’ve heard the term a lot, but it’s still kind of unknown to me what that covers and what the breadth of that means. Can you help define what a speech landing speech language pathologist does?

Sarah Bevier 12:11
Yes, you’re first of all, let me start by saying you’re not the only one. I think if you do know what it is, you’re in the actual minority. We even,

Lisa Kathman 12:20
Work on one, right?

Sarah Bevier 12:21
Yeah, exactly. Even working on a campus, you know, and every campus should have a speech language pathologist working with the students. And still the staff very often doesn’t even know what it is we do. And I don’t know if that’s just because there’s not a lot of us if it’s if you haven’t had a personal experience with one, then you would have no reason to know. But what it is, is it’s the, we are working directly with in our case pediatric population, but it could be adults who’ve had some kind of impairment in communication. So whether that’s speech so they could have difficulties producing sounds, or they could have something like a fluency disorder, so stuttering or it’s in the area of language, so then you’re talking About difficulties with expressive language like vocabulary and grammar, or receptive language difficulties with comprehension. And then there’s also social language. So that’s individuals we might be working with who had difficulties with social skill. So that could be somebody with autism or, you know, in other areas that impact their pragmatic language. So we kind of work with this wide range of individuals in all areas of communication.

Eric Hornung 13:24
How much of that is theoretical or kind of talking about it versus practical and hands on either experiments or activities

Sarah Bevier 13:36
as far as your training to become an SLP? Or when you’re working with actual individuals?

Eric Hornung 13:41
I guess I don’t know how to answer that question.

Sarah Bevier 13:44
I think Well, I hope we’re not doing a lot of theory when we’re working with people because it well, it goes back to I even think like if I think about what we learned in grad school, it is a lot of theory. It’s a lot on the research. It’s a lot about how you find information in order to apply to whatever patients or clients or students that you’re working with, and so that’s why a lot of us feel like we should come out of school with this, you know, ability to treat anybody in anything where the expert so even like your first job, you’re supposed to be the expert all of a sudden. And so what tends to happen in our field is everyone kind of goes through this like, Oh crap, I missed that day that they gave out the magic wands and I’m too I don’t know if it’s embarrassed or whatever to say it to ask somebody else like, So when did you get your magic wand? And so we kind of go through through this point in our career where you don’t you feel like you should know everything because I think people expect you to know everything in that particular area. But then you realize, you know, it is a lot of you’re working with individuals, every individual is different. And so you do a lot of on the job kind of training. So it people are not concrete. You know, everybody, even if they have the same kind of issue going on, it’s all filtered through their brains, they respond to things different. Even if you think of the two of you, one of you might be more of a visual learner when might be a verbal learner, you have different preferences. And so it’s a people based job, so you never know what you’re going to get, which is kind of part of the fun of it, especially for us. We love working with kids. So they are definitely always keeping you on your toes.

Yeah, the other part that could be it may be a problem in the field is it’s very broad. So we go to school. And after we get a degree, we can work in any setting so we can work with pediatrics or adults. And those are very, very different working in a medical setting with an adult who had a stroke, and is relearning how to speak or has deficits in their language is very different than working with a child who’s never had those skills. And so in the school setting, and I think that’s kind of, hopefully will lead into how we’ve gotten to the position we’re in now is in a school setting, we have to know something about everything. So in the medical setting, I might only work with adults and it might only be a outpatient rehab, so you know post stroke or I’m only working with individuals who have difficulty swallowing. But in the school setting, I have to work with the most mild to severe cases, everything in between all ages from preschool through 21 years of age. So it’s this very broad amount of information we have to have. So we get the theory in school, and we get some clinical practice. But then we’re put into this setting where we never know who’s going to be on our caseload, what we’re going to have to specialize in. So we have to be these like jack of all trades. And so it’s a huge challenge

Versus like pediatrics in general. You have people that aren’t working in schools that worked in clinics, and so they tend to be able to whether they’re specializing or not, it might be that they’re like, Oh, I just want to work with this age of population, or I just want to work with kids that have a proxy or kids that, you know, whatever it is, whatever their specialty is autism versus in the schools, I can’t turn anyone away. So I am given a caseload and like Sarah said, it’s preschool through high school. I might be the only speech therapist In my district, if I work in a really tiny district, so I might be traveling to multiple schools. And to reinforce that point, I can’t say no to anyone. If I’m working in a clinical setting, I have the option to choose who I want to work with. And so that’s puts an added level of pressure for students or for slps. Working with students in the schools, because you have to know a little about everything.

Yeah.

Jay Clouse 17:23
In the adult case, or the case of a stroke. You know, it sounds like there’s an event that can be kind of predicted that they’re going to need some help in a school setting. How and when is it realized that a child or an adolescent is going to need speech language pathology?

Sarah Bevier 17:39
That is such a great question. It really depends, as oftentimes, it’s the parents who recognize that something might be different that this child’s not maybe speaking as early as they would expect or you know, we compare them to siblings.

Yeah, so or cousins or whatever. Yeah, and teachers do that too. I feel like teachers will also refer because they’re like, this kid looks like different than the other kids in my class.

Right, right. But a lot of times it isn’t known until they’re in school. And now they’re put in this situation where, you know, there’s so many factors. So when I need access to curriculum, I have to be capable of being a learner. Now, I also have to learn how to negotiate with my teacher and my peers. And I, you know, have to have play skills and cooperation and all of these other things. And so once now I’m in this environment, things start to show up, you know, either something’s impacting their ability to learn, or you just, it’s there’s a noticeable difference between them and their same age peers. You know, it could happen as early as kindergarten, I, we’ve had students who are referred even later in life where it doesn’t kind of it’s not as recognizable,

But there is federal protections. So these students get services because it’s federal law. So there are laws in effect that are implemented for students with disability and it goes back to that statement that Sarah said, Every student has the right to access their curriculum. So when you have students with disabilities then they are given free speech therapy in the schools to help them just like, you know, access the curriculum just like their peers can.

Jay Clouse 19:06
One quick follow up on that. Is it usually the case that a teacher or somebody involved the student refers them to the therapist? And they confirm, yeah, there’s work that we need to be done here, or do they come to the therapist once some other doctor or physician has said, the student needs therapy.

