An interview with Beth Hoopes, RPh
Owner of
Cornerstone Apothecary located in Van Horne, Belle Plaine and Marengo, Iowa 

What attracted you to working in the pharmaceutical industry?

Beth Hoopes: I think it was my ability to work with people. I knew I wanted to be part of the medical field, but not in a clinical sense, such as a doctor or a nurse would be. I wanted more of the back-end part of it. I worked at a small community pharmacy in high school, and I really liked the relationships that I saw between the pharmacist and the patients. The trust that was established was pretty amazing. So, I knew what I wanted my career to be when I was a junior in high school, which a lot of people can’t say.

Can you share a little bit about your pharmacy education, and how you worked to the point that you are at in your career today?

BH: I went to college at the University of Iowa and graduated in 2002. I started out at a small retail pharmacy and worked there for about five years, and that’s when I knew I wanted to be an actual owner. Being an owner wasn’t initially my goal, but working in a smaller pharmacy made me have the drive to own my own independent pharmacy. I did work for one year doing PRN work for multiple pharmacies before I opened up my own pharmacy, and I learned a lot about how I wanted to manage my pharmacies, as well as how I didn’t want to manage them.

What characteristics proved to be the most helpful for you in developing your career?

BH: I feel that one of my fortes is being able to connect with people. I learned pretty early in life if you don’t treat people the way they deserve to be treated, you aren’t going to get very far in life. I learned I need to listen. So, in developing my career as both a pharmacist and a business owner, I took that very seriously. Sometimes I got run over in the process, but I learned from that. It made me much stronger.

What steps did you take in your career to prepare for a leadership position or business ownership?

BH: Working for several pharmacies was pretty instrumental for me. I didn’t intend to do any PRN work, but that’s how the cards fell for me for a year before I opened my first store. I am so grateful I got that opportunity to work with multiple owners and learn what to do, and also what not to do. Sometimes that’s just as important. I also attended the NCPA ownership conference a couple of years ago, and I learned SO much from that. I wish I would have gone to it BEFORE I became an owner, but it did put things into perspective for me. I FINALLY understood the difference between a balance sheet and a profit and loss statement! Those were so foreign to me prior to attending the conference.

What is your experience with mentors, influential leaders or others who inspired you to reach for success?

BH: I try to get to as many conferences as I can, and ask as many questions as I can of other pharmacists. I got to know successful people in this field and I enjoy getting their point of view. I also read books. Lots of books. I try to learn from others as much as possible, but sometimes you just have to learn lessons yourself — good lessons and also hard lessons. Most entrepreneurs have a little bit of a stubborn side and don’t like to be told what to do. Sometimes, I’m one of those. I’ve learned the most from failing and getting back up again. And again, and again.

However, if I had to choose one person who has been exceptionally influential in my life, it would have to be one of my professors from pharmacy school, whom I got to reconnect with at last year’s McKesson ideaShare! After the event I got his contact information and had the opportunity to ask him questions and learn more from his experience. I wish I had done that earlier in my career, but he has given me many ideas that I can implement in my pharmacies today.

What advice can you give to women entrepreneurs entering the pharmacy world?

BH: Pharmacy ownership in today’s world is very challenging. My advice would be to hire people who are better than you are at certain things. You cannot do it all yourself. Don’t even try. I have a tremendous staff of pharmacists who are better than I am at being a pharmacist; techs who learned to be amazing technicians and can run circles around anyone; and office people who pay my bills on time, and who manage my office much better than I could ever dream of. Be humble and realize that it’s not YOU that makes the business. It’s your staff. Your “peeps” — as I call them. 

As a successful independent pharmacy owner, how do you manage a work/life balance?

BH: At first, it was really hard. I worked a lot. Luckily, I lived very close to my pharmacy, so it was easy for me to sneak away in the evenings, or have my kids stop by after school. I have an amazing husband who had a very flexible job, which allowed him to be the primary parent back when we first opened. This was amazing, especially in the first few years, because I had to spend 60 to 70 hours a week at the pharmacy. Now that I’ve established a great staff, it’s so much easier for me to be at home more. My husband is still flexible, so when I am needed to work the counter, I can go and not feel guilty about it. He’s very supportive of me and my career. You definitely have to be ready to dedicate the time needed to support your own business, so I was exceptionally blessed to have my family and staff help me every step of the way.

Have you noticed any boundaries or challenges for women in pharmacy? If so, how did you get around those?

BH: I was pretty lucky to be raised by a single mom most of my childhood. She was a strong, independent woman, and she taught my sisters and me the same thing. We learned that there were no boundaries because we were women. I never thought it was harder for me to become an owner because I was a woman. Sometimes I get caught off guard by questions like this because I’ve never really thought about it. I had a goal and I went for it. Just like any other ambitious person would do — man or woman.

What would you like to see pharmacy schools teach about owning your own pharmacy?

BH: I would have loved to have the option for any sort of business ownership class. Even simple management. I attended several talks on things like that put on by various organizations during pharmacy school, so I did get some idea about things like that. But if I could have taken a class, or even had a rotation available on ownership or management itself, that would have been extremely helpful. Especially with aspects of managing your staff. I maybe wouldn’t have fallen on my face so many times.

What do you enjoy most about being an independent pharmacy owner?

BH: It’s so rewarding in so many ways. The people I meet along the way in my communities, the relationships I form with my staff, the ways we can help the communities we are involved in — so many things. Of course, there is a lot of stress that comes with being an owner, as well as a lot of risk, but the good far outweighs the bad. There’s just something so rewarding in knowing that you started something by yourself, and can use that to make your communities a little stronger.

Can you share a little bit about your experience working with RxOwnership?

BH: I was so grateful to be able to participate in the RxOwnership NCPA Ownership Workshop. It taught me to utilize needed professionals — like a good accountant, a good lawyer, and a good banker. It also taught me how to market my pharmacies more effectively. Again, I wish I would have attended this conference before I started my business. But I’m glad I did after I opened as well, as it solidified a few things for me.

Can you share a little bit about your personal life (e.g., where you live, family life, things you like to do for fun, etc.)?

BH: I live on a farm in southeast Iowa with my husband and three sons (ages 16, 13 and 9). We run a cow/calf operation and raise Charolais cattle. We take our boys to cattle shows during most of the spring and summer, so that keeps us fairly busy. I am also involved in my church and in all three of the communities where my pharmacies are. We don’t get a chance to get away much, but that’s OK. I’m good right where I am!