Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Call Concern – A Startup for the Senior Boomers market.

Call Concern

Call Concern.com launched on 21st. March 2011, with a major press release as a new style entry into the senior services market. Senior services/senior care is a booming market and is forecast to remain so for around the next fifty years, as the post war ‘baby boomers’ become the new senior boomers, creating multiple pressures on their offspring who have to cope with their aging parents as well as being parents themselves. As a result, senior living has become the focus for a fast emerging number of new businesses operating primarily both online and offline.

Any launch should attempt to bring something new to the table, or at least approach a problem from a different angle. Call Concern’s challenge in the senior care market was to identify, create and promote a new or significantly different contribution to senior services. The on-line senior care market has traditionally been dominated by the sale of protective devices, eg. jewellery items which contain an instantly available medical record in micro form for use in emergencies and medical alarm systems which link directly to emergency response teams. There have also been medical advances which enable those with certain conditions to have a monitoring device for home use. In addition, numerous websites are springing up which act as help, information, support and advisory centres for both seniors and their offspring, some of which provide information regarding local senior care resources.

Call Concern identified two problems with typical senior aids. The first is that they largely rely on the person concerned to do something, ie. they have to remember to wear, activate or check a device and also may not have time to respond in a sudden emergency, or be aware of the need to respond, or move to take action until it is too late.

Secondly, Call Concern identified a frequently prevalent but often overlooked seniors’ problem which, although not medical, can have a highly detrimental effect on seniors’ health and feelings of well being. And this is growing loneliness and isolation and particularly within apartment culture.

This was in the key observation upon which Call Concern was founded. It came when I, the founder, purchased an apartment from a relative of a deceased senior lady and heard from the nearby neighbours how the old lady had been dead for three months or more before suspicions were aroused and a forced entry was made. I thought about how maybe the old lady may not have died if a discovery had been made nearer the time and about how few contacts some people have at times without others realising it. And how this situation must be far from unique and is an increasing modern problem.

Sure many seniors but by no means all, have relatives, friends & neighbours, but how often do they call or come around? Maybe not as much as people think and family may be some distance away. They in turn have other relatives and mostly have more than enough pressure on their time with keeping up with the demands of their own family. These are the ones who are termed ‘the squeezed sandwich generation’, and who are caught in a triangular struggle between their own lives and the needs of two generations. The dilemmas of ‘the squeezed sandwich generation’ as they are called, are well illustrated by a quote from Twitter, below, which sums up the real problems and stresses of many:-

Via Twitter

Sandwich Gen Jane – Location: Australia

“Sandwich Generation: stuck between raising children and looking after aging parents. We are racked with guilt, exhausted, conflicted and looking for solutions.”

Call Concern was created to help provide a new form of assistance to both generations, the senior boomers and their struggling families. It brings to the table ‘A Call A Day Program’, under which the nominated relative of a subscriber is called six days a week throughout the year, (Sundays are excluded), and the subscriber is notified if there has been no answer following three calls in any one day. The idea of the Call A Day is pro-activity – we don’t wait for people to call us – we call them. Monetization is via a monthly subscription to the call program, facilitating both long and short term usage and no contractual commitment. The call program is not medical, but instead is offered as a first line of senior care and safety precaution.

The really novel angle to the Call A Day Program is the addition of a small amount of guaranteed company into each client’s day, thereby attacking problems of isolation and loneliness. We had noticed that this was a problem which was featured on the opinion leading New York Times ‘New Old Age Blog’. We put together a Mission statement which read :- “To ensure that Seniors and others do not pass more than one day a week without enjoying at least one conversation to brighten their day and a contact with the outside world”.

The first tangible step towards starting the new senior services business was to establish feasibility. We contacted call centers worldwide via a call center broker to ascertain their terms and fee rates. We were aware from the outset that volume could quickly build up beyond a level with which we could either cope or had the facilities to handle, including call monitoring systems, automated dialling etc. At first we were worried that call centers would not be interested in talking with an embryo start-up, but they were and we were pleasantly surprised at how helpful and friendly they all were. Fortunately out of a variety of offers, the math worked out overall satisfactorily given a base subscriber list, for us to proceed with the start-up.

The next step was to construct a website from which the program would run and be marketed. We were also looking for a low cost bonus to add value to the Call A Day program. Personal Health Records were fast becoming an in-demand topic, so we decided to design a Personal Health Record template download as a free bonus to the clients of subscribers.

What came next was the real hurdle. I designed the website, wrote the copy and prepared the brief, but as I am not web techie nor know anyone who is, the site had to be put out for construction. The whole process became a total nightmare. We had commissioned a fairly basic, no frills site to facilitate a quick start-up. What originated as a fairly quick and inexpensive job ended up going through three web development firms – the first two abandoned it part way – and cost many times more than had been originally envisaged. The legal stuff also took longer and cost more than planned. After a full twelve months from initial commissioning, the website was ready to run. This is one of the typical problems which all from international companies down to the smallest start-up can face – endless unanticipated delays and mounting costs. By the time of launch we were simply exhausted with the whole process.

Deciding how best to market the program was the next step. Unfortunately we’d become so embroiled with the morass which the website development had sunk into that we hadn’t really prepared a marketing plan. Now was the time for hasty key-wording, Twittering up and a rapidly prepared seo press release. Voila! After a year of struggling just to get started, fortune suddenly smiled and Call Concern’s launch press release made it online in many of the big hitters, including Fox, CNBC, News2 abc and News.channel5. Responses began coming in.

The launch press release also helped to formulate the marketing strategy. One problem was that the Call A Day program was a different concept and required some explaining, so ur view was that it didn’t lend itself to typical advertising and affiliation ads. A number of responses came in via the press release from small companies in related markets offering to sell the Call A Day program as a part of their client offerings. This was decided as being the best way to go, to concentrate on identifying small companies with a related client base and offer them a seller arrangement. This way we would reduce revenue per sale, but avoid the up-front costs and risks of expensive advertising and could concentrate on an on-going program of developing an increasing seller base throughout the country.

The one fundamental mistake which we made at the outset was to underrate the technical requirement and not taking on a web technical partner. We also underestimated the problems and delays caused by going out to firms for the site. As a result we lost twelve months between the design and finished production of the website. As the business progresses we may yet benefit from bringing in a web developer, which we should have done at the start.

Call Concern is an example of a boot-strapped start-up in early stage which was founded as a means of remedying a social deficiency. The founder had followed the writings of Guy Kawaski, (the famous entrepreneur and venture capitalist), who wrote “The Art of the Start”. Guy’s advice to those searching for an idea for a start-up was to try to right a wrong, to look for a problem and help to answer it. Call Concern’s aim is to try to do just that.

# # #

Twitter url – http://twitter.com/#/_callconcern

(Words = 1560 approx)

Maggy Young
Company – Call Concern Ltd.
W/site http://www.callconcern.com

Email – maggy at callconcern.com

Cell +44.079-708-711-65

L/L +44.029-20-747-718

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