I never knew I wanted to be a business owner, until I had my first ever business coach. She asked me what I wanted to achieve out of being an osteopath. I said I didn’t know. I didn’t know what to do, why, or even what direction to go into. I was going through the motions, day by day, pay check by pay check, just to pay the bills.
I started working with her and working backwards from what my biggest dream would be, and how I’d envision my life. I could never visualise where I could be in the future. She encouraged me and asked how I would get to that point. At that time I was working for another clinic in QLD which wasn’t fulfilling. I was pretty much ready to give up being an osteopath. One of my greatest attributes is I’m a great communicator and building relationships. She said I could run my own business, which could help me live the life I dreamed of.
She encouraged me, even at my lowest point, that it was possible. I did a 12-week program with her. When I took a lease here in Newport, I rang her to get her advice. She worked out what my bottom line was, and the minimum amount required to cover the bills. When we broke it down, I realised I only had to see two more patients a month, and I’d be covered.
The pandemic really challenged me because I felt the responsibility to not only provide for the community, but to my staff as well. I had to give them a place to work, and there were times I’d pay the bills before I paid myself because I needed to make sure this place would remain open. I really felt the pressure of the whole situation and it wasn’t in my plan.
I look back now and I’m really proud of what I’ve done. The stress and challenges, I’ve worked my way through it and coming out the other side and consider myself successful.
I grew up in Bacchus Marsh. My parents were born in England and Slovenia and had bought a property in Bacchus Marsh before they had me. I spent all my life there and went to the local high school. I have two younger sisters. I was a good student, disciplined in training and was the school captain in my primary school. I was quite a sporty kid and did lot of swimming, netball and soccer. I was also bullied in high school, and never really knew the reason why. I was quite athletic, and always hung with the boys.
Looking back I realised the bullies were really traumatised themselves, and didn’t come from great backgrounds or families. These days if I see them in Bacchus Marsh I can see their own pain, and what they’re going through. The only way they felt superior was to take me down. I went through a few identity crisis, trying to fit in and find a group where I was accepted.
I went through high school with a good group of friends and wanted to get into medicine. I remembered seeing a career councillor and was told I should aim lower. It never stopped me, and thought ‘That is your opinion.’ I wanted to prove her wrong. My ATAR came out, and I didn’t get high enough scores for medicine, and I remember crying, thinking my life was over.
I adjusted what I was looking for, and realised there were pathways to get into medicine. My first preference was Biomedical Science. I spent three years in La Trobe Uni, with the goal of getting accepted Graduate Medical School Admissions Test to become a surgeon.
By the time I got into the third year, I realised I wasn’t interested in medicine any more. I wanted something more hands on. I spoke to lecturers that I trusted. I had a friend who was an osteopath, and she’d tell me how great it is. Without knowing very much about osteopathy, I went for it and signed up with Victoria Uni for five years.
By the end of second year Osteo, I was completing 15 exams per semester, and was exhausted. I travelled for two months after my last exams and started to have the same uncertainty I’d felt in my first degree.
While I didn’t like being in uni, I loved being in a clinic as I got to be a practitioner and learn with my hands. That’s where I discovered who I wanted to be.
The biggest issue I have in the uni system is often the people who go into teaching are people who are unsatisfied with their profession, so they can project their own dissatisfaction onto the impressionable students. I was working in a local football club when I was in university and told one of my mentors that I wanted work with elite sport. He said becoming an Osteopath in sport wasn’t a career for me, and I should have been a physio if I wanted to do that. There weren’t many teachers who encouraged me to be my own practitioner, and many wanted me to fit a mould. I never felt like I fit anything and I was just cruising through uni.
I only found a mentor in my fourth year, who told me it was okay to be different. I felt like he could see I had potential, whether I had it or not. It didn’t matter, but I thought I could do it. It was like a switch flicked, maybe I could combine my passion for sports with being an Osteopath.
Once, I was working in a game of footy in Bacchus Marsh, one of the players went down and hurt his shoulder. I was there as a Sports Trainer and had a look at how his shoulder moved. Everyone thought it was his shoulder, but after I’d assessed it, I thought it was his rib. After a bit of treatment on the sidelines, he went back on a kicked six goals and won the game. I felt a buzz after and thought ‘This is why I want to do this. I do things differently.’
