Caring Self-Employment

NASE News

Caring Self-Employment

NASE member Kimberly Whiter is the CEO and Owner of Elder Care Solutions in Roanoke, Virginia. Kimberly spent over 10 years building a career in higher education, during which time she worked both as an Assistant Professor and an Administrator. Part of her scholarship program was studying how interprofessional and interdisciplinary teams functioned to reach the best shared outcome. In early 2019 she was presenting this work at a national conference and one of the Co-Founders of Elder Care Solutions was in the audience. I started consulting with the business and in early 2020 I was invited to join the team as its CEO. Work in interdisciplinary practice translated well into the role as CEO for Elder Care Solutions, where she built innovative strategic collaborations in search of creative solutions for our nation’s care crisis.

In 2021, she became Owner of the business, and is now on a mission with Elder Care Solutions to tackle our broken care infrastructure by helping individuals realize a more financially positive aging and caring experience. The model of Elder Care Solutions is to function as a place families can engage to learn all their viable options for realizing a more financially positive caregiving or aging journey. We utilize a strong interdisciplinary practice that pulls from the expertise of key professionals that contribute solutions to the challenge of paying for long-term care. To this end, families receive solutions from multiple professional perspectives and start down a path of empowered caregiving or aging, rather than a journey overshadowed by stress and worry.

When and why did you join the NASE?
I joined NASE in late December 2021 after learning about it in a small business educational series. When I looked at the website I was blown away with the resources and benefits that came with membership. I have subsequently shared NASE with all my self-employed business colleagues so they too can gain access to the amazing resources that come with being a part of the organization! In fact, I have recently signed up for a Constant Contact account, which NASE members receive a discount for, so I could start an email marketing campaign. I received an amazing discount and special features because I was joining through an affiliate. My membership has already paid for itself!

What inspired you to enter the field you are in?
It’s inexcusable that we’ve failed as a nation to construct a care infrastructure capable of supporting our aging citizens and the family members and friends taking care of them. I am convinced it is going to take an interdisciplinary approach to find solutions that will support families best. Access to the money needed to provide adequate care is an essential determinant to aging well. Too many families are struggling to pay for care because long-term care is overwhelmingly expensive. More and more families find themselves in unsustainable financial situations when caring for an aging loved one. Educating families and giving them access to resources that can help lessen the financial strain of caregiving for our seniors is the important work I do.

When and why did you start your business?
Elder Care Solutions has been in existence since 2011. It was started because two incredibly smart gentlemen, who were close friends, were experiencing the challenges of caring for an aged parent at the same time. They were visionaries in that together they collected and culminated professional and local resources that could help them answer their hard questions and overcome the surprising fact that caring for an aged loved one is expensive!

The model has evolved significantly and since I joined in 2020 and subsequently became Owner in 2021, we look very different than we did a decade ago. We are now modeled for modern, virtual commerce and fine-tuned to help families all over the nation.

How do you market your business?
Coming from higher education, I simply can’t get teaching out of my bones. While I run a for-profit business, it is important that my work is making an impact on the larger societal issue that our nation’s care crisis is causing. To that end, I contribute educational content to a variety of platforms so families can benefit from the cumulative knowledge Elder Care Solutions has. I write articles for Caregiving.com, a national resource for family caregivers of aging family members. I’ve presented for daughterhood.org, a national nonprofit supporting female family caregivers. I’ve written for Senior Navigator, a Virginia-based publication covering aging issues. And Elder Care Solutions has its own blog, INSIGHTS for Families, that provides free education on care challenges. These educational outlets help build our authority and authenticity with potential clients and we often receive clients that came across an article or two.

When you run a business that touches on a big issue, like ours, it is important to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. Therefore, we give back through sponsorships and time. Elder Care Solutions has sponsored local events put on by organizations that focus on helping seniors or those caring for them. I also volunteer my time to run a local support group for female family caregivers under the daughterhood.org umbrella. I am also a part of the Virginia Caregivers Coalition and spend time advocating for state and national legislation that impacts caregiving. While these efforts are in-direct forms of marketing, they are incredibly important to demonstrate that our work is playing a part of a bigger conversation and we are dedicated to finding solutions.

Additionally, we have robust social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and we just joined TikTok! We use these spaces to share education, engage our followers, and share amazing resources we come across as we build interdisciplinary solutions to key care challenges. We provide free consultations for potential clients to talk to us, ask questions, learn more about our work, and get to know us before deciding to add us to their care journey. And, we just started an email marketing strategy where family caregivers receive a monthly, virtual Care Package in their inbox that delivers insights and the top three things we’ve been helping caregivers with recently.

