Family 1st Medical Celebrates 35 Years in Business!

If you grew up in the Annapolis Valley chances are you’ve driven down Commercial Street in New Minas and noticed the small white house that is home to the head office of Family 1st Medical.  The company was born in 1987, thanks to the solid footing provided by Nova Industrial. At that time, it employed just three people and was called Lifeline Oxygen Systems Limited. Although 8995 Commercial Street has been home to the company for the past 27 years, it originally took shape in a little one room office in the Valley Professional Centre. At that time, they were primarily a respiratory company serving clients in the Kentville area who had been discharged from the hospital and required home oxygen therapy.

Over the years, Family 1st Medical has worked hard to develop and expand the services and medical products they offer. Today, they are proud to provide a full range of respiratory (home oxygen and CPAP therapy), medical and mobility products to clients across Nova Scotia. The family-owned business now employs approximately 50 people and has grown from one location in the Annapolis Valley to five additional locations in Yarmouth, Antigonish, Sydney, Amherst and Lower Sackville.

“Thirty-five years is a long time to be in business and we’re very excited about reaching this milestone,”

says Kimberley Monette, General Manager and Company Director. In conjunction with the company’s 35th anniversary Monette is also celebrating her own remarkable milestone this year. “I’m proud to say that I’m celebrating my 30th year with Family 1st. I initially started with the company in 1992 at the front desk and taking my certification in mastectomy and compression fittings.  I later moved on to sales and marketing before becoming the Director of Operations in 2007. A few years later, moving to General Managerand then a Company Director. My father, Robert Farris (now 80) is still the President of Family 1st Medical while Greg Trefry, owner of Nova Industrial, sits as Vice President,” she concludes.

Family 1st Medical has seen a lot of changes since opening their doors 35 years ago.

“It’s hard to believe that we were in business before the creation of the internet!”

says Monette explaining that the World Wide Web as it was first known, radically changed how the company communicated and did business. “We gained access to unlimited sources of information which really helped us change and evolve.” The way the company carried out promotional activities also advanced. “While we still use some traditional marketing like television, radio and print we’re now able to take advantage of digital spaces when we’re communicating with our customers. Having a website and using social media channels like Facebook are key methods we use to disseminate messages and content,” she says.

Email was also born during the company’s early years in operation. It became the standard form of communication for everyone around the world and shortly after text messaging was introduced. “The ability to instantly transmit messages to one another greatly impacted our operations in a very positive way.  From booking appointments, communicating with clients and staff, ordering products, and collaboration between our locations, things have really progressed over the years,” explains Monette adding that the development of video conferencing platforms like Zoom, which launched in 2013, have also had a huge impact on the way the company functions. “We’ve used Zoom a lot over the past few years. It allows managers from each of our six locations to meet face to face on a weekly basis. It helps us all feel part of one big team.”

In addition to the many changes the company has seen in its 35 years they have also faced challenges. Like most small business operators, the COVID-19 pandemic was one of these challenges but Monette says she’s proud of how the company dealt with the ever-changing landscape of the past two years. She attributes much of Family 1st Medical’s growth and longevity to the team that works with her and the high level of care they provide. “Our staff really are our biggest asset and this was even more evident as we worked our way through the pandemic,” says Monette inserting that staff really stepped up to do their part to protect clients, each others families, communities and the most vulnerable. “The health and safety of our clients is and will always be our top priority.”

Monette speaks with pride when she talks about the fact that Family 1st Medical is a Nova Scotian, family-run company, unlike their national competitors.  Many of the company’s employees live, and in many cases, have grown up in the areas they serve. They have planted roots with Family 1st Medical and play major roles in its success and evolution. Karen Hamilton-McNutt, RRT and Medical Services Manager is one of those people. This year she celebrates her 27th year with the company. “Had you told me the day I started with Family 1st, that I would still be here 27 years later, I’m not sure I would have believed you,” she says.  There are many reasons she has stayed with Family 1st for so long, one being the company’s vision of a community where every person has access to the medical equipment, health education, and expert support they need to maximize their wellness and participate fully in society.

“It’s rewarding to be part of a company that wants the best for their clients, and care deeply for them and the staff they employ,”

she concludes. Monette explains that the company employs multiple families within the business family including several husband-and-wife teams and for 15 years, even a mother-daughter duo.

“It’s no secret that our skilled, dedicated and caring staff are the reason our clients continue to choose us and support our local business. We would not be successful without the consistent efforts of all our staff and we are thankful to have each and every one!”

It is clear that Family 1st Medical is a company that believes in family, supporting local and giving back to their community. They have supported co-op students, summer students, the Flower Cart Supported Employment Services Program, hospital fundraisers, Rotary and the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce to name a few. “We are extremely thankful to the communities throughout the Annapolis Valley, and Nova Scotia as a whole, who have embraced us and helped us grow and flourish since our inception,” she says.

When asked where she sees Family 1st Medical in the coming years Monette has a simple answer,

“We hope to still be here serving the people of Nova Scotia. We feel very privileged to have been able to help people breathe better and move easier for the past 35 years and we hope to continue doing our best to provide the highest quality care possible for years to come.”

Rachel Leonard

Family 1st Medical