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From impromptu business start, entrepreneur builds practice around speech, feeding therapy – SiouxFalls.Business

Oct. 18, 2022

This week’s Up-and-Comer is Vanessa Anderson-Smith, a speech-language pathologist and the CEO at Anderson-Smith Therapy Institute.

Name: Vanessa Anderson-Smith

Age: 36

Hometown: Canton

What brought you to Sioux Falls?

I attended Augustana University for my undergraduate education. I loved the idea of a small college in a larger city. Sioux Falls has always had so much to offer from entertainment, restaurants, and there is always something to be involved in!

What keeps you in Sioux Falls?

Sioux Falls gives a small-town feel but with bigger-city amenities. There’s always a new restaurant or brewery to visit, and it seems like there is a new concert announcement happening every week. From family/household needs to our growing business demands, finding who or what you need is easy as everyone is well connected.

What made you decide to start a business, and what has your experience with it been like?

I always say, “This was never the plan!” My private practice was very much accidental and something that snowballed quicker than I could have ever imagined. In 2013, I was working for a national contract company in skilled nursing facilities in the area and was very happy with my job. However, the industry and company I worked for began changing very quickly, so I made a split-second decision to quit my “full-time steady” job with benefits and get back to working with the population I always loved: birth through age 5.

My goal of being a speech-language pathologist was simple: Help babies learn to eat and talk. So that’s what I decided to do. In 2013, I began working in a school district part time and saw children privately and through the state’s early intervention program part time. Before I knew it, word got around about the work I was doing, and the rest is history. The practice I stumbled into with my office being in my kitchen has turned into a bustling private practice with two locations and 20 employees. The demand has never gone down, only exponentially grown.

I believe it’s my personal responsibility to ensure that no child who needs services goes without. To meet the local need, we began offering occupational therapy services and reading/dyslexia tutoring as well as speech and feeding therapy. We offer in-person and teletherapy services, with families driving up to six hours one way for our specialized services.

How did you get connected to your industry?

My industry is very small, even at a national level. Being the millennial I am, once I discovered Facebook groups for private-practice owners and speech-language pathologists, I felt like I found my tribe! My activity on social media caught the eye of a company I trained with, TalkTools, and they recognized my passion for speech and feeding therapy. I am now an instructor of TalkTools and have created webinars and courses that I teach to other SLPs all over the world. I have also presented at various dental associations, state conventions and associations, and other continuing education platforms.

Describe your business in three words.

Connections. Integrity. Expertise.

What is something someone might be surprised to learn about you?

I am an identical twin! My sister is used to being approached by families in the grocery store thinking it is me, and I am used to people thinking I am the banker in Canton. Don’t fear, our days of playing pranks on co-workers, friends and even husbands are behind us!

What’s your favorite way to give back to your community?

ASTI is a proud sponsor of various local organizations such as New Directions Down Syndrome Association and the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. I serve on the South Dakota Speech Language and Hearing Association board, where I can advocate for fellow SLPs and audiologists. We love to foster continued growth in our industry by welcoming in local college and graduate students for observations and internships.

What’s one business you’d like to see in Sioux Falls that isn’t here now?

Trader Joe’s, of course!

If you had $1 million to start another business, what kind of business would it be?

I joke that if I ever get bored and stop growing my practice, I will start a stand-alone 3D/4D ultrasound clinic. I know soon-to-be moms and families would enjoy getting to see a closer glimpse at their baby. I have a 4-year-old and a 4-month-old and would have loved some extra ultrasounds to see my babies. Pregnancy can feel long and boring at times, but there was nothing more exciting than getting a peek of our baby during those appointments!

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