The Careshop cooperative is aimed at consumers

SEATTLE — With 20 years of experience in the HME industry, supplier Julie Blaakman is adept at shifting gears, but the COVID-19 pandemic has given her the courage to bring together her passions for entrepreneurship, the HME and well-being under one roof – literally.

Earlier this year, Blaakman, owner of The Careshop, a provider of EMRs, CPAP devices, women’s health products and scrubs, leased an 8,600 square foot, two-story building to house the Careshop Health & Wellness Cooperative, where she plans to consolidate a variety of healthcare-related businesses, such as massage therapy for pregnant women and financial support services for cancer patients.

“About 10 years ago, I started thinking, ‘Why can’t we have it all under one roof?’ “, she said. “People want it to be easy. Health care is complicated. It’s an easy place to come and have a variety of modalities where you can say, ‘I need this and this and this.’

Careshop Health & Wellness Cooperative will include 1,600 square feet of retail space for a second location for The Careshop, which launched in 2002 as a provider of pediatric nebulizers.

The co-op will operate as a custom membership model, where businesses will pay a monthly fee to cover everything from physical space to utilities, and to access shared common areas like a kitchen. Blaakman is currently screening proposals from nearly a dozen applicants, with the goal of offering a diverse mix of products and services.

“Right now it’s about putting together a team to serve whoever comes through the door,” she said.

With just a one-year commitment and flexible space options, the co-op offers the perfect setup for small businesses — and allows Blaakman to tap into his interest in entrepreneurship.

“I bring resources to help small businesses, share knowledge and (encourage them) to refer to each other and help everyone grow,” she said.

With the continued shift toward consumer-centric healthcare, expanding beyond HME’s walls seems like the right move, says Blaakman.

“Everything (was) driven by the referral source,” she said. “Patients now make their own healthcare decisions. I create a space that is appealing to the consumer and based on their needs and wants when they come to the HME (vendor). It’s a different state of mind and it fits well with our core business. This is what we do.

Virginia S. Braud