Sarah Bevier 19:26
Depends on their age, I think a lot of referrals come in for early intervention, that’s Birth to Three from doctors. So parents may have concerns and they go to their pediatrician and the pediatrician writes a little prescription for them to either there are services for birth to three as well that are free. So it can come in that way it can come in from the teachers that are doing referrals. So it just depends on what age the kid is, what the issues are. Some kids are born I mean, if you think about kids that are born with a hearing impairment or who are deaf, then They are doing hearing tests at birth. Or if you have a kid that is born with Down syndrome, there are typical communication issues that are associated with certain disabilities. So there are some kids that get services from birth. And it’s not necessarily communication. We also work in the scope of feeding and swallowing and things like that. So you might be working, you know, with those really young students with some of that kind of stuff.

Eric Hornung 20:24
How much of this job overlaps with like, being a guidance counselor when it’s in schools?

Sarah Bevier 20:30
You know, I actually have always said, My probably greatest strength I think I had as a practitioner, was my rapport with students. And it was it was the thing that I actually enjoyed the most is being there for these, these students who are struggling in in different aspects of their life. And so it might not, you know, it could be their home life or something else that’s going on. And so we definitely have to be able to provide that support system for this child outside of the therapy that I’m doing. As well as for these families, especially if they’re hearing for them, you know, again, like Lisa said, there’s going to be situations where the child is born with something that we know is going to be comorbid. With, with communicate, there’s going to be communication delays. But if you know you’ve had this, this child and you’ve not noticed anything, and now all of a sudden, they’re in school, and the signs are starting to present and we do this thorough evaluation, and determine that this student does have something going on. Now, we’re also supporting those parents and doing counseling.

But no one really knows what our role is. So even going back to the idea of how are we compared to a guidance counselor, we are one of those weird roles because we’re therapists, but then we get cast in a school setting, as we kind of look like teachers because we’re working with students, we’re pulling them in regularly, and we’re teaching them things. So there’s a big controversy in our field, people get really, you know, upset when they’re called a speech teacher, which Sarah and I are kind of funny, we’re like, I don’t care as long if you even know my name, I’m kind of happy. So that’s, it’s every settings a little bit different in every item. I would say probably our closest relation to other jobs working in schools are at the school psychologist, because they work with assessments and identifying disabilities for students. And then also special education teachers because they’re providing individualized, specially designed instruction for students that are based around this document called an IEP. So every student that is found eligible with a disability, once they’re found eligible every year, they have to have this Individualized Education Plan, which maps out all of their strengths all of their needs. It identifies goals that the student needs to learn for the year. And it’s sort of their protection as far as even thinking about that whole idea of access to curriculum and that every student should have it. Well, some students learn differently. So maybe I have a student that is in third grade and has a learning disability, then that student may not be learning math at the third grade level, they might actually have skills that are more like a first grader. So they have goals to work on math and they’re not held to the same accountability necessarily as general ed, kind of third grade students.

Jay Clouse 23:06
So thank you for sharing all that context that really helps me ask the rest of the questions in this interview. Lisa, I see here that you started as a speech language pathologist in 1997. And Sarah, you started around 2006 you guys started SLP toolkit around 2015. So help us understand that period of time leading up to SLP toolkit and what was the moment where you said, we’ve got to do something here.

Sarah Bevier 23:29
For me personally, when I started in the field, I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to work. I ended up working with pediatrics and did the whole gamut. So I worked in homes with Birth to 3 worked in preschools in the Caribbean for a while, ended up working in school districts in California and Arizona. And so I was working as a school SLP and eventually over the years got that position as the lead SLP. And so for me, it was an evolution of figuring out kind of where I wanted to land and I know Sarah will talk about her experience too. But she has been exclusively in schools. For me, it took a while to get there. But when I got there, I was like, wow, this is the most contextualized place and relevant place for kids to be using their language, because it’s almost like the job that they go to every day. They’re there for six to seven hours a day. And they’re using communication all day long with their peers, with their teachers in order to understand what’s being taught to them in order to express their learning. So it’s a very different context than even at home. I mean, sometimes at home, we’re using very basic sort of communication. So that’s where it took me a while to get to that point where then I was able to see as the lead SLP and having been an SLP. myself, I’m like, well, there’s some issues, though, that are going on for school based slps and the challenges that we face and I’m sure you can talk a little bit more about your experience to about we see the same thing.

Yeah, like Lisa said, I’ve always only ever worked in the school setting is odd to say it’s kind of them. I don’t know how to say this. Like Maybe looked down upon to go into the schools.

That glamorous like if you’re working in a voice clinic in Nashville with country music stars, right? Or you’re you’re working in this, you know, post it, you know, acute phase of stroke patients where it’s a life and death and you feel like it’s you know, like Grey’s Anatomy or something.

Right.

Lisa Kathman 25:04
So the schools are considered a very like a job that you end up in, and not a job that you choose which we both get, you know, offended by, because we’re like, we didn’t choose this, this is such an amazing place to work. And we probably see more in this setting than the other settings because of that variety. We referenced earlier that you never know what you’re going to get. And we have to treat all students of all ages.

Sarah Bevier 25:41
Yeah. So I’m in working in the schools. And Lisa kind of talked about this early on. It’s a little bit of, you know, a kind of a Taipei individual who’s in this, this profession. And everybody, you know, prides themselves on being this expert and I never felt like like that. Once I was practicing. I saw all the holes in my learning and that connection to clinical relevance. And so I remember sitting there, you know, working on these treatment plans and trying to identify what it is I’m going to want to target with this individual or I don’t even know where to go about, you know, treating this person and, and I’ve got a caseload of 65 very different students. And so I’m not sure where to go. And I’m literally the only one on the campus and thinking, you know, where am I supposed to get this information? How did everybody else learn this but me? And so as I’m, you know, starting to kind of be willing to ask questions, is when I realized we don’t all know this thing, these things, we’re all struggling. We’ve got not only this complexity to the knowledge we have to have, but we have all of these paperwork requirements that are federally mandated, that require a lot of attention. And so I struggled with all of it. And I thought, this is where I want to be I want to work in this setting. I’ve got to figure out how to make this work and there has got to be a better way. And that led to a conversation with Lisa you know, just having these commercials About we’ve got to find more efficient ways to be able to determine student’s strengths and needs. And we need to find a better way to determine progress. And I’m really struggling with this data piece. And so, you know, that was conversations that were had, that we really were not the only ones that were having it. It’s just nobody else is talking about it.

Eric Hornung 27:18
So when did the breakthrough come that you said, Let’s solve those problems?

