BEST IN BUSINESS: Winner's plan to turn industry on its feet
IF ANYONE can sell to young professionals a life in regional towns is the right fit, it's Amber Cook.
One year ago, Ms Cook came home to tell her husband, Terry Lewis, she had rented an office and would open a business.
They had found the space online, and a 10-minute visit was all it took for Ms Cook to know it was perfect.
"I went to work that Monday morning and I'd made the decision by the end of the day after seeing it on the weekend," she said.
On Saturday night, weeks after celebrating the first anniversary for Maclean Podiatry Centre, she took to the stage, overwhelmed, to accept the Clarence Valley Business Excellence Business of the Year Award.
She also won the Outstanding Young Entrepreneur Award and the Startup Superstar Award.
She started alone before taking on practice manager Cris Matthes, and the team have worked to build the centre from the ground up.
"I was told I needed to have a five-year business plan," she said.
"We exceeded the first 12 months of that business plan within three months.
"We hit our three-year mark within our first 12 months."
Ms Cook's passions in her field are vast and varied, which is useful given the nature of work in a regional area.
"There are just not enough podiatrists working in rural areas to have a speciality," she said.
From Albury-Wodonga, Ms Cook wants to see more graduates come to the Clarence Valley.
By 2021 she hoped to move into the office in the centre of Maclean she had recently acquired, to open the first custom podiatry clinic in the Clarence and attract professionals to the region.
Installing technology not yet seen in the Valley is part of Ms Cook's plan to revolutionise how the community views foot health, and how problems can be treated.
Video "gait" technology would allow patients to look at their steps in the way a podiatrist did and understand what they were doing, and where changes needed to be made.
"Podiatrists have lots of ways to look at walking, and we get very used to seeing how people walk," sheMs Cook said.
"To show that back to the patient enables them to see what they're doing."
With approximately 5000 podiatrists registered in Australia, Ms Cook said bringing in another podiatrist would be ideal, but she would also look at bringing other allied health professions to the Valleyfor her clinic.
"We want to focus on people who live and work locally," she said.
"You get healthcare companies that go and get lots and lots of localities and they lose that personality."
The clinic would not only be an attraction to lure allied health professionals to the region but also students looking to enter the field.
Ms Cook said she had a particular interest in educating the three First Nations of the Clarence Valley about the impact foot health could have on the entire body.
"Our Aboriginal population unfortunately do suffer with more foot health complications than those of our non-indigenous community," she said.
"Making them aware of what they need to be doing, what they need to be looking for in terms of foot health, we as podiatrists can certainly close that gap and look to bettering their foot health and bettering their overall health.
"A lot of people think about going to the dentist for their teeth, but they don't necessarily think about going to a podiatrist for their foot health, and we want to change that perception and educate people on what we do in the community."
See the full list of winners and photos in a feature on the Clarence Valley Business Excellence Awards on Wednesday.