What challenges have you faced in your business?
So many caregivers that come to us are already in a space of overwhelm. Internally, we refer to this as a caregiver in “crisis mode”. When in this headspace, individuals are often stressed and struggle to make decisions because of the overwhelming situation they are already experiencing. During a consultation a client has trouble committing to working with us because they already have too many decisions to make already.

We’ve modified our consultations in two main ways. First, we use caregiver language, which is ensuring that the client has space to share their experiences and letting them know we have heard them before we share anything about our work. Second, we focus the client on their number one need. What is the immediate crisis or concern that needs to be handled? We commit to connecting them to a resource or answer to overcome that challenge within 48 hours. Only once we’ve helped them do we re-engage our clients to see if there is a continued interest to bring us into their care situation fully.

This helps get our clients out of their crisis mode and into a better space where they are empowered by the idea that there IS help out there. It also gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our service and help a family, even if that turns out to be with one task.

Do you have any employees?
I aim to add two employees to the business in the near future. It is something I would like to accomplish by the end of 2022. We are prioritizing scale. A primary market for us is Employee Benefits. Since the pandemic, caregivers in the workplace have struggled tremendously. Conversations around how businesses are supporting employees caring for aging parents has become a serious issue. Additionally, with the Great Resignation, key supports like this have become huge productivity, retention, and talent attraction tools. By providing our work as an employee benefit, we can reach our goal to help many family caregivers, help them better balance their life roles, and provide our work free to the employee. I recognize this is a big goal. While I am confident we will reach large scalability soon, I also recognize that means growing my team.

What’s your schedule like, what’s a typical day for you?
I work a typical 9am to 5pm most days. There are some days that my tasks trickle into the evening, especially if it was a heavy-meeting day and I couldn’t do as much administrative work. As a small business, I carry a lot of roles! In a week’s time I will typically touch on all the following tasks:

  • Scheduling meetings with other leaders in the care economy to explore collaborations. 
  • Writing: on our blog or our book project expected to come out this year.
  • Consulting with clients.
  • Tracking marketing results/updating our sales funnel.
  • Following up with clients.
  • Building content for our social media platforms.
  • Following up on business opportunities.
  • Updating and communicating with my Advisors.
  • Reading to stay up-to-date on current issues and political changes in the care field.

What’s the best thing about being self-employed?
I am a natural leader, so being in a position where I have the autonomy to organize and strategize freely gives me the environment I need to build innovative ideas and implement processes to get us where we want to be.

I am also a mom! I have two children, tweens, and caring for them is a big item on my plate. Especially over the past two years when we were navigating no school, no daycare, and virtual learning, it simply was necessary that I had some flexibility to handle it all. Now things are a bit calmer, but I like having the capability to pick them up from school and take that time away from the desk as CEO to sit in my other important role as mom.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received from a client?
“You’re so incredibly kind and helpful”. This actually came from a client whose immediate care need was outside our area of expertise. They needed a completely different kind of help, but because I am connected to so many experts in the field, I knew exactly who to send them to. I was able to connect them with someone that fit their needs and it made huge positive impacts on their situation.

What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to someone starting their own business?
Be resilient. Owning a business is NOT for the faint of heart. In the beginning you will hit more obstacles than successes. You will tackle bigger financial hurdles than you ever did when you were working for someone else. And you may get rejected by potential clients or partners at first. But with consistency and a mind set to stay in the game, you’ll overcome. Being resilient can help you with the following important things: 

  • Be vulnerable and seek out feedback from early clients and other business owners. They will help you refine your work so it’s even better!
  • Don’t focus too much on the “NOs” you get. All that really matters is the first “YES”. Then you’re on your way. 
  • Play the long game. Keep your eye on your long-term goals. Don’t let shiny opportunities distract you if they will cause you to deviate from the big goal. 
  • Don’t take everyone’s advice. Lots of opinions will start flying your way. Not all of them are valid. Stay true to the brand you’re establishing and your mission. 

Which NASE member benefit is most important to you?
The wide array of affiliations NASE has built is so valuable. It is obvious NASE knows what business owners need to do their work. They’ve built a huge repository of products and services that all businesses will need at some point and provides easy ways to obtain them with discounts! Things like Constant Contact, Quickbooks, Website engines, legal services, a profile on NextBizThing, and more. The discounts alone give you your membership fee back.

Courtesy of NASE.org
https://www.nase.org/about-us/nase_news/2022/10/21/caring-self-employment