Sarah Bevier 27:24
I put out an all call to all of the slps in the district asking for help on a particular project. And the project was, you know, we referenced this idea of IEP s and kids who all have their individualized goals written into their plans. And so as speech therapists, we have to every grading period send out a speech report card similar to like, you know, they get in their other subject areas. And so there was this idea of making that more streamlined and I was like, Okay, great. We’ve got 125 people in the district. Let’s do a project in the school where we can get some things developed and it will benefit you know, the the greater good in our district all slps will then have access to these. So I sent out my email, and I got one response. Yes, Sarah. And so that led to us meeting up to kind of talk about it a little bit more. And so when we were having the conversation amongst ourselves, it was probably like November. So for us working in the schools, even if you think back to like, your college days or whatever, when you’re coming up on that winter break, not a lot happens, summer break, not a lot happen. So that was sort of how it went. As we were talking. We set some goals for ourselves. We’re like, we’ll reconvene after winter break and see where you are. You do this, I’ll do this. When we meet up after winter break. Nothing, nothing was done. Not one thing. And so we started really talking at that point more about it really evolved is kind of weird. We talked about we felt the shift in energy during this conversation, because we both started opening up about like dreams and possibilities and whatever came to the conclusion mutually that this is not a school project. That’s why it’s not getting done, because we are already so full in our day to days that, you know, to add something on, it was a great idea. But it’s just it’s never going to happen during our normal work hours. And why would we work outside of work for our school district? Not that we put in a lot of hours outside of work, but why would we do this and make a project and, you know, not be compensated for it. And that’s really when we decided, let’s make a business. Let’s make it happen. We just laugh because one of the early tasks that we did was we still had to have content that we produced for the app. So we need to write out material. And so we had decided we were going to meet every Friday to start at Sarah’s house. And I am very organized with my time because I have to be, especially at that time, I was working two jobs. I had my full time job in the schools. I was seeing kids on the weekends as clients in our homes, and then I was a single mom to two elementary aged kids. So I had a lot going on time had to be scheduled and manage. So we put it on the calendar and I’m like, well, but it’s on the calendar, then it happens. That’s just how our, my world works. And Sarah always talks about, you know,

Please.

Lisa Kathman 30:12
Well, I was exhausted. I mean,

Sarah Bevier 30:14
Yeah. We’re a full week and it’s a it’s a tough job that takes a lot of brain energy. And so every Friday, we just pray, like, I hope she doesn’t show up. And then she’d knock on that door. And then she showed up. And so that’s I think that’s the other benefit to having the partner right, because otherwise, in my eyes, it was just gonna be this like really great idea. But Lisa showed up every Friday, and and it really kicked that off.

Jay Clouse 30:36
So real quick before we get a little bit deeper into the business itself. You talked about all of these reporting requirements for the therapist at the school level, and the case workload sometimes 65 students per person. It sounds a lot like the stories that I hear from high school teachers also and the increased requirements from a federal reporting level, the increased number of students at the same time usually, you know, not an increase in pay. Can you help me understand? If I’m coming out of college and taking a Speech, Language Pathology job out of school? What is that salary like? So we can compare that to like a teacher salary?

Sarah Bevier 31:15
Yeah, it depends on on where you are in the nation, obviously, just like it would with the teacher. But we have to have a master’s degree to practice where a lot of educators get master’s degrees, but can come out of school with a bachelor’s degree and start teaching. And then if they go and get their master’s degree, they’ll see a boost in their salary. But still in comparison, I know, you know, just based off my own experience slps in the valley made probably anywhere from 55,000 to 65,000. You have to say, where a teacher was making somewhere in the range of probably 35,000 to 45,000.

Lisa Kathman 31:47
As a start.

Sarah Bevier 31:48
Yeah, yeah, we do tend to make a little bit higher salary. Now that’s the case where we are I have heard other areas where they’re on the same pay scale as teachers and so it just depends, I think, geographically

Eric Hornung 32:00
Before SLP toolkit before all this, if someone had to file that paperwork or someone had to manage their caseload what are like the tools of the trade?

Lisa Kathman 32:08
Manila folders?

Sarah Bevier 32:09
Yeah.

Lisa Kathman 32:10
Reams of white paper. Lots of binders, foundations. Yeah binders.

Sarah Bevier 32:16
Yeah. Lots of binders. Now, we did have IEP software. So that’s the part where we writing the treatment plan. So that’s been around for I mean, I think 20 years ago, everything was on a triplicate form. But in the last no.

Lisa Kathman 32:29
Sarah always says I practiced when the dinosaurs were around. And yes, I may allegedly have used some triplicate forms in my life.

Sarah Bevier 32:36
Right, so they they do have IEP software to help them that’s where they’re writing. The document that includes includes those goals that we have to take data on and show progress on. And then they they may have access to billing software, where we can actually bill for the services that we provide in a school setting in some states in some districts. And so there could be software but that’s even probably within the last 10 years, there was software everything is always done.

Lisa Kathman 32:43
On paper to the internet. If you think about so our districts, our city had an initiative where the district petitions residents for a certain tax, what do you even call that like not a writer.

Eric Hornung 33:09
A levy.

Lisa Kathman 33:14
They wanted extra funds to support implementation of tech requirements, because our educational standards, a lot of states either use the Common Core standards or something like a variation of it, they revamped all of those. And it really was seen to be college and career ready, you had to involve technology. And so that’s great. And that is the world that we go out into for work. But then when you’re dealing with school districts, the funding is, you know, limited. And they’re looking at funding different things. And so they don’t have extra funds laying around to do these tech initiatives. And one of the very first year it was a bond, that was the word I was looking for. It was a three year it was a bond that was passed for three years of funds and the first year was just on infrastructure. So just you know, updating all of this antiquated equipment that they had and the wiring and everything for the schools and the servers and all of that kind of stuff. And that’s the stuff that I don’t think people think about when it comes to education is that it’s almost like how government is it’s like just this huge entity that has been doing things a certain way. And when the Common Core came around, they did try to revise things and make it more modern, but then it’s like, well, to do that, and to do it successfully, we have to have, you know, things in place for that to happen. So that’s even like the IEP software that we use. A lot of the software that’s used in education is just antiquated. So it does the job. And it’s designed to do the job for many different types of professions. So whether you’re a teacher or a psychologist or speech path, or whoever’s using that software, everybody’s accessing it. So it’s not really honing in on the needs of who’s using it. And the systems to is like things are developed. A reminds me of an expense I recently had with a web plan, a webinar platform where we had been using zoom. And then for other purposes were like, let’s try go to webinar for a little bit just to see if we could get more data for our workflows and automation and things for emailing people that attended webinars. And it was just an older system. And I’m like, it feels like it was developed and that they’ve tried to modernize it. But it’s not really meeting my needs, like zoom did and that’s how I feel like within our working in the schools, we get a lot of that software. It’s just older software that they try to update to meet current needs, but it feels old and it feels a little clunky, and not super user friendly.

