Our Chat with Dr. Karen Thomas of Venture Out Wellness

EMPOWERING ENTREPRENEURS: Our Chat with Dr. Karen Thomas of Venture Out Wellness

At last year's Military Influencer Conference, I attended a speed coaching session about telling your business story. We stood in a circle, answering rapid-fire questions from the gentleman leading the group. Standing next to me was Dr. Karen Thomas and by the end of the session, I knew that she was doing something incredible to help military service members.

Dr. Karen is an Air Force Veteran, prior military special operations physical therapist, and founder of Venture Out Wellness. She is dedicated to educating frontline defenders in how to prevent injuries by becoming champions of their own bodies, armed with the tools they need when pain strikes. Her bold and unapologetic mission is to change the way we support those who dedicate their lives to serving others, their communities, and their country.

Say hello to my friend and fellow entrepreneur, Dr. Karen Thomas!

Give us the scoop on your business - what do you do and how did you come up with the idea for your business?

I teach military service members and first responders how to prevent injuries and remain serving in less pain! I'm an Air Force veteran and physical therapist by trade who has worked with the military and first responders for almost two decades, and during this time I witnessed first-hand a significant level of healthcare avoidance behavior from frontline defenders.

Bottom line: they do not want to go to medical because of potential blowback, career repercussions, and the perception that they can't perform their duties.

I've also witnessed frontline defenders finally deciding to go to medical to seek care and having their worst fears come true due to lack of training on the part of the healthcare professionals serving them resulting in troops getting grounded when it wasn't necessary, careers being completely sidelined, and even medical separations from military service. On top of all of this, you basically have frontline defenders that are not receiving treatment for their physical health problems.

They press forward, continue to work through the pain, and when the pain gets bad enough, they agree to go to medical and if they do end up in the office of someone who genuinely wants to help them, there's often a long list of issues that need to be sorted out - as in it's no longer just low back pain...now it's low back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and hip pain.

I continued to see this pattern over - and over - and over again, everywhere I worked, in uniform as a military physical therapist and also as a contracted PT with the government - stateside, overseas, Marines Corps installations, Air Force bases, it didn't matter. The problem was everywhere, and I just couldn't remain on the "receiving end" of clinical care anymore, waiting for frontline defenders to come to me so I could help them.

I thought - there has got to be a better way to do this - to reach them and teach them how to better manage their symptoms, treat themselves, and remain serving our country and our communities - and doing the things they love! That's when I realized I needed to transition out of clinical care and teach online - so I could have the biggest, most widespread impact as possible and help every single frontline defender I could. Because they deserve it.

What has surprised you most about running your own business?

It's the best self-growth journey you'll ever be on. I knew I would grow professionally doing this, but I had no idea how much I was going to grow as a person. Everything - and I mean everything - surfaces: your strengths, your weaknesses, any "baggage" from prior work or personal experiences you thought you had "worked through" - it just all surfaces one way or another as you're challenged daily with some things you've done and some things you've never done - but teach yourself and take ownership of because you're a one-woman-show and if you don't show up, this company is like dust in the wind and no frontline defenders get helped!! :)

It is a tough but beautiful journey, though, and I can't wait to see the person I grow into - the human I need to be to lead this big mission and help frontline defenders on a global scale. I just keep telling myself: you can do HARD THINGS, and God has gifted me with this vision so that I can carry it out and leave a huge, positive impact on the world during my time here. And so, it's one step in front of the other!


My biggest challenge has been having compassion with myself. As my first Air Force boss told me a long time ago, "LT, you have perfectionist tendencies..." (It wasn't a compliment.)

I do enjoy a beautiful flow, when things all come together on a project, seeing the "messy" become "aligned" - and helping people reach their goals. The funny thing is, when you're in the start-up phase of a business, you may just see "messy" for - well, a long while! Beautiful flow? No. Not seen frequently enough!

And when it comes to helping people, sometimes I just get so down on myself, feeling like I've fallen behind in some way - that I'm just not moving fast enough, and I'm thereby letting frontline defenders down regularly because I'm just not where I want to be yet (aka in the best place possible to help them). I have and continue to do a lot of work on simply: giving myself grace - having compassion for myself - having faith that it will all work out in the end, because I believe it will, and at the end of the day I'm the one in charge of this operation, so we're doing this! :)

Journaling, meditation, breathwork - all of these tools have helped me and continue to help me rewire what were once hardwired perfectionistic neural pathways in my brain into what are becoming more compassionate, loving pathways that recognize the value I bring, the work I've done, and the gifts I will give across the globe.

What is your best advice for someone who dreams of starting their own business?

Go for what you believe in - go all in. As far as any of us know, we only have this one life. Live your life on your terms. Be the boss you were born to be.

How do you tackle those days when being an entrepreneur feels extra hard and you just want to quit?

I absolutely give myself days off now. In the beginning, I worked through them, and wow - what a waste of time! I was so unproductive, inefficient, and just - in a mood.

It all goes back to that fear of “falling behind”, wanting to keep momentum, grinding like there’s no tomorrow! (So unhealthy!) Now, I listen to my body, and there are just some days when my body and/or my mind are just not on board.

I give myself time away from the hard work I do every day and go do something fun - recharge! It has helped me and my business so much to learn to do this.

Dr. Karen's 5 Quick favorites for fellow entrepreneurs

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"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."

- Steve Jobs






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