skip to content

How Alternative Healthcare Careers built a profitable online business in one year

Learn how the co-founders of Alternative Healthcare Careers built a six-figure business empowering healthcare professionals to forge their own career paths.

There are countless benefits of becoming an entrepreneur .

One of the biggest perks is the opportunity to change people’s lives. When you start a business with a purpose, you can use your experience and passion to make a real difference for others.

That’s exactly what physical therapists Dr. Emma Shapiro and Dr. Mike Chua do through their business, Alternative Healthcare Careers .

Through Alternative Healthcare Careers, Emma and Mike help their fellow healthcare professionals start their alternative careers, side-hustles, and businesses.

They offer online courses and mentorship for physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and assistants looking for a new path.

Within just one year of launching, Emma and Mike have over 1,600 students through selling online courses and services with Podia.

All while working full-time as physical therapists.

We recently spoke with Emma about Alternative Healthcare Careers’ incredible first year. She shared:

  • Her and Mike’s unique entrepreneurial journeys

  • How Alternative Healthcare Careers helps healthcare professionals pursue new career options

  • How she and Mike use Podia to share their expertise with others

But first, how did Alternative Healthcare Careers get started?

How Emma and Mike came together as healthcare entrepreneurs

“Alternative Healthcare Careers was created out of the need to create career and business transformation for physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and other healthcare professionals,” Emma explains. “But this realization didn’t always exist.”

Both Dr. Emma Shapiro and Dr. Mike Chua have experience as healthcare entrepreneurs running their own businesses. Their careers have given them invaluable perspectives to help others in their field avoid burnout and succeed in business .

Mike is the creator of , where he helps patients with dementia and memory deficits thrive. He has written several ebooks , speaks nationally on dementia care techniques, and teaches a continuing education course.

Mike also runs his own home health agency and continues to practice as a physical therapist.

At the beginning of her physical therapy career, Emma found herself overwhelmed by student loan debt.

She discovered that positions like contract and travel therapy helped her conquer her stress and pay off her loans. That inspired her to create Debt Free PT.

Emma founded Debt Free PT with the mission to “help healthcare professionals realize their worth and identify higher paying positions that can help reduce student loan debt”.

She has written guides on travel healthcare careers, created free courses on travel therapy and paying off student loans, and performs free student and career mentoring. Emma also practices as a physical therapist.

Both Emma and Mike have helped therapists and assistants realize their potential and value. “It was a natural fit to shift to a greater focus on alternative careers,” Emma says. That shift was a timely one.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Emma and Mike saw their fellow healthcare workers struggling with burnout, job loss, and safety concerns.

They founded Alternative Healthcare Careers in May 2020 to help their peers discover alternative career routes and create businesses of their own.

“Together, our unique skillsets help us create a culture of empowerment around careers, salary negotiation, and entrepreneurship. As healthcare professionals, we have so many skills. We hope that by showing the options therapists and healthcare workers have, it can give them hope for a happier life.”

How do they empower that audience? Through mentorship, digital downloads, and a comprehensive library of online courses.

Helping healthcare professionals thrive through online courses

Alternative Healthcare Careers offers courses on everything from starting a virtual wellness practice to running a side hustle .

For healthcare professionals looking for a new career path, the Utilization Reviewer Course is one of the most popular.

The course teaches physical, occupational, and speech therapy professionals how to transition into a career in utilization review. And the education for students goes beyond online course videos .

“We provide a resume review, sample resumes and CVs, and interview questions. We walk people step-by-step through the whole application-to-hire process,” Emma describes. Enrollees also gain access to a private Facebook group to connect with over 30,000 people in their field.

The in-depth instruction and resources make it AHC’s most profitable digital product .

However, digital products do more for Alternative Healthcare Careers than bring in revenue. Emma and Mike offer two free digital downloads on their site: the Free Business Start Up Course and a Free Remote Jobs Guide .

These free resources serve as lead magnets . Visitors receive the download in exchange for their email address, helping Alternative Healthcare Careers build their email list .

“Having something free really helps us gather emails and create sales through email,” Emma explains.

“Honestly, our business was hardly making any money until I set up an email autoresponder and started marketing our programs. Having a free business course and remote careers resource has been most impactful in helping people share their email.”

But before they could give away free content , Emma and Mike needed to find people who could benefit from it. So they shared the lead magnets with their Facebook community and watched their email signups soar.