Eric Hornung 35:37
Okay, so here’s the the big crescendo question. What is SLP toolkit?

Sarah Bevier 35:44
So really, what we set out to do is create software that was for our people. So we know what it’s like to work in the trenches. Oftentimes you’re working with students in groups, and so you have to have something that makes sense To use in real time, while you have, you know, these adorable little faces in front of you, or maybe scruffy teenage faces, but you have kids in front of you, you have people needing things from you all the time you have all of these requirements. But I need something that manages me and all of those things that I do in a paper form, which we hate paper. I mean, I even hate going to my mailbox, because I’m like, What am I going to do with all this paper? It all goes into recycling anyways. And so we really looked with our software to think about for our role, how can we digitize and revolutionize the way that we are doing our jobs, and I feel like we’ve done a darn good job of the product that we have.

It’s all it’s all about the data and assessment piece. And so, you know, in order to determine whether or not these students are making progress, we have to be tracking that. So we have to have the session data. So that means I pull these students in, I have these goals that I’m targeting, and then I’m taking data on that in real time. But then we also have to have that data were reporting quarterly or during their grading periods to show that progress? And that’s like what Medicaid billing wants to see. And that’s what the federal government wants to see is, are they truly making gains on these goals they have, they typically have a year’s time to be able to kind of master that that skill. And so the idea was, we wanted to provide a technology, I mean, a technical way to do the things we’ve always done on paper. And so that we could do things as as simple as average the data over time have graphs. I mean, because if you think we’re doing all of this on pen and paper, with our little plus and minuses, and then I have to count them and I have to calculate the average and that I’d have to physically go plot that on a graph. And so there was that component to it, where we knew that there there would be an easier way to be able to gather all that data in one place. But then once you know, even those ideas led us to cool, I’m glad that we’ve got this software that enables us to have some ease there. But I still don’t even know how I’m coming up with the goals all the time that I getting these students. And so there’s there needs to be a better way to quickly assess the students so that I can get this comprehensive picture of their strengths and needs. And so we developed these these informal screeners in the app. And so I can administer it very quickly, I can get this data that shows me, here’s where the students are showing, you know, areas of strength, and here’s the areas that they’re really struggling with. So that that can help guide the goals that I’m going to develop for that student.

And so the idea is that we are just removing the paperwork, we’re digitizing it. And the thing that we haven’t really touched upon yet, too, is that school districts are a lot under a lot of pressure, and often encounter lawsuits. And so if you think about people writing things down in, you know, our chicken scratch handwriting and isn’t accessible, and how do I share it? And what if this happened five years ago, and now I’m in a lawsuit today, really the idea is to help streamline access to the data, but then in essence, what we’re doing to is people are actually using their data. So it’s not just something that I have to do because I have to and it’s If somebody needs it, it’s well, here it is in front of me, I now can use it to make really awesome decisions for the students that I’m working with. So their outcomes become better. And then I feel more confident in the process too. Because going back to what Sarah said about like, half the time, we don’t we didn’t have a great way of even determining what a student’s needs were to write a great treatment plan. So we’re sitting in a meeting with parents and teachers and doing these recommendations for students. And somebody asked the dreaded question, why, why did you pick these goals? I mean, it was a lot of like, Oh, well, you know, vocab everybody needs to work on vocabulary. vocabulary is a really important goal. Versus now we have these built in screeners that we’ve helped to develop that really show a strengths and needs profile. So we can say, this is what the students doing well, at this is where the needs are. This is how we can support them. This is why we want to support it. This is how it connects into what they’re doing in the classroom and it just makes you feel like whether you’ve been doing it 20 years, or one year, I know what I’m doing, I feel confident, I feel like I can kind of fill those experts shoes that people are expecting me to walk in.

Jay Clouse 40:10
Let me repeat this back to make sure I’m understanding because this also sounds similar to what I hear from high school teachers, you need to report on progress. But those goals are defined for you on a case by case basis. And you have to even show your own way of here’s how I know the student is making progress. And do you do that qualitatively and quantitatively.

Lisa Kathman 40:32
So goals have to be written in a measurable way. So that’s got to have some sort of quantifiable way that can be replicated. And so that’s what gets tricky, too. If it’s something we had kind of talked about the scope of what speech therapists work on. And so in the schools, a lot of goals centered around articulation, so a student will say wabbit instead of rabbit. And so you’re having them learn the R sound and use it in conversation. That’s a very quantifiable that’s either I hear a W or I hear an R. It’s a plus or a minus. I I get a great percentage on that. But what about like, you know, even what I referenced before vocabulary, I can’t write a goal that says student will improve vocabulary. Because what is the baseline for that? How do I know how much vocabulary they have now? And where do I want them to be by the end of the year because I have to be able to show that that student has moved and met this goal that is part of our requirements under that federal law, IDEA. And so that’s part of when you’re writing goals, you have to make sure that they are measurable. And so you have to have data to help you get there.

Jay Clouse 41:30
And what you’re saying is now with SLP toolkit, you guys have created sort of a set of standards and a, a way of helping people assess in real time giving them a starting point, to have quantitative goals based on the progress our students are making.

