I’m excited to introduce Cindy Trice, DVM. She is the founder of Relief Rover (reliefrover.com), a service that connects veterinary practices with relief veterinarians. She lives with her husband, Jimmy, their two dogs (Eddie and Richie), and their cat Sabina in Florida. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, paddle boarding, scuba diving, and running. Read about her unique entry into veterinary medicine and how she managed to start her own business as a relief veterinarian. We have no financial relationship.
1. Please introduce yourself! Give us a little of your background and how you got started in veterinary medicine.
I was not the little kid that always wanted to be a vet. Our home was always full of dogs and cats but having a career as a veterinarian never crossed my mind until I was in my mid twenties. My undergraduate degree was in Mass Communications and I spent about 6 years after graduation working in corporate video production in New York City and various freelance production gigs in San Francisco. I started to realize that this world was not for me and I reached out to one of my closest childhood friends for advice. She asked me to think about what I would do if I could do anything and I answered that I would study the relationship between animals and people. Honestly, I’m not even sure what I meant. She advised that I go out and get a job working with animals, no matter what it was and start there. It seemed like sage advice, and I’ve always been a spontaneous person, so the next day I pulled out the want ads in the paper – (that was how you did it at the time) – and found a job as a receptionist at a pet hospital. When I was being interviewed the vet asked me why I would want to go from a career as an associate producer to a receptionist and I told him because I wanted to be a vet. That’s literally the first time it ever occurred to me. From that point on I was hooked. I worked for him and volunteered at wildlife organizations for the next 3 and 1/2 years while I took all the science classes that I had so successfully avoided in my undergraduate years. Then I started UC Davis vet school in 2000.
2. Did you feel as though your veterinary education prepared you well for entrepreneurship? Why or why not?
Yes. But not in a direct way. There were not many business classes for vet students that I was aware of when I was in vet school. And honestly, even if there were, I’m not sure I would have taken them since I was so focused on learning to be a good doctor and at the time I didn’t associate business with that goal. However, before vet school started I was part of a group of entering vet students who participated in a leadership program and I learned some useful skills there. And vet school teaches you to problem solve even when you don’t have the direct answer. You learn to use what you do know about certain situations and extrapolate that to other scenarios. As veterinarians, we do this all the time since we are constantly faced with situations we’ve never seen before and sometimes we have to extrapolate what we know about one species to apply that to another species. This type of problem solving mind is useful when starting a business.
3. What kind of job(s) did you have in veterinary medicine prior to your current business?
I’ve been a receptionist, assistant, intern, and an associate but have spent the majority of my career as a relief vet. I’m still a relief vet.
4. Describe the events and/or the moment you realized you wanted to start your own business.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to start my own business. My father is an entrepreneur and when I was a kid, he and I were always coming up with some invention that we were going to create and sell. So he molded me into having that mindset from an early age. And in a way, I’ve spent the majority of my career as my own business. For example, after about 4 years of being an employee at the corporate video production company, I wanted to work for myself so I became a freelance associate producer. I loved working for myself, jumping in with a team to get a project done for a few weeks or months and then moving onto the next project. I love doing the same thing in veterinary medicine as a relief vet. But I realized that I wanted to make a bigger impact on the profession than I could do as a single individual, and so the idea of Relief Rover was born.
5. What has been the best part of being an entrepreneur in veterinary medicine?
Opening up my world to meet so many amazing people within our profession. By working on a project like this, I’ve been introduced to many people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, vets and professionals who support the veterinarians. Having this more bird’s eye view has made me love this special profession even more than I already did.
6. What has been the worst part?
The insecurity and anxiety that comes along with thinking I’ve gotten myself in over my head, or that everyone will think this is a silly idea. Sometimes having that “imposter syndrome” that we all hear so much about.
7. Are there any changes you hope to make within the veterinary profession?
Yes. I feel the relief or locum niche is underutilized and underserved. I hope to bring the relief niche out of the shadows of veterinary medicine and highlight its importance as a vital tool for overall professional wellness. I’m creating resources to help practices utilize relief vet services more productively and relief vets to have more successful and sustainable businesses.
8. If you have a significant other/spouse, what role did they play in your pursuit of entrepreneurship?
My husband has been so supportive through this whole journey. I met him during vet school and he’s been with me through all the highs and lows that this career can dish out. He hashes out ideas with me and since he’s a lawyer, helps me read through all the narcolepsy inducing legal documents that become necessary when starting a business.
9. What are some financial mistakes that you’ve made (personal or business related)?
Not budgeting well enough. As an independent contractor, I’ve had to learn to set aside money for quarterly tax payments and plan out my financial life based on a variable monthly income.
10. What advice (personal finance or business-related) do you have for other veterinarians?
If you have an idea that you feel will help the veterinary profession, (or anything else, really), don’t be afraid to talk about it. You will get so much more traction, and your idea will evolve in ways that it wouldn’t have, if you share it with others. There is this feeling that when you have a great idea you have to keep it secret until you make it so no one will steal it, and maybe this is true to some small degree, but more likely what happens is the it just stays a great idea in your head.
Start with your friends and family, people who you know will support you, then branch out and talk to other entrepreneurs or stakeholders in your idea. Don’t be shy! The vast majority of people want to be supportive and frankly, are likely too busy to steal your idea anyway. Our profession is filled with treasure troves of collective wisdom. Learning to mine this and create something useful from it, is a journey worth traveling.
Dr. Trice’s entrepreneurial spirit certainly shows! She somehow went from working in video production to practicing veterinary medicine, two seemingly disparate worlds. However, she used her skills and came up with a way to make a bigger impact within the veterinary community. Make sure you check out her website if you’re interested in learning more about her business. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Dr. Trice!
Are you interested in submitting your own Vet Success Story? I’m currently accepting submissions for student loan debt payoff, FIRE, and Entrepreneurs. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.