DIXON – When customers walk through the door of Caroline Arnould’s business, they’re ready to be put to the test.
Value Lab is a locally owned, walk-in collection center designed to offer businesses and individuals quality lab testing at an affordable price, quickly and conveniently.
Anyone can get tested, with or without a doctor’s order. Customers pay out-of-pocket, and Value Lab provides a detailed receipt for insurance purposes.
Arnould, 31, of Dixon, opened Value Lab on April 1, after working as a phlebotomist for 5 years at CGH Medical Center in Sterling.
Arnould is a 2006 Dixon High School graduate who attended Sauk Valley and Kiswaukee community colleges before realizing her dream of owning her own business.
“I couldn’t have done it without my friend and co-worker, Laurie [Wetzell],” she says of her receptionist, who worked with her at CGH. “I was meant to meet Laurie. She can’t draw blood, and I can’t do numbers. She is the brains behind that part.”
Arnould and her husband, Adam, 31, a lieutenant in the Dixon City Fire Department, have a infant daughter, Adaline, who comes to work with Mom a few days a week. Arnould won’t miss seeing Adaline take her first steps.
“I started looking at childcare costs, and decided I couldn’t go that route, so I decided to work for myself. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”
A doctor can send an order for lab work to Value Lab, and the patient can stop by at their convenience. The samples are collected by certified professionals then sent to a testing facility, with the results sent back to the doctor’s office within 24 hours. No insurance is needed, and all the work is 100% confidential.
Fellow phlebotomist Connie Asher, who retired from CGH in August after about 20 years, fills in for Arnould when she needs time off.
Wetzell, of Rock Falls, was a receptionist at CGH when Arnould asked her to join Value Lab.
“I really liked Caroline and wanted to keep working with her,” Wetzell said. “We’d had experience working together.”
She also likes the concept behind Value Lab.
“I like that people can take their health into their own hands,” Wetzell said.
“If you aren’t getting answers from your doctor, you can go with your ‘gut’ and have yourself tested. Our work reduces your need to make appointments to see the doctor, when they are going to just prescribe tests anyway.
“Some people are lucky enough to figure out an undiagnosed disease, and many results are returned immediately,” she said.
One of the results of their lab tests, Wetzell said, is “peace of mind.”
“Some parents want to know what their kids are up to. With peer pressure and things available, we can help parents have difficult conversations with their kids. Some patients are worried about a lab test through their work, so they come here first to make sure the results are good.”
Arnould comes from an entrepreneurial family: Her father, Scott Burkitt, owns Pfoutz Plumbing and Heating in Franklin Grove, and her mom, Linda Burkitt, owns Tipsy’s Bar and Grill in downtown Dixon.
“Mom started in that space as the original owner of Stuff for 11 years, which changed to Bloomin’ Stuff, and is now Tipsy’s,” she said.
“I learned how to work from watching my parents. If someone didn’t show up, they had to go in. They were there every day. Middle-of-the-night calls, problems, all of it, they were there.”
Arnould is proud that Value Lab is owned and run by women, but they didn’t do it alone.
“I worked with Emily Zimmerman in the Small Business Development Center at Sauk Valley Community College. She helped me get a business plan together, connect with the bank, and introduced me to the owner of this building.”
Her Dixon connections helped, too.
“It’s so hard for the average person to know what to do when starting a business. Dixon Main Street offers a $5,000 microgrant, and I was referred to a bank for partial financing, and other practical support.”
Anytime Arnould can get her name out to the public, she is all-in.
“I have called names out of the Yellow Pages to let people know we are here,” she said, and they were even on a float on this year’s Petunia Festival parade.