Heartland Eye Care:
A Successful Dakota Business Lending Borrower
Jun 14, 2021
Drs. Dori Carlson and Mark Helgeson always say that they “had to go a long way from home to meet somebody from home.”
Despite growing up just a few hours apart, Dori and Mark first met each other while they were both attending Optometry School in Forest Grove, Oregon. The rest is history…
After getting married and moving to Seattle to begin their careers, the doctors were contacted by an Economic Development group near their home states of North Dakota/Minnesota with an opportunity to open a practice in the rural community of Park River, ND. Several phone calls and visits later, the duo decided to move back to the Midwest, take up the opportunity, and open Heartland Eye Care.
“The Park River Economic Development Group contacted us after their local optometrist had retired and closed his doors. They sent us videos of the city, reached out to our families, and even had a city-wide raffle to raise money to fly us home to visit Park River. How could we say “no” to such a heartwarming community?”
Heartland Eye Care operated in a 500 square foot facility in Park River for 3 years until moving into a larger, 1,800 square foot building in 1993. Around the same time, the Helgeson’s expanded their practice and acquired a second location in Grafton, ND.
Before they knew it, Heartland Eye Care’s Park River location was bursting at the seams. The practice worked with Bank of North Dakota to finance the purchase and renovation of a new facility but knew that they would also need to purchase additional equipment to continue to serve their clients. It was at this time that Heartland Eye Care utilized Dakota Business Lending’s DMF/Impact loan program – a loan program offering 15 year fixed-rate financing for health and safety related businesses in rural communities. “We were looking for a lending agency to help us acquire the equipment we needed to expand and provide better care in our new facility,” Dr. Carlson explained. “Partnering with Dakota Business Lending and the DMF/Impact program helped make that possible.” Since the expansion, Heartland Eye Care has added a new partner to the business, Dr. Jaime Hoenke, allowing them to continue to provide exceptional care in their growing practice.
Today, Heartland Eye Care continues to serve Park River, Grafton, and beyond, and has made it their mission to give back to these communities who have shown their unending support since day one. “We love being a part of these communities in any way we can,” shared Dr. Carlson. “Schools, sporting events, music events, figure skating clubs, golf tournaments, hospital benefits – you name it, and Heartland Eye Care is a part of it.” In fact, these relationships with their communities are among the most rewarding aspects of having their own business.
“We love seeing our patients grow up and taking care of them after all these years. To see them move away and still come back for their eye care is one of the greatest compliments. These types of relationships are what it is all about.”
Heartland Eye Care has gained recognition in their communities over the years and was recognized by Polar Communications as a local leading small business. The doctors also continue to stay involved within their profession as Dr. Carlson served as the first female president of the American Optometry Association.
For those who are looking to start or grow their business, the husband and wife have just one piece of advice: give it your all.
“Starting our own business has been one of the most rewarding things we have ever done. It took a lot of work, but we believed that if we worked hard enough, our dreams could come true. Now, it’s something to look back on and be proud of.”