Intro: This is Marlene O’Hanlon with Knoxville Executive Suites coming to you from the Cedar Bluff area of Knoxville, Tennessee. This podcast is my way of introducing some local businesses that you may not be aware of in Knoxville. Having lived in Knoxville for over 30 years and having owned Knoxville Executive Suites since 1983, I’ve had the opportunity of working with some amazing professionals. Some are entrepreneurs running their own company, and others work for national companies who maintain a satellite office in Knoxville.
MO: Hi, there. Today we’re meeting with Cheryl Smith with CPR Choice. Good morning Cheryl.
CS: Good morning.
MO: Tell me about your company, what exactly you do. The name kind of does tell us what you do, but explain it in more detail please.
CS: Yes, CPR Choice is a CPR and first aid training center. We offer CPR classes to both businesses and individuals. A lot of businesses need CPR and first aid training for OSHA purposes, so we teach for doctor’s offices, dental offices, manufacturers, daycares, and gyms. Then here at Knoxville Executive Suites we offer classes to individuals such as students or new parents. We also sell automated external defibrillators, which are better known as “AED’s” to businesses and churches.
MO: I see. You mentioned new parents – that caught my ear. So a lot of new parents come in and take classes?
CS: Yes, a lot of new parents get concerned when they’re going to have a baby, and want to make sure they know how to deal with a child that could be choking, or they get scared about SIDS so they want to know for sure that they know CPR and could save a life if ever needed.
MO: What group of individuals do you see more of? Would it be new parents or more seniors?
CS: Definitely students. Nursing students or people going into any sort of medical field. For our individual classes they are filled with nursing students from all of the colleges in this area. We get lots of students from Lincoln Memorial and Pellissippi State and the University of Tennessee.
MO: They are required to take this?
CS: Yes, they’re required to take this to start their clinical rotation in their schooling.
MO: Do they have to take it yearly? How does that work?
CS: The certification is every two years.
MO: How long have you been doing this?
CS: Well, I have been teaching CPR for about 15 years, and then 10 years ago, CPR Choice was founded when we moved to the Knoxville area. We started out really, really small – we offered a few classes a month to individuals out of our home. My husband built us a website and we would get a couple of people that would call us, so we’d stick a sign on our front door and a few people would come over on a Saturday morning. We would teach them in the bonus room of our home. About five years ago we really expanded our site, launched a new website and really grew in the Knoxville area.
MO: So that is how you get most of your business? Although by now, it’s probably mostly by word of mouth and referrals right, although it was website originally?
CS: Yes, definitely the website is our number one way to get customers. We have a lot of word of mouth and good testimonials as well. Also, because people do have to recertify every two years, we get a lot of repeat customers.
MO: Wow, that’s true. That’s great. How did you get started? I know you mentioned you and your husband, but what had you done before?
CS: I was actually working at a large hospital in Boise, Idaho in the nursing education department and I was a CPR instructor for them. There we only trained our own staff, and we would get calls on a regular basis from people in the community that needed CPR classes and there really wasn’t a venue for them. When we moved to Knoxville, we looked to see if there was anyone here offering community and onsite classes for businesses. We didn’t really see that there were a whole lot of options, so that’s when we decided to start CPR Choice.
MO: You said Idaho. I can tell that’s not a Knoxville accent. So you’ve been here how many years?
CS: 10 years in Knoxville.
MO: Anything new and exciting happening?
CS: Yes, we just continue to grow. About a year ago, we expanded into the Tri-Cities area, so we are offering classes in Kingsport and Johnson City on a regular basis. Then last month we launched smokymountainscpr.com, where we are doing classes in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area. We know that there are lots of visitors and tourists in that area, so we are trying to raise the awareness for hotels, restaurants, venues, museums, and theaters. Another exciting thing is that we also expanded into the state of Colorado. Last February we opened up a venue in Colorado Springs, where we are offering classes on a weekly basis and I’m proud to say they have all been sold out recently, so we are going to expand to the Denver area soon and hopefully we will have classes on our calendar by next February 2016.
MO: Cheryl, that is terrific. That is really great. Congratulations on that also.
CS: Thank you. It’s been great and exciting to grow and expand here in the Knoxville area. As I mentioned, we started out here teaching two people and last month I think we trained close to 800.
MO: That is great! So have you had to hire additional personnel to go to those areas?
CS: Yes, we have. In the last two years we have increased our instructors by about 10 extra instructors.
MO: Are they part-time or full-time?
CS: The majority of our staff is part-time, but we do have two instructors that do this as their full-time job.
MO: Cheryl, is there a favorite part of what you do with CPR Choice?
CS: I think it is really great to work in an environment where you’re passionate about what you do. Our mission at CPR Choice is saving lives, so how can you not be passionate about that? So our favorite part is engaging with our students and watching them learn the lifesaving skills, knowing that we really are making a difference. We also try to do a lot of community work, so our mission is to save lives not just in the classroom but also in our local community. We recently did a project called Hearts for the Homeless where we collected 500 bags full of hygiene and food items. We are distributing those on Wednesdays in Krutch Park to the less fortunate, so that has been really rewarding and exciting.
MO: Oh, that’s wonderful. You also have evening classes, correct? As well as onsite classes if someone contacts you – you’ll go to their facility. Is there a minimum to go onsite to a business?
CS: For us to come to your business, we require that you have at least six to eight people and we will do classes up to 30 people. We do have a lot of large businesses that have hundreds of employees; one of our largest clients actually has a thousand employees that we train, but we just go there on a regular basis and teach classes of about 30. We try not to let them get too big so that we can have that good quality.
MO: How long is a class? How long to get certified?
CS: It depends on the type of class you take, but it can be anywhere from three to six hours. If you just need CPR for adults, that’s going to be a shorter class than if you needed CPR for all ages, including infants and children, which then would be a little longer. If you needed the first aid certification that would be additional training, which increases the time.
MO: So, it’s not always finished in one evening or session?
CS: It is almost always finished in one session. We offer daytime classes on the weekends, and then evening classes for individuals, and then like you said, onsite classes at local businesses.
MO: How long have you been at Knoxville Executive Suites and how did you find us?
CS: We moved in in January, so we’ve been here a little over six months. We were actually referred to Knoxville Executive Suites by a friend that was familiar with your services here.
MO: How has your business benefited by being here at Knoxville Executive Suites?
CS: We’ve actually really loved being here. It has been great for us because we have been able to have a space of our own as well as a business address. Then we are also able to use some of the amenities such as the large classroom and the conference rooms to teach our classes without the extensive overhead of having to lease our own building.
MO: Anything else you’d like to tell us? I would like to tell our listening audience how they can find you – email address, telephone number, and website.
CS: Yes, our website is www.cprchoice.com is the easiest way to get hold of us. They can access our email and phone number there, but my email is email@example.com or they can call me personally at 865-548-1500. We’re also on all forms of social media, so they can find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
MO: You have it all covered!
CS: We try.
MO: That’s very good. Anything else?
CS: No, that’s it. Thank you very much for having us.
MO: Thank you Cheryl.
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Out: Thank you to our guest today from our Knoxville Executive Suites community for sharing with us their inspirational story. We look forward to bringing you another guest next month. Until our next visit, this is Marlene O’Hanlon with Knoxville Executive Suites.