“A large majority of our leads were from our Facebook group. You have to be collecting their emails. It’s priority number one,” Emma says.

“But people won’t just give away their email, so you have to fiddle with what would be an enticing freebie. Then, we put that into our Facebook group, and at least 50% of sales come from that workflow.”

Alternative Healthcare Careers hosts those enticing freebies — and all of their online courses — on their Podia site. Let’s dive into how the team uses technology to help as many healthcare pros as possible.

How Podia empowers Emma and Mike to grow their business

When Emma launched her first brand, Debt Free PT, she struggled to integrate her course, email marketing tools , and WordPress site. “I think that’s why it didn’t grow,” she admits.

So when she and Mike started Alternative Healthcare Careers, Emma knew precisely what she didn’t want.

“I didn’t want integrations with tools to affect my business a second time, and I knew having a tool with everything in one would help me avoid that tech trap.”

A search for an all-in-one platform led Emma and Mike to Podia. “The fact that Podia was all of the tools we needed in one really influenced my decision,” Emma recalls.

But she also worried about committing to a platform for a brand new business idea — but Podia’s pricing helped put her at ease.

“When we first launched, I had no confidence that our business would work. I was scared to spend any money. Podia took a lot of that fear away as it was only $39 a month to start. I think that price point helped us take this leap.”

Now, Emma and Mike use Podia to host all of their online courses and digital downloads, including product upsells to boost their bottom line. They also keep all of their customers in the loop with Podia’s email marketing features .

“We use the email system to remind people of updates, webinars and events, and also to promote other courses,” Emma details.

“We have a really good delivery rate because we keep our emails all about important updates. This helps when we use the Podia email system to share new courses and special discounts to current students.”

Emma and Mike also use Podia’s live chat messaging features to answer questions from prospective and current students.

The live chat feature lets the team chat with anyone browsing their Podia site. Emma and Mike can connect with logged-in customers and anonymous visitors alike. They can even capture customer questions, feedback, and requests even if they’re away from the chat.

Plus, unlike a third-party plugin, Podia keeps all of Alternative Healthcare Careers’ conversations and sales data in one place, steering clear of Emma’s “tech trap” fears.

Maybe most importantly, an all-in-one tool like Podia lets Emma and Mike scale their business without sacrificing their full-time jobs.

“I am proud to say that while continuing to serve my patients as a physical therapist, I was also serving my fellow clinicians. I was finding them jobs and new career options,” Emma shares.

Podia gives Emma and Mike the tools they need to run a successful business while continuing to serve physical therapy clients. They no longer need to spend hours coordinating multiple tools or fixing broken WordPress sites.

Instead, they can focus on growing their business.

“I would say Podia is a complete business set up and growth tool. For anyone who is a course creator, it’s the only software you’ll need to launch, run, and grow your business.”


Get your free Podia account

Join the 150,000+ creators who use Podia to create websites, sell digital products, and build online communities.

Start free

Emma’s advice to fellow entrepreneurs

The past year and a half has been a tumultuous time, especially for healthcare professionals. Emma and Mike know firsthand that both working in healthcare and running a business can often be challenging.

They also know how worthwhile those challenges can be, and continuously help others find that worth and value.

To her fellow entrepreneurs and creators, Emma emphasizes the importance of embracing those struggles as opportunities.

“There will be times where no one will sign up for your program, but instead of quitting, work harder. Make a better webpage, redesign your offer, improve your sales pitch,” she encourages.

“With our live ergonomics program, the first class I had only had one or two signups, so I had to cancel the course. But I took several weeks and came out swinging harder, and it’s now a very successful program with rave reviews.”

Recovering from a failed product launch is never easy. If you find yourself dealing with imposter syndrome like so many creators often do, it can seem impossible. But when you persevere, you give yourself a chance to grow and do better moving forward.

“I think the number one takeaway is to be okay with change and failure, but don’t let that stop you or cause you to give up. Don’t be afraid of picking the perfect niche, creating the perfect website, creating the perfect email. Just do it and just keep learning how to be better and better.”

We’re here to help creators along that journey. Get your free Podia account to start selling digital products and building an online business today .

A portrait of Rachel Burns

About the author

Rachel is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and communities scale with their creators. When she’s not writing, you can find her rescuing dogs, baking something, or extolling the virtue of the Oxford comma.