Sarah Bevier 41:44
Yeah, the thing in our field that is pretty typical is if any SLP in the United States were to get a student refer to them for an assessment so to help determine, do they have a speech and language or communication impairment are they eligible? For services through the school, every SLP in the country has this sort of standardized process to do that. So whether it was me or Sarah, or somebody in Texas or somebody in Alaska, we have these core standardized assessments we use, we usually have them speak in conversation and listen to that and look for trends and patterns. And we write up this report, we’re really clear on what it means to be eligible. What is very variable is the way that we write our treatment plans. So everybody has to use that same format that the IEP is composed of. So it has information like demographics, it has a section for medical information, it has a section for present levels, which means what are their strengths? What are their needs, across academic, behavioral, social communication, academic areas, there’s a section for service time there’s a section for goal writing. So all of that the sections will be the same for every SLP in the country, because those IEP components are What are mandated by federal law? What is not systemized? and streamlined is how as an SLP, do I get the information I need in order to fill in that template. And so that’s really what SLP toolkit was designed to do, as it gives you a way to standardize that process where in the past, even really common in a school setting is we’ll have kids transfer in. So say it’s October, and I have a kid that transferred in on October 1, and I find out their IEP is due October 6. And I’m like, awesome. By law, I have to write them a new treatment plan. I have five days to figure out how this kid ticks. And immediately what slps used to say in the past is, Well, I better put them in evaluation, because I need to give some standardized tests and I need to, you know, do all of those things I do during evaluation, how could I possibly write a treatment plan without them, you know, ever evaluated them? So what SLP toolkit does is it gives them a way to assess for their current levels. They’re not evaluating For in terms of eligibility, but it gives them the tools they need to be like, no problem. I’ll pull them in. I’ll give them one of the assessments, I’ll use the tests that are built in for getting baselines on goals. There’s even a goal bank in SLP toolkit that helps write measurable goals. So it just gives them a system where I think that’s half the battle in anything we do in life, whether it be as an SLP in a school setting, or even, you know, our day to day jobs. It’s difficult to do things if you’re always just kind of going by the seat of your pants and everything that you do. It only lasts so long that way.

Eric Hornung 44:34
I might have missed the senior guys background. But Did either of you guys get undergrads in like computer science?

Sarah Bevier 44:40
No.

Lisa Kathman 44:43
And wait, wait, wait, do we have more on this? No.

Eric Hornung 44:49
So how did you go about actually developing the software feels like a lot of people have app ideas, but then they don’t follow through.

Sarah Bevier 44:56
I took a two week coding class. That’d be amazing. I was like, I took this low class. And I just whip this out now, we hired developers. And even that was such a process. I mean, again, we have no background in any of this. Now, I love technology. He I’m a great user of technology. But you know, trying to figure out what this was going to look like even even the idea of are we doing an iOS app? Is this going to be web based? You know, what, what does this look like? And so after we make the kind of the decision, and we have some direction to go, you know, I’m calling website developers. That’s where your google it was the key terms. Yeah, website developer, right. I’m looking for a website developer. And so I’m calling these companies I’m explaining to them what I need. For this software. We’ve got this really cool idea. And the guy would be like, I’m a I build websites, the landing page. It’s like a marketing site. Like you need a software engineer, you know, here. Yeah. So I’m like, Oh, cool. Can you give me some names? And I mean, but even that basic knowledge we didn’t have so we clearly had to do a lot of research and start really getting out there and talking to different people and then ended up finding our engineers who helped to build the program.

Eric Hornung 46:02
And then how big is your team now? And what’s that kind of makeup?

Lisa Kathman 46:06
Not big enough?

Sarah Bevier 46:06
Yeah, well, it depends. It, we probably could use a couple more people. But ideally, I will keep it as small as possible. So for a long time, it was just Lisa and I. And then we had contracted out development. And so we had a team of one engineer who was building the application. He also had a partner who was more of like the strategic business side of things. And they were really instrumental in a lot of the business decisions we made in the technology. And so then they’ve since come on, and work with us, the business side of the team is as more of our advisor and then the engineer is now working with us full time on projects, and is kind of what would be a CTO if we had a bigger team. And then we do have a contracted developer. Now that we’ve added just this year, we have one employee who’s more of kind of a glorified administrative assistant, but it’s really handling a lot of the stuff that Lisa and I were doing on a daily basis. Then we have a consultant for sales and a consultant for marketing

Lisa Kathman 47:04
and customer service we have Oh, yeah. So we actually use graduate students in our field, because we feel like that has been one of our important things that we wanted for our business was people that relate to what we do. And so even all of our communication, whether it be marketing, or whatever it is, it’s like we are you. We know you. And so our customer service reps that we have hired have been grad students that are learning about the field and will be slps themselves. But it’s been really cool to have that level of support there, too.

Sarah Bevier 47:34
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 47:35
And you guys are bootstrapped at this point, right.

Sarah Bevier 47:38
Yeah. So So we, Lisa and I put literally everything we had into getting this kicked off and building the app. And then about two years, well, about a year after we launched the application, then the developers did do sweat equity for a small percentage of the company. And so that so we do have a little bit of investment in terms of sweat equity, but yeah, we’ve never raised any funding.

Eric Hornung 48:00
What was that like emotionally putting literally everything you have into some developers who you got referred to through website developers.

Sarah Bevier 48:08
terrifying. You know, and I think that’s what that’s released and I are very similar is, are not similar. But we had agreed very early on, like, we’re doing this, we’re going full force into this. And what does that look like? Oh, I’ve got credit cards, and I have a life insurance policy that I can take from, and my husband can borrow from his 401 K. And you know, Lisa moves in with her parents. And you know, so we’re making all of these like, Okay, how are we going to pull up this money? And where’s it going to come from? And so that was kind of the first step is we’ve got to make sure we have the money before we even go and start like, you know, trying to get this software built? Yeah, we had. So we were all in like, we knew no matter what we were going to do this,

Lisa Kathman 48:45
But there was a decision to be all into. So there is one thing where it’s like, you have this idea. And then you’re looking for developers, but then you get it like we ended up landing on developers that gave us a set price for a minimal viable product and so We knew the exact amount of money we had to have. And then it became at that point like, it’s, it’s, we’ve got to do it. So like you said, I was like I have zero cash, I have credit that I am willing to max out as many cards as I have. And so at that point, it was really kind of your internal dialogue of, well, this could really suck. I don’t think it’s going to I think it’s going to be awesome, but it could really suck. And what would be the worst case scenario, if everything just tanked? I’m like, I filed bankruptcy. And I just go back to being an SLP, you know, full time. So is that really the worst thing that could happen in my life? And so it was, it was terrifying. It was scary because especially when you do those charges, and you pull out that money and you’re actually giving it but we had somebody say to once with the whole idea of investment, it’s like, it’s fascinating that you want other people to invest their money into something that you haven’t put any money into. So you kind of have to be that you know that you believe in your idea to that you are willing to put some of your own stuff behind it?

Jay Clouse 50:04
When did you get your first customer or user?

