Pharmacists Briana Aycock and Sarah Swinson, both University of Georgia College of Pharmacy graduates, worked six years together to create a hometown pharmacy feel at the Walmart Pharmacy in Baxley. Eventually, they knew they would have to go independent to fully achieve this dream for their patients.


They began planning in April 2020. While researching SBA loans, they were referred to David Lewis, area director of the UGA SBDC Brunswick office.


As Lewis began helping the pharmacists put together their loan proposal, he introduced them to the UGA SBDC’s director of medical practice management, Matt Lastinger.


“We met over Zoom and talked about what they wanted to do, and how it would translate into a business plan and financial projections,” Lastinger said. “We helped them make sure the assumptions they had developed made sense for a startup pharmacy. It’s a complicated business and can be hard to project how much revenue and profit they should expect.”


Lewis and Lastinger helped the pharmacists develop a detailed cash flow projection and business plan, then helped them analyze multiple loan offers and choose the best deal for them.


“We are the seventh pharmacy in Baxley, and we were building during a pandemic,” Aycock said. “We decided to expedite the startup process by designing a customized commercial modular building that would be constructed in a fraction of the time.”


“It allowed us to open quickly and reduce the amount of time away from our patients,” Swinson said. “During this time, we gained invaluable knowledge from the SBDC about how small business lending works – knowledge which I am sure we will turn to again.”


Baxley Wellness Pharmacy opened its doors in January 2021 as the first pharmacy in the area to offer COVID-19 vaccinations. Its three pharmacy technicians aid the pharmacists in offering a wide array of vaccinations and prescriptions.


“Having two pharmacists with complementary skills provides much more flexibility in the partnership,” Lewis said. “It shows in their numbers. In their first six months, they’ve far exceeded the projections we all put together.”


“I cannot imagine there is a single small business in Georgia that would not benefit from the SBDC’s vast knowledge, advice and experience,” Swinson said. “They helped us make better decisions up front rather than having to chase poor ones around on the back end. I can only imagine how much money it saved us by not making bad business decisions in the beginning.”