Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Wilmoth is passionate about the homecare industry. As someone born with a congenital heart defect, the 27-year-old franchisee realizes the power of home healthcare. So, she and 28-year-old Yohan Kim decided to team up to merge their small business and medical expertise to open north Alabama's first BrightStar facility. Here's what they've learned.
Names: Yohan Kim and Jennifer Wilmoth
Franchise owned: BrightStar Care of Huntsville, Alabama
How long have you owned a franchise?
Since March 25, 2015.
The support system in the franchise corporate office, coupled with the camaraderie of fellow franchisees is what interested us the most in franchising versus starting our own business from the ground up, with no direction or assistance.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Jennifer: I obtained a bachelor of science in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences and have experience working in the private duty home care, assisted living, day programs for adults with mental health challenges and blood banking industries.
Yohan: After graduating from college, I found my passion for startups and entrepreneurship. I have owned and operated many of my own businesses and by the age of 25, I had acquired a few of my own and had become involved in multiple startups. I bought and sold one of the startups, which gave us the capital necessary to start BrightStar Care.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Jennifer: I am very passionate about home healthcare. I was born with a congenital heart defect and had two open heart surgeries before the age of 22. I believe it is the compassion that others in the healthcare industry have shown me throughout my own struggles that lead me to know, absolutely, that it is an industry I want to be a part of and in which I can positively impact others.
The field of private duty home care is growing as the costs for hospital stays, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities/nursing homes skyrocket. We saw a need for a higher standard of private duty home care in our area to assist individuals and families achieve a better quality of life while living and aging in their own home. After a lot of research we found that BrightStar Care was the higher standard we were looking for, offering the best quality of skilled and non-skilled care at home.
Two very impressive qualities that BrightStar Care locations possess are a full-time Registered Nurse Director of Nursing and Joint Commission Accreditation. Private duty home care is not regulated federally, and home health agencies are not required to be licensed by the Alabama State Board of Health. We are the only private duty home care agency in all of north Alabama to boast a registered nurse as a Director of Nursing who oversees all client care from beginning to end, and who trains and manages all employees who provide care.
Within the year we will obtain accreditation from the Joint Commission (an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies healthcare organizations and programs). For two consecutive years, the Joint Commission has awarded the BrightStar Care system with the Enterprise Champion for Quality award. These qualities, along with several others, proved to us that BrightStar Care is the highest standard and most respected home care franchise.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Jennifer: I did much of my initial research online, looking at several private duty home care franchises and what differentiates one from the others. Having previous experience in home care, I knew what to expect from a typical or average agency. I was searching for the one company that would stand the farthest out from the crowd in terms of quality of care and client satisfaction. After visiting the corporate office, there was no question in my mind that BrightStar Care was the brand we wanted to be a part of.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Jennifer: The largest challenge I have found has been hiring the exact right number of initial employees to meet the needs of our clients. We don’t want to hire too few or too many employees versus the number of clients we have. We are finding our perfect cadence in number of new employees to best compliment the number of new clients. There really is an art to this that we are striving to perfect.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Jennifer: I would advise anyone who is interested in owning their own franchise to assess every aspect of their life, both professionally and personally, to make sure you are willing and able to make sacrifices to dedicate the amount of time and effort necessary to be a successful franchisee. My husband and I are currently expecting our first child (due in July). We are not as financially secure as I have been in the past, as I will not see any monetary gain until we reach our break even investment point and begin gaining financial ground.
I weighed all of these aspects of my life before making the final decision to join the BrightStar Care franchise. I would tell anyone who is interested in becoming a franchisee to do the same. Find something you are passionate about that will be rewarding for you. You will have to work hard and sacrifice a lot, but hopefully in the end all of your effort will pay off financially, professionally, and personally.
What’s next for you and your business?
We have put a lot of thought, time, and money into our business thus far, even though we are still in the initial stages of opening. We have more hard work ahead of us while we fine tune our processes and procedures, and grow the list of clients we serve. It is truly inspiring to know that everything we are doing is directly benefiting residents of our community. Once we establish a solid presence in our city, we want to research the idea of expanding into surrounding areas.