Sarah Bevier 50:10
We actually do have we printed out the receipt. And so this is, and I don’t know if we’ve even said this yet. But I mean, maybe it’s just assumed that it’s a subscription based software. And so we have, you can either pay monthly, or you can pay annually. And so we launched the software on January 15 2016. And a week later, actually, the funny part is, is we had used stripe to take payment on the back end. And we didn’t even have the login information, because the developer set it up. So I don’t even think we would have known we just got an email. And so the developer calls and he goes, you do just see you saw that you just got your first payment right. And I go No, where do we see that? Show us this, but it was about what one week?

Lisa Kathman 50:50
Yeah, I don’t I don’t even think a week is within Yeah, it was sometime within that first week. And we were ecstatic.

Sarah Bevier 50:55
Right, right. So we have a free version. They can they can sign up and use the product for as long as they want, but with only up to five students. And so as we mentioned earlier, typically an SLP has a caseload of 65. But we really wanted to give access to those tests and tools and resources that we had created. And so you know, it actually ended up being a really amazing thing because we’re able to provide that service. And it was an it’s an easy signup is showing up, put credit card in and you get access to it for free. And so we were getting signups and continue to this day, we have, you know, quite a huge amount of people using the free version. But to get that first paid one yeah, in about a week’s time was pretty cool.

Jay Clouse 51:34
Is the, is the customer, typically the therapists themselves out of school, or does the district pay for this?

Sarah Bevier 51:41
Good question. I think because we were school based slps. The initial goal was to go b2c. So we wanted to provide something and make it affordable for an individual therapist to be able to pay for this themselves. We also experienced not getting funding from special ed to buy resources

Lisa Kathman 51:57
or education. We live in a state of Arizona. I think we’re funded 48 out of the 50 states.

Sarah Bevier 52:03
Yeah.

Lisa Kathman 52:03
So we just did not expect people to provide materials for us. We have since found out that that is not the case for other districts, and especially ones that have strong unions, where it’s like, oh, no, you will give me and I’m like, Okay. I didn’t know it work like that. It’s pretty cool.

Sarah Bevier 52:17
Yeah, yeah. So there is somebody there, but we just we were really wanting to make sure that, again, it was the pricing and making it affordable. And we knew what the salary range was, and how much of our own money we spent on materials. And so what ended up happening though, is as we’re getting more and more individual therapists using this, they’re taking it to their district, and they’re saying, Hey, can you buy this form everybody needs and so now the district’s coming to us? And so we do have quite a lot of organizations that have since purchased the program, which is ideal. We don’t want individuals

Lisa Kathman 52:45
really have any outbound sales for districts.

Sarah Bevier 52:47
Yeah, yeah. So it ended up being kind of a cool process to have them coming to us, and then closing that deal. And so now we’re trying to decide whether or not we move more b2b. Clearly one, we want them to pay for it, not the individual SLP out of their pocket, but to the lifetime value and everything else is just better with an organization.

Lisa Kathman 53:05
We want them to come to us they want us to, we want them to refer our products,

Eric Hornung 53:09
How many users are on the platform now, four years later, four and a half years later,

Sarah Bevier 53:13
About 28,000 slps. I have have signed up to use the app.

Lisa Kathman 53:19
And so we have in our field, just to give you some basic numbers, our overall representation in the United States is about 172,000 speech therapists and of those about 90,000 work in schools. So we make up the majority of our constituency in our national organization.

Eric Hornung 53:37
So you have 28,000 paying customers of the 90,000 potential?

Sarah Bevier 53:41
No not paying and so that they can, you know, use the app like I said, for as long as they want with up to five students. I mean, yeah, with up to five students, and so that 28,000 people have signed up for the free version, and are using the app and about what 5500 now have paid for as subscription. And so our goal was, you know, 10, we want to 10%. So our goal, you know, our first big milestone will be when we hit 9,000 paying subscribers.

Eric Hornung 54:09
After this podcast, right?

Sarah Bevier 54:10
Yes, that’s right. All speech therapists listening to this podcast.

Jay Clouse 54:14
We are the number one speech therapists guys out there. How what were there any big milestones or events that impacted that growth curve? You know, you got your first paid customer in 2016. I imagine that a lot of these customers have been closer to today. So what what has moved the needle for you guys.

Lisa Kathman 54:34
One of the huge things is that we in January of 2017, we did a an online conference that we didn’t really know what it was going to be. We just knew it was free. We were going to offer some courses. Again, to give you a little back story. We do get conferences offered through our national organization, but they tend to be very research heavy. So you have PhDs getting in front of an audience and sharing their research, but you never really walked away with a lot have practical information that you could implement. So we’re like, let’s do that. Who knows the conferences are expensive.

Sarah Bevier 55:06
Yes, they’re suing one of us for free.

Lisa Kathman 55:08
And so Sarah is very charming. And she actually was able to convince some of our influencers in our field that these are the slps that are bloggers and they sell materials on Teachers Pay Teachers and have a large following. But we presented we have we organized this conference with another speech therapist who has a business, and we got six of these influencers to also agree to present for free, and we didn’t know who would sign up it. Would anybody even hear about it in that very first conference we had about 12,000 be around. Yeah, I was gonna say around 10 so close, but 10 we were like, oh my gosh. So we are about you in about two weeks. just under two weeks, we’ll be our eighth time giving this conference and we’re at about 60,000.

Sarah Bevier 55:55
About 60,000

Lisa Kathman 55:56
That attend this.

Sarah Bevier 55:58
Yeah,

Lisa Kathman 55:58
And it’s we still offer it for free.

Sarah Bevier 55:59
Yeah. And I think that’s the issue is I mean, we had a couple of, I guess, barriers, you would call them one, no marketing budget and no sales team, no budget, no budget area. And so to get this out, there is one thing, but then also, you know, this is a relatively new kind of concept that we didn’t realize was going to take as much education as it did you know, it, we’re telling these slps kind of a, maybe a different way to do things, and they’ve been doing it before. And so there, there needs to be this, you know, our marketing website can only tell them so much they need to see this, you know, and so that was one of the main reasons without one, maybe this will help us grow, you know, get eyeballs on the product, but to gives us more of an ability to, like, demo it in a very educational way that’s still providing information to these people. And it just took off, kind of after that. And so I think that was our big first huge

Lisa Kathman 56:50
influx of

Sarah Bevier 56:51
Yeah, but we’ve always I mean, again, this is, this is built because we needed it. We obviously know where our audience lives. So from day one, you know, we’ve been very active in our Facebook groups, you know where there’s Facebook groups that have 50,000 school based slps in it, you know, we started on Instagram and doing Facebook ourselves and really building that community. And so everything was very organic and and just very word of mouth.

