Urban Health Collective
Like Minded Businesses Collaborate for Greater Impact
A doctor, a grocer, a survivalist, and a church administrator walk into a room...does this sound like the start to a weird joke? It's actually the backdrop for a grassroots effort with a big vision that we should all be talking about - the Urban Health Collective in downtown Sandusky. The Collective was formed in early 2019 thanks to the leadership of Karen Brown and Beth Laffay, co-owners of Elite Wellness Group. Their mission is to collaborate with and refer to health-minded businesses in Downtown Sandusky, become stronger together and make the community a destination for Health & Wellness. In their first four meetings, the group has had participation from Sandusky-based businesses: Buderer Drug, Crossfit Sandusky, Elite Wellness Group, Kharma Boutique Salon & Spa, North Shore Running Store, Open Way Yoga, Paddle & Climb, The Maca Root, Tim Dorsey Fitness, and TMS Institute of Ohio.
Fast Facts
  • 70% of physicians are polled to be unhappy in their work, which may be a contributor to the rise in "boutique" healthcare options
  • 300-400 people on average "drop-in" to Crossfit Sandusky per year
  • "Maca Root" is a Peruvian root superfood that boasts benefits for hormonal balance, energy, and libido
  • 6:00pm Wednesdays - a group run leaves from North Shore Running Store
The Urban Health Collective (UHC) couldn't have a better name as it really was just that - a "collective" dream. Most of the participating health businesses opened in Sandusky in the last year, nearly all within the last five. There has been an unmistakable wave of wellness that has washed over the City and these leaders are on the front of it. Throughout various conversations during the first half of the year, these wellness business founders were looking for ways to connect, leverage, grow, and collaborate - several worked with the City, RISE, and each other, and ultimately the UHC was formed. As the group gets started, their first priority is to learn about each other - so they can fully understand the local health and wellness ecosystem. Learning about the other businesses, products, services, missions, and leaders in the group is invaluable in understanding what opportunities for a healthy lifestyle there are locally and ensuring that customers can understand and access these as well.
While it's interesting getting to know the businesses and business leaders, what we really wanted to know is why they have come together, what they plan to do, and what they see for the future of Sandusky? Here's what a few of the participants had to say. Kelly Vancauwenbergh, owner of The Maca Root Juice Bar & Eatery, opened her business in December 2018 (happy anniversary!) with no food service experience and on passion alone. The passion was for food as functional medicine and a safe, comfy, and healthy place to eat, drink, and be social. She partnered in the UHC for the sense of community, and to share ideas with other business leaders, and clearly stated, "we are not competitors".

Elite Wellness Group on the other hand started as a dream in Karen Brown's home in 2003. With her health food store experience combined with Dr. Laffay's physician experience, the two opened a shop in 2014 and moved to Sandusky in summer 2019. Sandusky is a good fit for their business because, "the opportunity for collaboration with like minded businesses. It's a business-friendly community and we're creating a culture here". They're looking forward to working with the partners to leverage collective resources for marketing - such as a downtown wellness map and attending health fairs as a collective. Most importantly, they feel they are creating a "ripple of health in our community" where we get healthier with our neighbors.
Staff credentials adorn the wall at Elite Wellness Group
Owner Missie Lowrey poses in North Shore Running Store
Class in session at Open Way Yoga
Alan Griffiths, owner of Crossfit Sandusky points out other tangible benefits of partnering in the UHC. He says, "I recognize the needs of our clients are more than we can offer, and I appreciate the opportunity for cross-referral". Alan envisions Sandusky as a vibrant community with things going on morning through evening. After three years in downtown, Alan says Sandusky is a good fit for his business because of the central location allowing him to draw business from all over the region such as Norwalk, Port Clinton, and Vermilion.

Shannon Thomas, Co-Founder of Open Way Yoga agrees with Alan and chose Sandusky as the second of her three locations last September. She says Sandusky is a "gem". "We live here and know that, but we want the world to know that too". "In Sandusky there is vitality and movement; it's inspiring and fun to be a part of it". Shannon explained how yoga is about more than stretching - it's about stretching, strengthening, balancing, and coming home to your body. Her favorite part of the past year was becoming a part of the diverse community in Sandusky, and now aims to keep that momentum moving and put Sandusky on the forefront of diversity and inclusion in wellness.
Just as the members of this group are excited to add new members, share their message, and broaden their impact, we are excited to see them grow as businesses and business leaders. ECEDC loves to share about the business-friendly nature of our communities, and the spirit and collaboration of UHC provides the perfect example.
Did You Know?
Business owners like the featured members of the Urban Heath Collective often start their business with a passion or a purpose and little business experience or business planning direction. Many of the businesses featured here seek assistance from programs such as RISE - the Regional Incubator for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship - for business planning and technical expertise. ECEDC, Bowling Green Firelands, and Norwalk EDC work together to manage RISE and offer its services free of charge to local entrepreneurs thanks to the support of local foundations. Contact us to learn more.
Stay Tuned for Day 3: Collective Projects
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The 12 Days of Development email series recognizes and celebrates another year of progress in Erie County, Ohio. Throughout the weeks of December, you will receive email spotlights on a company investing, improving and innovating in our community. We can't capture it all, so let us know a neighbor we missed or what activities you've got planned to make the 2020 list! #ErieCounty12Days