At the Wheel of a New Business

When he graduated a semester early, Peter Norman ’00 didn’t depend on his parents to support him for a few months. He went to work delivering medical equipment. But his job provided much more than income; it gave him an idea for his own company.

An economics and business major, Peter took a hard look at his employer’s operations. While the business met a need, he didn’t think it operated efficiently. He became convinced he could do it better.

As a student, Peter had planned to work in investment banking, and Westmont Trustee Jim Vogelzang offered him the opportunity to interview for a position in this field.

“But when I explained my interest in starting a medical equipment company, he recommended that I do it right away when I had no family and no responsibilities,” Peter says. “‘You’re in a good place to fail,’ he told me. ‘Why not try it when you are young? You can always do investment banking later.’ That short conversation gave me the push I needed. It was very good advice.”

In 2000, Peter returned to Seattle, where he grew up, and founded Bellevue Health Care with Eric Mortenson ’00. For the first six months, Peter worked for UPS all night while the business got going. The company buys equipment from the manufacturer, rents it to users and delivers to homes. Providing equipment for Hospice is an under-served part of the health care sector and it has become an major part of Bellevue’s business. After starting in the basement of a rented house and expanding to a warehouse, the firm opened a retail center in October to test the retail market.

Eric decided not to pursue business as a career and left in 2003 to do research at the Mayo Clinic. “Much of our success is due to Eric,” Peter says. The company employs 10 people, including some from Westmont. “The people around us are the reason we are so successful,” Peter says. “We have hired good people.

“If you do things well there will always be room for you,” he adds. “Our industry is very under-serviced and companies that are honest and do well will succeed.”

New employees start the same way Peter did: behind the wheel of a truck. “Everyone drives for six months so they will understand the core of the business,” he says.

“I never thought I would like renting wheelchairs, but we are the best at what we do in this area, and I enjoy that,” he says. “I like the business side of it and the potential. I like entrepreneurship. I’m built that way, that is how my mind works. I’m always thinking of ways to make money.”

Now that the business has succeeded, Peter hopes to expand it by training employees and sending them to other cities to replicate what he has accomplished in Seattle.

Despite the demands of his business, Peter travels whenever he can and spent December in India and Nepal. He has visited Thailand, Peru, South Africa, Guatemala and Belize.

“I hope to incorporate my love for travel and business in a joint venture someday,” he says. “I’m interested in providing long-term assistance by strengthening the economy in an under-developed area. It’s something I think I can do.”

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