Jeff Wallner reports:
Deerfield Township-based FirstLight HomeCare projects it can double its elder-care business this year by filling a growing need.
The company, founded in 2009 by Jeff Bevis, is carving out its place in a massive and growing market driven by the aging baby boomer population. In 2010, approximately 12 million people were receiving care from 33,000 providers, according to the National Association of Home Care and Hospice. Annual expenditures for home health care exceed $70 billion.
FirstLight now has 41 franchisees in 20 states, including a new location that opened this month in Crestview Hills. The company employs eight at its Deerfield Township headquarters and plans to add 35 franchisees by year’s end.
FirstLight helps seniors with meal preparation, house cleaning, shopping and errands and other concierge-type services. It also provides care to new mothers, people recovering from surgery and those suffering from dementia.
Services, which range from several hours per week to full-time live-in care, cost $19.30 per hour.
Bevis, who spent 25 years managing franchise operations for Thrifty Car Rental, Comfort Keepers and Express Personnel Services, got his first part-time job as a teen-ager in a nursing home and has helped care for aging family members over the years.
“This industry blends all of these experiences and interests to really serve a growing need all across the country,” he says.
Franchisees invest between $69,030 and $94,265 in working capital, and pay a franchise fee of $30,900. It takes approximately three to five months between the time a franchisee is approved and the time the new business opens.
Franchisees hire caregivers who undergo full background checks. No services are outsourced.
Bevis has made recruiting, training and evaluating caregivers one of FirstLight’s core competencies. The company uses customized software programs and online tools to ensure caregivers have everything they need to serve those clients.
FirstLight also provides sales tools and marketing materials to franchisees, and via a third-party company makes regular client satisfaction calls and distributes the feedback over the web.
Online tools also help franchisees manage training, staffing and scheduling. The software helps them place caregivers with clients, and a web portal helps clients and their families communicate directly with caregivers.
Bevis said FirstLight already is receiving inquiries from large companies and insurance firms interested in receiving care for their clients and employees.
“I’m feeling very bullish about the business, the industry, and our approach to service,” Bevis said. “We have something new and different to offer.”