After eight years of studying at university, I finished aged 26. I didn’t want to get a job straight away, I wanted to take a break and travel. I took all the money I had and travelled around the world for four months.
I came back flat broke.
I was looking for work in my final month of travelling, knowing I needed money. I wanted to leave Melbourne, and to my mum’s dismay I got a job in Gold Coast. I didn’t want to settle with Melbourne and wanted to explore who I was. When I moved to Gold Coast, I knew no one, had no money and had no clients. Promises made to lure me up there weren’t delivered. I worked hard and built my list and lived with a Brazilian couple in an apartment. The apartment was beach front in Burleigh Heads. I travelled on weekends, made a good group of friends, but I wasn’t satisfied in my job.
I volunteered in a couple of footy and rugby clubs to learn about sports science and to gain experience in the field. I loved that more than my paid job.
Eight months into my life in Gold Coast, and I was still trying to work out whether I was in the right field or not. I applied for a job at Sea World to become a jellyfish keeper. I still have a cover letter as a reminder to show what I was prepared to give up.
Fortunately, I didn’t get the job.
I returned to Melbourne for family reasons in 2018, and found a room to rent in a gym along Blackshaws Road, Newport. My business coach had still been encouraging me and reminded me to focus on my strengths. I took out a rent on the room. By then, I thought I would give it everything I had, or go work for someone else. Alpha Sports Medicine started from there, out of a room. It was just me, and after my first week I had a goal to cover my rent. My rent at the time was $350 a week, which meant I needed to see four clients. In the first week I saw ten clients and I was over the moon.
With my first business coach, I learnt how to start a business from scratch. One of the modules was branding and creating a strong logo. I wanted something that started with A, as it’s top of the list, and it’s also my name Ashton. Alpha kept coming up, as it also meant “top dog”. Alpha is also the first letter of the Greek alphabet and coincidentally I have a lot of Greek clients. The Alpha swish logo is a nod to my physics nerd days; I also like the alpha waves.
Building my business was a fun challenge for me! I had learned to use different funnels to attract different clients, this is when I started using social media to attract a new demographic of clients. Doing reels and tiktoks is a creative expression, and relating it to my business is a bonus.
Within a year it got to the point where I was so busy working in the business, that I had no time to to work on the business. I knew it was time to bring someone on board. Matt is my first staff member; he and I actually met in La Trobe Biomedical Science and was the first person I met in uni. I’ve always had in mind we’ll work together, and we’ve been friends for so long. In November 2018 we made Alpha into a team.
One of the things I wanted to do was create a culture where everyone felt they could be honest and ask any questions, and could be heard. I didn’t feel that in my first job and my ideas weren’t worth anything. At Alpha we all celebrate each other’s wins.
Alpha was previously a dance studio. We’d always have coffee in Little Gecko, and look into the big windows of the studio. One day while I was getting coffee, a for lease sign was being put up on the roof. I called the agent immediately and went through it. I took my Dad through it and a few months later I signed the lease. Dad and I did the fit out. We opened the doors on 3 March 2020. Two weeks later we were in lockdown.
It’s taken me so many years to find my passion as a practitioner. I am happy as a business owner, practising osteo, and love what I do. Recently, after working with a unique client, I did some research and realised hypermobility was under-represented. There’s a huge gap in healthcare in understanding hypermobility disorders, across Allied Health Practitioners and GPs as well.
I want to continue educating practitioners in this field and to help more people with hypermobility disorders. I’m just one person, and more people will be able to get help the right way if I can help spread the word. My journey may take a different pathway, but Alpha will always be part of my life. My practice is growing and I’m excited to see what happens next!
The relationship with my family has grown since I moved away from Bacchus Marsh; we make time to see each other. I actually enjoy it now and it’s not a chore. I get to hang out with my parents and animals.
On the weekends I’m usually out doing something active. I’m either at the beach, walking, running or seeing friends. I love spending time in the gym staying strong, and exploring new restaurants with my partner. My favourite café is probably Elephant Café in Newport, but the best coffee is at Little Gecko next door!