Delia Brereton is no stranger to adversity. She is a survivor who has managed to snatch victory from the jaws of dire circumstances to achieve a lifelong dream of running her own pharmacy.
By Jack Kohane
Photos by Brandon Lefebvre
“Change is a daily constant,” says the pharmacist/owner of Choose Healthy Now pharmacy in the north end of Sudbury, the largest city in northern Ontario. “People often say you can be certain of three things: life, death and taxes. I rephrase that to say ‘life, death and change’ because taxes are not always a certainty. How you adapt to change is the benchmark of your success. Drawing upon past experiences and making journal notes will help guide you through next steps.”
For Brereton, the mother of three, those steps have taken her through the good and tough times of pharmacy practice stints doing hospital rotations at Sick Kids in Toronto and Dr. Everett Chambers Hospital in Fredericton, and later with several of this country’s major chains and box stores. She went on to work for Kmart in Halifax. “This was a pivotal experience in my career due to the Kmart bankruptcy in Canada, which closed that store forever,” she recalls. But she saw it as a learning opportunity, which, oddly, prepared her for her next brushes with hard luck.
In late 2013, Brereton emerged after a year of dealing with aggressive thyroid cancer, and with her ex-husband’s succumbing to alcohol addiction and dying from heart failure. Barely recovered from the shock, Brereton found out that she had lost her franchise with a national retailer. Then she joined Target as the new franchisee in Sudbury. Fast forward to January 2015 and the events of Target closure. “There could never have been a better prepared pharmacist with ill fate,” she says with irony. “I was out of job in a small community. I needed to reinvent myself again – and quickly.”
In a week, Brereton had to make the crucial decision of selling, carrying on elsewhere or risk it all again with nothing to offer but debt. Her decision involved discussions with her methadone clients. “In the end, I knew I could never abandon them,” she affirms. “I chose to start over.” Through her extensive business network in Sudbury, she connected with lawyers, accountants, architects, bankers, and agencies to help realize her new goal: opening Choose Healthy Now pharmacy.
Never give up
Brereton credits her past experiences – the ups and downs of today’s unpredictable pharmacy practice – that gave her the determination to learn from misfortune and the skills to confront a crisis head-on. “I learned how to sell myself, something most pharmacists are not taught in school. Moving to Sudbury, I knew no one. I had to start to socialize and grow outside my comfort zone. But I quickly learned to attend functions, like social gatherings, dinner CME events with other health professionals, and Pharmacy U conferences to expand my connections. Those events helped both socially and in business.” She also utilized social media, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to grow beyond the person-to-person connections. “I made phone calls and drove to physician offices in the area in person. I learned early on that if you can connect with who the ‘gatekeeper’ is in a physician office, your interactions will be that much stronger. It has always been a part of my DNA to tell my story, talk to people and connect,” she says.
One key contact was Karen Bass, the advertising executive of 93.5FM Radio in Sudbury. Brereton marketed heavily with radio and reinvented herself as a brand. That strategic move created an almost cult following in the greater Sudbury region. So much so, that when Target announced it was closing its doors, clients and patients told Brereton that they would follow her practice anywhere. “That loyalty could not be bought – it was core deep and true,” she says.
In launching Choose Healthy Now (she also leases space in the location to several physicians), Brereton intuitively knew what would work in nurturing a thriving pharmacy operation from scratch. It’s knowledge that is paying off for this survivor.
Delia Brereton’s survival tips:
- Invest in yourself. Take the time to attend educational conferences, but also remember to recharge your batteries.
- Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Brereton’s best advice is to be scared. “Every failure, change, or even outcome not as planned is a unique opportunity to learn what worked and didn’t. Those experiences always help raise the bar to achieve success.”
- Read as much as you can. “Not just business articles, but personal growth articles,” she insists.