Eric Hornung 57:16
Some often on Upside, we have this implicit understanding of what a founder wants, because they’ve taken venture capital monies. So they’ve signed up for the race to a billion dollars. What do you guys want out of this?

Sarah Bevier 57:31
It was never about the revenue. I mean, revenue is great. And obviously, you know, we’re not going to turn away dollars in our bank account, but it really always has been about bettering our profession. And I know that sounds we always kind of joke we’re always like, it’s for the children. And we do this like little hand motion. We’re like, you know, it’s for the children. But it really is. It’s like, you know, this is such a noble profession, you know, people that education in general, teachers, therapists that are working with kids I mean, it is a an underserved, overwhelming kind of position that just doesn’t get the supports that it needs to be successful. And yet we always make do with what we have. We love the children that we work with. For us personally, it was about if we can get this tool in the hands, we believe in this, you know, we’re not trying to sell this in something we don’t believe we believe that this will help our peers. And we believe that that in turn, will help the children that they work with. So even if I you know, I’m not good at math, but if we took like if we had our goal of even that first goal is 9000 slps that are using it. But if they have an average of 65 students on their caseload, that’s over a half a million students that are being impacted by our software. And that’s just like a teeny, tiny, that 9000 number. And so it’s really about the reach. We knew that we loved what we did working with students in our role of school based slps. But it came a point where we missed that and we still wish we could be in volved in that, but our reach right now through this software is much greater than what we could do as individuals on a school campus.

Yeah.

Jay Clouse 59:09
Do you have any regrets for not taking investment in the beginning or any plans to see get out now?

Sarah Bevier 59:14
No, I’ll never say never, you know, I could see that where there would be some benefits of taking an investor, probably more than anything for that strategic component of it. You know, as we’re continuing to learn and grow and develop this business, you know, clearly, there’s going to be some we’re always actively seeking for people to help strategize with us. And so maybe a strategic partner or something like that, but no, no regrets. I’m not taking the funding. so grateful we bootstrapped this had somebody offered us money in those initial days, we would have taken it in a heartbeat, because it was so scary and it was so stressful. I honestly can say I don’t think we would have accomplished what we have over the last few years without us just doing that grind. And figuring this out and starting absolutely in debt and working our way out on our own. And having that control and and all of that. So now I’m really grateful that we didn’t initially and and as far as taking investors investment in the future, again, we don’t need it. We’ve been profitable since year two and and have been able to invest our own money back into the company and keep things growing and moving. So I don’t really see maybe why to do that unless we we start to kind of branch out and we have talked about that, you know, are we going to start including special education teachers, and there’s occupational therapists and physical therapists working in the school setting, and they’re calling us and asking for this kind of software for themselves. And so you know, to grow and expand into other markets, maybe but as long as we can continue to have the money to invest in it ourselves, we probably will.

Jay Clouse 1:00:45
This is awesome. learn so much. Such an awesome story. If people want to learn more about you guys or the work you’re doing at SLP toolkit, where should they go?

Lisa Kathman 1:00:53
Our website is SLPtoolkit.com. So pretty straightforward there. But I think also we show a lot of our personality on our social media platforms, especially Instagram, that has been from the beginning, I feel like one of our strengths in not only knowing our market as work individuals and knowing the job that they do, but we’ve really garnered a following of people that that are champions and like we show goofy sides of ourselves and real sides of ourselves. And so it’s always as serious as it’s always a treat.

Sarah Bevier 1:01:24
Yes.

Lisa Kathman 1:01:24
Follow us on Instagram.

Jay Clouse 1:01:30
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Alright, Eric, we just spoke with Lisa and Sarah of SLP toolkit. Where do you want to begin our discussion of this bootstrap company today?

Eric Hornung 1:02:19
When I was in grade school, we had the mobile unit. And I knew you went out there a couple times in your grade school history to get kind of checked out. And you had to say you’re ours, and you had to go through this thing and they do an assessment. And then if you were fine, you never went back to the mobile unit. That is the entire extent of my understanding of what an SLP is, or was before this interview,

Jay Clouse 1:02:46
same shockingly little context or information about this role other than I just remember when I first went to college, and I was talking to a lot of the girls I was graduating with what they’re going to do in college, a lot of them said speech language pathologist as I go, okay, but I just never knew what that was so cool to get a lot more context on that role. And as expected, it does sound like it is a highly challenging and intense role to do that within school systems and has become even more burdensome over the years, from a standpoint of expectations, reporting, everything that we’ve seen from the level of teachers also appears to apply to speech language pathologists.

Eric Hornung 1:03:31
It seems like it’s kind of a double edged sword there, right, the job is difficult, challenging, and there’s all these requirements and reports they have to file and the list goes on and on and on, but you also have a federally protected job, which pays fine, it’s not the highest paying job of all time at 55 to 65 starting salary with the need for a Master’s, but there’s kind of this once you’re in, you can kind of be there for a while. thing with is nice as long as at least as far as I know, maybe there is a way to remove people. But

Jay Clouse 1:04:06
I really can’t. I mean, the standout thing of this interview for me to just cut to the chase, I really can’t overstate how impressive it is to me that these two women with no experience in business or startups or products, you know, software, any of that jumped in when in both feet first, both of them put their entire savings on the line, but their credit on the line. We’re calling people to help them develop a website when they needed an app, like figured it all out, and we’re profitable since year two like that is incredibly impressive to me that people do that. Like I know we talked to founders on this show all the time. And that’s not a totally different story than some founders but this is just not something that was within their realm of experience whatsoever.

Eric Hornung 1:04:55
It is a little different though, because with a lot of the founders we talked to on the show. Yes, maybe they put their entire life savings into developing the MVP and getting this thing up and running. But usually, within the first 18 months or so they bring on they join an accelerator or they find someone to share the downside risk with in this scenario, there is no one to share the downside risk. She said, specifically, I figured what’s the worst that happens? I go bankrupt. I was like, wow, you worked for 15, 20 years. And you’re just like, yeah, we’ll just restart. And Lisa moved in with her mom, they said

Jay Clouse 1:05:31
And Lisa moved in with her mom, they said to do this, like, more than a decade into her own career. And you know, what, what also struck me about Lisa and Sarah, in terms of their humility, if someone did have the same story, as Lisa and Sarah, a lot of times, that’s like the narrative that they tell you right off the bat, they they kind of tell their hero’s journey of here’s what I did. Here’s a risk that I took. And here’s how Here is how it paid off. They wouldn’t have even brought any of that up if we didn’t ask if we didn’t ask them. How are you funding this? How did this happen? We wouldn’t have known that. They put all their savings into it. But they put all their credit into it, that Lisa moved in with her mom, that wasn’t part of the story. They’re trying to tell their focus totally on the company, the tool and the people that they’re helping.

