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Help is Here

With their unique concept, a couple is helping seniors in more ways than one.

After working with Mother Teresa in India for 14 years, the desire to help other people comes naturally to Kiran Yocom, 50. When she came to America in 1995, the needs of the growing aging population called out to her. So with the help of her husband, Philip, 54, she started the nonprofit Seniors Helping Seniors in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1998.

As the name suggests, what differentiates Seniors Helping Seniors from other in-home care companies is that seniors are both the ones receiving the care and the ones providing it. The Yocoms see themselves as filling not just one need but two, letting more able seniors stay active and supplement their incomes while they help less able seniors remain independent. "And when we match the right seniors, they become friends," Philip adds. "So we look at ourselves as providing not just companion care, but also companionship."

Philip has 30 years of experience working for franchise companies, so the couple naturally thought of franchising their idea from the beginning, but they wanted to build the business and experience it for themselves first. In 2006, they finally felt ready. They are now expanding throughout the country, with 25 franchises currently in operation. They expect 2008 sales of about $1.8 million.

The caring spirit that inspired them to open their nonprofit 10 years ago remains at the core of the company even now that it's a for-profit franchise. "We're building a community," says Philip, with franchisees "who first want to help, then make money--in that order."

Tracy Stapp Herold is the special projects editor at Entrepreneur magazine. She works on franchise and business opportunity stories and listings, including the annual Franchise 500.

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This article was originally published in the May 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Help is Here.

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