To make that childhood dream become a reality, McClelland (DVM'02) attended various Alberta and BC universities before starting veterinary school at Ross University in St. Kitts.
After one year studying at the tropical West Indies isle, McClelland was able to transfer to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the U of S. "The program at the U of S was great. I enjoyed my classmates, who were very welcoming. I enjoyed the fun part about vet school too, with the water fights when we were still allowed to have them back then."
McClelland got the mixed-animal clinic (working on both large and small animals) training and experience she needed before moving back to her hometown of Pincher Creek, Alta., to work at a local clinic.
"The U of S really prepared me. You are thrown out, as new grad on call at night during calving season, and I surprised some farmers when I showed up at night, not my boss, and put two hands in to pull out twins. I felt well prepared to do mixed animal [care]."
A move to Airdrie, just outside of Calgary, and two children later, McClelland was feeling the pressure of being a parent and full-time vet. Instead of choosing one over the other, she started Vets To Go, a mobile veterinary service that provides in-home animal care.
"Our business model is based on quality of life—for our vets, for our clients and for the animals," explained McClelland.
Most services—such as physical examinations, vaccinations, preventive care and end of life care—can be done in the client's home. A local veterinary clinic is rented on Sundays to perform surgeries.
With a business coach—who later became a partner—to help with the business side of things, the company started to grow. "I thought about other vets who are moms. What about their work-life balance? So we thought of expanding."
A central booking system and back-end support are competitive edges over other mobile vets that opened the door to growth. Vets To Go now has associates in several Alberta locations and is looking to expand throughout Western Canada and potentially nation-wide.
McClelland admits the concept of making house calls is foreign to some of her colleagues. But she said, "A lot of the more progressive vets are happy to work together." She can refer clients to a clinic for emergency care, food or other pet products. "And they can refer the cats they don't want to see because they are crazy in the clinic," she joked.
Even though she is among Canada's top female entrepreneurs, McClelland didn't always see herself as an entrepreneur at all.
"I'm primarily a vet; I love what I'm doing. I didn't want to own my own clinic with a building and staff and all the headaches. But I have always been willing to take a risk and make quick decisions. And once you have a university degree, there are so many things you can do."
Written by Derrick Kunz. Visit U of S Alumni News for more alumni stories.