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Working With Mother Teresa, She Was Inspired by Older People's Compassion. So She Started a Caregiving Business That Hires Them. Kiran Yocom started franchise Seniors Helping Seniors because she felt there was no one better equipped to do the job.

By Chloe Arrojado Edited by Frances Dodds

This story appears in the December 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Seniors Helping Seniors

When you're in the business of caring for others, nothing beats having Mother Teresa on your résumé. Kiran Yocom has just that; she worked with the sainted nun for more than a decade in India, and Yocom's commitment to serving others continued when she moved to the U.S. in 1995. Three years later, she cofounded home-care company Seniors Helping Seniors. Inspired by the compassion she saw in older people, she hired seniors as primary caregivers for other seniors.

Since the Reading, Pa.–based business began franchising in 2006, it has expanded to 100 franchisees throughout the U.S., the U.K., and Malta. Yocom's daughter, Namrata Yocom-Jan, is now president of the company. Striking a balance between truly compassionate care and profitable business strategy isn't always easy, but Yocom says the key is finding franchisees with a heart for the business. Here, mother and daughter share how they've done it.

Related: Seniors in Emerging Markets Represent Huge Opportunity for Innovative Entrepreneurs

Though the senior care industry is well-established, hiring senior caregivers is a unique concept. How did you get people on board with the idea?

Yocom: When I started the company — I'm not kidding you — nobody else was doing what I wanted to do. It was such a foreign concept. I had to educate people. I was going to churches, and I was really good at talking to people and giving presentations. In the beginning, it was a challenge to recruit, but after recruiting one client, there was no looking back. There were lots and lots of children who didn't want to send their parents to assisted living or nursing homes.

How did you navigate the pandemic when your employees were at risk but clients still needed care?

Yocom-Jan: Because we hire seniors to provide our services, they're more conscientious about making sure they're not the ones partying on the beaches of Florida. And something else we started during COVID was telecare. For the seniors who did not have caregivers coming in and providing services, they could get a call from someone at the office. During COVID we saw people in nursing homes and facilities around the world getting depressed and lonely. So we'd have check-in calls to make sure clients were OK.

How do you develop a franchise base that strikes the right balance of living out the brand's values and being business-minded?

Yocom-Jan: When we started franchising, we were so focused on the "do good" part that we didn't necessarily look at the business drive each franchise owner had. So over the past several years, we have been more focused on finding franchise partners who are driven and want to grow a business. If they don't have the drive, they can't build a larger business. And if they don't have the right compassion, they are not going to align with the values of our brand. I attend discovery days and tell people, "If you're looking to do good, you could just volunteer. But if you're looking to do good and make money and get the financial freedom you deserve, then this is the right way for you to go."

Related: Travel Agents Saved the Day When the Pandemic Caused Chaos. Now, Travelers Need Them More Than Ever.

What do senior employees bring to the job that others might not?

Yocom: You have no idea how dependable seniors are. One of our caregivers went to help somebody and there was at least a foot of snow that day. She came back bleeding on her arm. She said, "I went to see Mrs. Smith and I slipped." I asked her, "Why did you go?" She said, "How else would she get her breakfast?"

Chloe Arrojado

Entrepreneur Staff

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