Home Care Heroes tackle loneliness

Home Care Heroes co-founders, Jenna Leo (centre, kneeling) and Mathieu Bertrand (top left).

Looking to tackle the escalating issue of loneliness among the elderly, Jenna Leo and Mathieu Bertrand founded Home Care Heroes, a service that caters to an isolated section of society and provide employment for 'heroes'.

By Carolin Lenehan

In January 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a Minister for Loneliness to tackle the isolation felt by more than one in 10 people in the United Kingdom. Across the Atlantic, the cost to the US taxpayer of social isolation among older adults has been estimated at US$6.7 billion in a Stanford University study.

Relationships Australia reports that one in four women and one in three men feel they don’t have someone to help them if in need.

For Home Care Heroes co-founders Jenna Leo and Mathieu Bertrand, the cold, hard statistics became very personal. They faced difficult choices and anxious moments supporting aged parents who were relocating from their home in Canada to Australia to recuperate from debilitating illnesses, but who still wanted to maintain their independence.

The experience opened Leo and Bertrand’s eyes to a problem shared by a wide cross-section of society. They vowed to make an impact, and Home Care Heroes was born.

Home Care Heroes is an online home care marketplace platform that links care-seeking customers with care-givers, or “heroes” – enthusiastic companions, helpers or friends carefully chosen and matched to a client’s preferred activities, interests and location. Heroes advertise their services on their profile and seekers can search for and contact them.

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“The problem we’re trying to solve is around loneliness and social isolation,” Leo says. “It’s not just for people with disabilities, or for the elderly. You can be in a room full of people and still feel incredibly lonely.

“Home Care Heroes is providing a service that has traditionally been the territory of volunteers. But by paying people, we are saying this is something of value to the community. Our heroes really do give a damn – they’re in this to make people’s lives better.”

So committed is Home Care Heroes to its clients’ happiness that the service comes with a “happiness guarantee”.

Leo describes Home Care Heroes’ three key elements for delivering on its promise: investing time upfront to carefully vet and onboard both clients and heroes; going above and beyond for every customer, ensuring the right fit between client and hero; and staying close to customers and true to Home Care Heroes’ social purpose.

This laser focus has meant Home Care Heroes keeps its cost to the customer low, at A$32 per hour – half the rate of similar services.

The past two years have been a whirlwind for Leo and Bertrand. The platform went live in March 2016 as the couple headed off on their honeymoon. They returned three days later to find they had hit a chord, with A$500 worth of business booked.

"You can be in a room full of people and still feel lonely." Jenna Leo, Home Care Heroes

Since then the pair has bootstrapped the company, with help along the way from an AMP Tomorrow Makers grant and a Telstra People’s Choice Award cash prize. What started as a part-time operation in Leo’s parents’ suburban living room has grown to a team of seven with a desk in Sydney at Australia’s largest early-stage, co-working start-up space, Fishburners.

The turning point came in April 2017, when Home Care Heroes was accepted into the Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s 16-week accelerator program, Remarkable.

The business is now a registered provider with the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and has 1500 heroes and 3000 clients registering interest across Sydney and the NSW Central Coast.

In February 2018, Home Care Heroes hit a revenue milestone, earning A$160,000 for the month. It is on a growth trajectory to reach A$1 million before year’s end.

The big vision? “To be a world-renowned, shared market brand like Airbnb and Uber,” Leo says. 

One piece of advice

“Hustle and stay close to your customers. Focus on the little things that keep customers happy in order to keep them coming back.”

Read next: Digital doctors: home visits and better patient care

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June 2018
June 2018

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