Student Business Concept Contest Winners’ Experience

By Katie Schmitt, SPT, and Jenna Kantor, SPT

The following article is a personal account from two current doctorate of physical therapy students, winners of the annual Student Business Concept Contest, who attended the 2017 Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Annual Conference. I had the opportunity to experience the passion of these women at our editorial board meeting prior to the opening of the conference. I was not alone in being inspired and excited to see what they have accomplished to date and to hear about their hopes for the future. As leaders within our profession I feel that we need to step up to the responsibility of guiding these high-performing students to the full capacity of their potential. We need to share in their excitement as we lead them in our physical therapy world.
Phyllis Levine, PT, DPT Editorial Board member

The first week of November was a busy week at the Chicago Hilton. There were a lot of conferences occurring simultaneously, and the air was filled with energy. For us, the 2017 Private Practice Section (PPS) of APTA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition started bright and early at 8 a.m. on November 1. In the elevator on the way to our first meeting, we noticed that there was a gentleman headed to the same floor as us. “Are you here for the PPS conference?” was the first question we asked a stranger at the conference. That stranger was the president of the PPS Board of Directors, Terry Brown.

How did we get to be on the same elevator as the president of the PPS? In May 2017, we entered the Private Practice Section Student Business Concept Contest. Dr. Theresa Marko, whom we had met when hosting the 2017 National Advocacy Dinner at Columbia University Medical Center, had sent us information about the contest and thought we might have some great ideas.

For three years now, we have been the co-creators of Fairytale Physical Therapy (FTPT). FTPT brings musical theater shows to pediatric hospitals to encourage physical activity through singing and dancing with choreography based on therapeutic exercises. We have performed 20 shows derived from popular children’s musicals. From this work we have created studies about quality of life in the hospital setting, and are looking into establishing a home exercise program using choreography.

PPS conference

For the 2017 PPS Student Business Concept Contest we adapted our idea for the outpatient setting. We created a business model where private physical therapy practice owners can run events on the weekends to encourage physical activity in the children of their community while attracting potential patients/clients. The event can be operated by student interns, taking some of the pressure off of a busy owner. With very little out of pocket initial investment, private practice owners can create an additional revenue stream that connects them with the community in a fun way.

After our unexpected initial encounter with the warm and welcoming Dr. Terry Brown, we attended the Impact Magazine Editorial Board meeting, the 2017 PPS Conference Awards Ceremony and President’s Reception, the general business meeting, an inspiring talk by Mel Robbins about “The Five-Second Rule” and how to achieve breakthrough performance in every aspect of life, educational sessions, and presented a poster in the exhibit hall!

The PPS Conference was filled with introductions. Every person we met was happy to chat with us to answer questions, share their story, and bond over a common desire to provide quality care to our patients. This vast networking opportunity was thrilling! As a collective it is clear that we all really believe you should #ChoosePT.

For students considering attending the conference . . . go! On multiple occasions, as soon as we introduced ourselves as students, we would get asked, “Do you have a job?” Many people said time and again that this conference is great for future physical therapists (PTs) because they love students. Attend the conference, shake hands, ask questions, and network with insightful business owners.

The Private Practice Section Conference and Exhibition offers opportunity and inspiration. There are a plethora of lectures and discussions to give you a leg up on the ins and outs of running your own private practice that is not taught in such depth at school. You will have opportunities to hear about current legislation and how to get involved in advocacy. Vendors are on hand to show off the latest and greatest tools. As students, our personal experience had us tearing up with joy, shaking lots of hands, and secretly jumping out of our skin with excitement as we maintained a calm, professional demeanor.

We talked with the president of the APTA, Dr. Sharon Dunn, and heard about ways to get involved with the #ChoosePT campaign. We congratulated future president of the PPS Board of Directors, Dr. Sandy Norby. We learned so much from the Impact Magazine Editorial Board and were inspired by many amazing members of PPS. As winners of the 2017 Student Business Concept Contest, we want to thank everyone for a truly inspiring time!

To all students out there reading this, how do you want to impact physical therapy? What is your business idea? Learn more about PPS, and perhaps we will see you at the Broadmoor for the 2018 PPS Annual Conference and Exhibition in Colorado Springs next November.

You can learn more about Fairytale Physical Therapy by contacting

Katie Schmitt

Katie Schmitt, SPT, is a third-year DPT student at Columbia University Medical Center and a member of the APTA PPS, and the New York Section. Katie can be reached at and

Jenna Kantor

Jenna Kantor, SPT, is a third-year DPT student at Columbia University Medical Center and a member of the APTA PPS, and the New York Section. She can be reached at

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