Q&A: How Kristal Lewis is adapting to a new normal.
The Founder & CEO of Senior Care Connect shares her strategy and advice.
As Founder/CEO of Senior Care Connect, Kristal is a registered Social Worker (RSW) who holds both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Social Work (BSW, MSW), with over 10 years of experience in the field. Her experience includes: health care system navigation, senior care planning, hospital discharge planning, cancer care, palliative care, community crisis intervention, community outreach and education, amongst other areas. With an expertise in working with seniors and health care, Kristal is well aware of the numerous issues impacting this population and holds a wealth of knowledge regarding our health care system and senior care planning. Kristal is passionate about educating the community and acting as a support to help seniors/families get the care they need, in order to ensure they maintain the highest quality of life as they age. Kristal shares how Senior Care Connect has adapted to these unprecedented times, from the financial resources she has been tapping into to how far she is planning ahead.
What area of your business is getting your most energy and focus?
With a recent pivot and MVP built, our focus right now is gaining feedback from our user base so we can adjust and tailor our solution to best meet their needs. So our energy and focus currently is getting our solution in the hands of professional caregivers and families.
What is the most important problem you are trying to solve?
I want to simplify the process for finding and arranging care for yourself or an aging loved one, so we can all have the best quality of life possible as we age. In my career, I’ve worked with hundreds of families in search of care and overall I get the same responses. Families are stressed, not only because their loved one is sick, but they are stressed at the whole process of finding, arranging and paying for care. Understandably this is a very complex issue and no one solution can solve it all. As our starting point, however, we want to address some of the pain points for families by creating a platform to provides easy access to care at the best possible price.
What has been your most successful solution so far?
Thus far we have received positive feedback from families who we have been able to match with caregivers. Families appreciated being able to easily find a caregiver and knowing that the caregiver they were being connected with had been pre-screened.
How have you been staying connected with your customers and employees?
Like most companies, we of course have social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. We also stay connected via our monthly newsletter. We use this as a form of engagement as we encourage our community members to reach out to us with questions or concerns. I love getting e-mails and questions in response to our newsletters, as it allows for greater engagement and allows us to provide tailored answers or support to people’s particular needs or questions. We do also have a chat feature on our website, as well as a phone number for those who want to speak directly with us. For team members, we use slack as a means of communication.
What financial resources are you tapping into?
As far as financial resources, I have accessed grants, competed/won pitch competitions, and have used my own personal funds. We’ve been fortunate to be a part of some amazing entrepreneurial programs such as York University’s Launch YU business accelerator, as well as YEDI(York Entrepreneurial Development Institute)- which provide the opportunity to compete and/or apply for access to grant funding. Grant funding is always great, as it allows for a source of funding without giving up equity in your company and it isn’t a loan you have to pay back (with interest). I also made it a point to compete in various pitch contests as some of them have cash prize rewards.
I think it’s important to really have a strong support system around you who can help you during those really difficult times and to remind you that your inherent value is not dependent on your business.
What has surprised you?
Starting a business can be extremely challenging, with lots of ups and downs. What has surprised me is how challenging it can be to get product-market-fit, even when you bring industry expertise. With Senior Care Connect, although there is a clear problem, it is a complex one which makes it difficult to address all aspects of it.
How far ahead are you planning?
Our initial offering helps connect families with pre-screened caregivers, however, we have much larger plans for the future in regards to how we want to help families. Addressing the care of an aging loved one has multiple factors to consider, which makes this issue such a difficult one to tackle. Our end goal as we grow is to create a centralized access point for senior care options, which will allow families to go to one access point to explore various options whether finding caregivers, private retirement homes, purchasing needed equipment and other senior care related needs.
What keeps you positive?
My co-founder, family and friends help me to stay positive and optimistic. Starting/building a business is a very arduous process and there can be many down times. It can be very emotionally taxing. I think it’s important to really have a strong support system around you who can help you during those really difficult times and to remind you that your inherent value is not dependent on your business.
Furthermore, what keeps me going is my “why”- which are my parents who are seniors. From my professional experience, I witnessed how distraught families were dealing with caring for an aging loved one and it made me think of my own parents. I see the families I work with and I empathize with them. I want to be able to be a part of creating solutions that will help not only my family but everyone’s families get the care they need and deserve as they age.
What message do you want to share with entrepreneurs right now?
Entrepreneurship is not easy. Always remember why you started and be persistent. Try to surround yourself with a great support system. Immerse yourself in the start-up eco-system, as there are great opportunities to apply for grants, connect with industry experts, network with investors and gain mentorship.