Eric Hornung 1:06:15
And, Jay, you know that through this podcast, I’ve learned a lot about venture capital, you’ve learned a lot about venture capital. One of the things that venture capital does not do well currently, is fun businesses like this, because this business is never going to be a billion dollar business. It’s just not the market isn’t big enough. The price point isn’t high enough. The size of the potential like SLP community isn’t big enough without expanding into 18 additional products and kind of becoming a product conglomeration in a tech space. This just isn’t a venture bankable, scalable company, but at the same time, it can become a great business and already is profitable since.

Jay Clouse 1:06:57
Year two, they said they had 5,500 paid customers and a $216 subscription per year. That’s, you know, close to $1.2 million Arr, which is a nice little business for a bootstrap company and just a couple of employees. You know, when they when they talked about their customer being the speech language pathologist, my first thought was, man, I know that that’s got to be a tough market because they probably don’t have any budget to buy this under their school. And to buy it as an individual. Like I’ve heard of some startups trying to sell the teachers before and expecting a teacher to pay out of pocket. there’s just not a lot of margin there. Like these teachers aren’t trying to bring on software tools to help them with this job that they already feel like isn’t paying them enough. But you know, 5500 paid slps out of about 28,000 accounts and a total of 172,000 Then like there’s a lot of room to grow and build there.

Eric Hornung 1:08:03
And 90,000 work in schools are almost at 10% penetration of a market without really doing anything on the acquisition side outside of that online conference, which I love. They just got 10,000 key measure, we just got 10,000 to 12,000 people signed up for a conference that we just threw out there.

Jay Clouse 1:08:18
I love businesses like this that are niche, and to your point, not necessarily the venture, bankable business that investors are looking for. But for the same reason, there’s a lot of opportunity there because people aren’t looking at that as this giant market to get a bunch of funding and build a software tool. They came in, they knew their customer, they’re the problem, they build a solution for it. They’re probably one of just a small number of tools in the space if they even have competitors in this space. And because that whole group is so in need and so tightly knit, it’s grown pretty quickly for them over the last five years.

Eric Hornung 1:08:54
Yeah, and I think you can take a lot of this in the context when you think about they made a kind of a joke about it, but They did the, it’s for the children mission and vision. And at the beginning, it sounds a little catchy or like, kind of tongue in cheek. But then when they started diving into what that actually means and how they’ve impacted directly 500,000 students with the software, that seemed to be the thing that really resonated and meant something to them. And if they can build a profitable business while impacting students who need help, and allow the slps to spend more time to actually build the relationships and do the guidance, counseling and all of the things that come with this job, rather than the paperwork, I think that’s that that’s the like, that’s why they’re doing this.

Jay Clouse 1:09:35
You know, we haven’t brought up our standard deal memo questions in a while. But just to remind ourselves, you know, how committed as a founder, committed enough that they put all of their life savings into it? What are the founders chances of success in this business and in life, I bet pretty good based on the progress of the business. Why has this founder chosen this business? That was pretty apparent to even putting aside the What does winning look like in terms of revenue my return because they haven’t taken investment and don’t want my money. I think that this is a great business, a great founding team. Really great story. I’m glad we got here on the show.

Eric Hornung 1:10:11
Seems like a if they did need funding for growth, or if they wanted to accelerate a little bit, this is one of those businesses that fits so nicely with the interviews we’ve done with Clearbanc, even though they tend to focus more on e commerce, and SAS or with Tyler Trinkets is earnest capital and the shared earnings agreement that he set up that has the ownership profit component. I think that this is like one of those businesses where it’s a fantastic business, it’s growing, it’s going to keep on growing. It’s just not going to hit a billion dollars. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Jay Clouse 1:10:42
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode. You can tweet at us @upsideFM or send us an email hello@upside.fm we love stories like this. We love founding teams like this. So if anyone comes to mind, email us hello@upside.fm. Otherwise, we’ll talk to you next week. That’s all for this week. Thanks for listening. We’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s guest. So shoot us an email at hello@upside.fm or find us on Twitter @upsideFM. We’ll be back here next week at the same time talking to another founder and our quest to find upside outside of Silicon Valley. If you or someone you know would make a good guest for our show, please email us or find us on Twitter and let us know. And if you love our show, please leave us a review on iTunes. That goes a long way in helping us spread the word and continue to help bring high quality guests to the show. Eric and I decided there were a couple things we wanted to share with you at the end of the podcast. And so here we go. Eric Hornung and Jay Clouse are the founding parties have the upside podcast. At the time of this recording? We do not own equity or other financial interest in the companies which appear on this show. All opinions expressed by podcast participants are solely their own opinion and do not reflect the opinions of Duffin Phelps LLC and its affiliates on your collective LLC and its affiliates or any entity which employ us. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. We have not considered your specific financial situation nor provided any investment advice on this show. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.

Interview begins: 8:54
Debrief: 1:02:09

SLP Toolkit™ is a web-based app with built in assessments and tools that give a school-based Speech Language Pathologist the confidence s/he needs to take charge of her busy caseload. The software is designed to help SLPs collect data to determine communication strengths and needs, as well as monitor progress over time.

Features include built-in present level assessments, progress monitoring tools, daily data, strategies for teachers/parents, a therapy scheduler, and a customizable goal bank.

Lisa Kathman and Sarah Bevier are former Speech Language Pathologists who have bootstrapped the company.

SLP Toolkit was founded in 2015 and is based in Phoenix, Arizona.

Know more about Lisa Kathman and Sarah Bevier: https://www.slptoolkit.com/about/
Website: https://www.slptoolkit.com/

Key Points:

  • Speech-language pathologist 11:49
  • Who needs a SLP? 17:23
  • Coming up with the SLP toolkit 23:29
  • What is the SLP toolkit 35:37


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