The Lizard Lady
There are two reasons to get to know Laurie Hess, DVM, owner of the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics (VCBE). One: VCBE is the only American Animal Hospital Association-accredited bird and exotics specialty referral hospital in the state, and the only hospital caring exclusively for birds and other exotic animals in Westchester and surrounding counties. Two (as if her wallaby-whispering skills aren’t reason enough to make Dr. Hess’s acquaintance): You may want to take notes from her on successfully marketing and growing a business.
As a board-certified bird specialist and exotic-animal veterinarian, Dr. Hess treats birds and other exotic pets only—no cats or dogs. At VCBE, her patients receive full medical, surgical, dental, emergency, and boarding care. Her Veterinary Center’s marketing initiatives, many of which Dr. Hess manages with the help of a website designer and a professional search engine marketing company, include social media, regularly updated traditional and mobile websites, email blasts, a monthly newsletter, and online ad campaigns. She also blogs and writes articles for other websites and magazines, and, through social media outreach, has made connections with reporters, producers, and editors who have invited her to be on various TV and radio shows. Her impressive list of TV appearances include The Martha Stewart Show, Good Day New York, and appearances on Animal Planet.
Longtime client Brian Aronowitz, chief marketing officer at The Institute of Culinary Education, has been following Dr. Hess’s career for 22 years. “What makes my vantage on Doctor Hess unique is not just my two healthy exotic parrots under her care, but the fact that I am also a marketer and entrepreneur,” he says. “There are really no boundaries when building a business. You still experience the trials and tribulations of operating, marketing, and growth. You still need staying power and perseverance.” He says he admires her ability to navigate these challenges successfully—and considers her an impressive businesswoman.
“Over the years, when I’ve brought the ‘boys’—a mustache parakeet and an African Congo Grey—in to Doctor Hess for a visit, I’m not only seeking the best avian medical care I can get, I’m also checking in with a colleague of sorts.”
Dr. Hess, who knew by the age of 15 that she was going to be a veterinarian, grew up in a New York City apartment full of dogs and cats, parrots, canaries, guinea pigs, frogs, fish, and a slew of other unusual pets. She currently shares her home with four cats, two canaries, a Pionus parrot, a cockatoo, and several fish—in addition to her husband and two sons. She also owns the gray parrot and the Eclectus parrot who live at the Veterinary Center. “I have had just about every kind of pet—feathered, scaly, or furred—and cannot imagine raising a family without pets of all kinds,” she says.