Dr Nic Cher found a home for his new veterinary practice in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Now he’s finding homes for abandoned pets.
Dr Nic Cher is a born vet. Whether feeding the cat that chased mice away from his dad’s corner store, or bringing stray dogs back to the family home for a bath, Dr Cher has always wanted to work with animals. After a long journey that has led from his childhood home in Singapore to stints in Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Vancouver, Dr Cher opened his own new veterinary practice in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley earlier this year and hasn’t looked back.
“I chose to set up my clinic in Emporium as it has a real village vibe to it,” he says. “People have been so friendly and I’ve been warmly welcomed by my neighbours. This area has a real ‘walkable’ feel to it. You can drop your dogs off for a check-up while you have a coffee next door and do your shopping.”
An inner-city approach
Dr Cher’s growing success is driven in part by his strong social media presence. He has more than 8 million views on his YouTube channel.
His success is also helped by the innovative approach to the design of his new practice. With a trendy showroom vibe that appeals to his fashion-conscious inner-city clientele, Fortitude Valley Vet looks right at home alongside the neighbouring funky cafes and shopping boutiques.
“I want my customers to feel relaxed when they come into the clinic, as if they are coming to a good friend's home for a chat about their pet,” he says. “We chose colours that have a mood-altering effect and spent time finding bespoke furniture, lighting, shelving and a reception counter to make sure we deliver the correct message to our clients.”
The clinic sells a curated range of high-end Australian-made pet products that are difficult to find in shops and Dr Cher uses these as conversation starters.
“The products are on beautiful displays that bring people in so we can have a conversation about their dog or cat, and how we can enhance their pet’s health and wellbeing. I am usually sitting out at the reception table if I am not consulting. This allows me to talk to shoppers who then have a chance to get to know me.”
Setting up in Sydney
After growing up in Singapore and spending time in Vancouver, Dr Cher first studied wildlife biology at the University of Queensland. “Becoming a vet took a longer route than I expected,” he says. “I got sidetracked with wanting to be a zookeeper or a ranger roaming the incredibly beautiful Australian landscape.” Eventually, life brought him to Perth where he studied at Murdoch Veterinary School, developing a passion for small animal medicine and practising in Melbourne.
Soon, however, all roads led to Sydney and Dr Cher opened his first veterinary clinic out of the front rooms of his Surry Hills terrace house. It was a consulting-only practice and the young vet limited himself to vaccinations, health checks and simple medical cases.
“The Sydney City Council was probably the biggest challenge I faced prior to opening the practice,” he says. “There were many legal requirements and approvals to tackle over a nine-month period. It cost several thousand dollars in professional fees before I was given the green light to convert just two rooms of my house into a reception area and consulting room.”
However, unable to do surgery or work on complex cases was frustrating for the young vet. At the same time, with a baby son on the scene, Dr Cher and his partner were feeling the pinch.
“It was clear that Sydney was never going to give us enough space for our growing family,” he says. “We had an 80sqm terrace with most of the ground floor carved out for the consulting practice and my family living on the second and third level of the house.”
A new veterinary practice on greener pastures
Greener pastures beckoned in Brisbane, and Dr Cher and his partner decided to sell up in Sydney and join his family in Queensland.
“It was a really tough decision to close up shop and move to Brisbane,” he says. “But our new home is literally 12 times bigger. It’s next to the Brisbane River and only seven kilometres away from the Brisbane CBD.”
Three months later, Dr Cher was settling the purchase of his Fortitude Valley clinic.
“With help from my financial specialist, Teresa Nguyen, we quickly secured an outstanding under-valued commercial premise,” he says. “Teresa and I had multiple in-depth discussions about what would be the best step forward to set up my dream practice.
“Since I was setting up a fully-fledged clinic, there were more considerations to be made in terms of design, workflow, safety measures, and storage, but the process was very smooth and stress-free.”
The planning paid off, as Fortitude Valley Vet has been profitable since its second month in operation, and the monthly figures continue to climb. With the clinic showing early financial success, Dr Cher says he’s happy to be able to focus on the passion that sparked his journey as a child in Singapore—rehoming the stray dogs he collected.
“I’m still most passionate about helping animals find their forever home,” he says. “It is especially difficult for older pets as many people perceive them to be ‘problem’ pets. But older animals require less time to train since they usually come toilet trained and are well-versed in basic commands. They are also less demanding due to their age, which is a bonus for people who want a pet that doesn't take up too much of their busy lifestyle.”
It just goes to show a little vision can take you a long way.
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