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Texas Business Hall of Fame Alumni Spotlight: PediaPlex CEO & Founder, Sonia Kirkpatrick

This month Texas Business Hall of Fame (TBHF) is spotlighting Sonia Kirkpatrick, a 2011 Future Texas Business Legend Award recipient from University of Dallas. We asked Sonia to share her entrepreneurial journey and offer some advice for aspiring business leaders.

What inspired you to start PediaPlex and what was your vision for the practice?  

What really inspired me to start PediaPlex was my daughter, Megan. I have three girls, all two years apart. My oldest daughter, Megan was diagnosed with autism at the age of eight. At the time, I was working in corporate America at Nokia Siemens and getting my master’s degree at The University of Dallas.  

Megan had many doctors and therapists and unfortunately all in different locations of the metroplex. The challenge that I experienced was that was with multiple locations, multiple providers and no collaboration between the providers was not an efficient process. This challenge truly highlights how fragmented the market is as a majority of the providers are independent practitioners.  As a parent, I thought why is there not one central place a parent can take their child and get most, if not all therapies.  As a working parent, I also understood the pressures of trying to take time off work. Finding answers, getting Megan to therapy appointments, maintaining my demanding job and travel schedule, and taking care of my other two small children was an all-consuming task. 

I remember taking a long piece of paper, laying it down our hallway, and mapping out what I thought would be the best design of my idea of a collaborative care therapy center. My idea was to create one centralized facility that provided the patients and their parents with a collaborative plan of care in one location.  

PediaPlex launched in 2012, just a few months after you received your Future Texas Business Legend Award. In the past ten years, how has the company grown? Where do you see PediaPlex going in the next ten years?  

When I opened PediaPlex in 2012, we had one center in Southlake Texas. Now ten years later, we have three centers, covering 19,000 square feet in Southlake, Fort Worth and Frisco.  We have served over half a million clients since opening.  

My goal for the next ten years is to continuing opening additional centers throughout North Texas with long range plans encompassing the adult autism community. Our mission is to provide quality and collaborative care to these clients and their families. 

Prior to founding PediaPlex, you had a career in corporate America. How did your prior professional experience influence your leadership style and decisions?  

I was very fortunate in my career.  I had the opportunity at 19 to work at Insilco Corporation in Midland, Texas as an intern in the Tax Department.  This gave me my first experience in working in a team environment and also working for a manager who demonstrated exactly how NOT to treat people. As the saying goes, “from every bad experience you take something good from it.”  I gained knowledge and more importantly emotional intelligence.  My first job out of college, I worked for The North American Coal Corporation and the best boss I have ever had in my life, Bob Carlton. Bob was an amazing man, who to this day has left an indelible mark on my life.  He taught me how to be a great tax accountant, but most importantly he taught me how to be a good manager.  He had a way of making people feel welcome and valued. I took notice, even at a young age, of how he treated people and how he taught others. He always had his yellow pad in his hand, his accounting ruler with the squiggly lines and a pink pen (just to make me feel better) about any errors he had to mark-up that I made.  I learned how to setup departments and what the flow of a good business should look like. I knew that I wanted to model my future business after the man that changed my career and set me on my way.  

Later in my career at Nokia, I had the opportunity to work across several departments ranging from the financial services platform to managed services to the Director of Global Strategy and Operational Excellence in Real Estate. The opportunity to work on a global scale with so many employees and clients around the world was impactful. Understanding the public and their cultural needs in each market we served was crucial to my job, but also taught me how to communicate and relate to people and be mindful of cultural differences.  

I cannot imagine starting a business without having first of all, an accounting degree and my MBA and working all of those years. The knowledge that I gained over 23 years provided a stable foundation when opening PediaPlex.  

How do you define “excellence” in business?  

Excellence in business is knowing that I am making a difference every single day. Within our industry and considering the clientele we serve each day; excellence comes down to helping these families and providing them with quality care and resources.  We have a vision at PediaPlex that is posted at every center that is: 

We serve each client with quality and the collaboration of services that defines our company.  
The path to excellence is not always easy, but it is worth it. This venture stemmed from my passion as a mother, which has truly made it all the more rewarding. I took a big risk leaving corporate America, but I truly believe in the quote by Joseph Campbell, “Follow your bliss, and the universe will open doors for you.”  

How has TBHF helped you in your entrepreneurial journey? 

TBHF gave me the opportunity to meet people I otherwise would have never met. I have been able to speak with fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders. The biggest pleasure for me is meeting Lee Roy Mitchell and his associate Gary Witherspoon.  They have been integral to speaking to me about my business and furthering my education as an entrepreneur.  Being an entrepreneur can be lonely sometimes, so having a network of individuals who share a common experience and passion is inspiring. I have also enjoyed being able to partake in various events, like the Legend Q&A’s. I learn so much and feel energized by the ideas and creativity of the group.

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