Frustration with the Status Quo Sparks MO Entrepreneur’s Health Care Business

Rebecca Brown of Assist America Home Care Services

Frustration with the Status Quo Sparks MO Entrepreneur’s Health Care Business

Disillusionment can be a great fertilizer, helping new ideas grow. Just ask Rebecca Brown.

Her West Plains, Missouri, small business, Assist America Home Care Services, grew out of frustration and a desire to do the right thing — and to do it better. Learn how this entrepreneur used industry knowledge to prove that the hard work of health care could also benefit the workers.

A different vision for the same business

Rebecca had worked in home health care for 20 years. Like most in the industry, the company she worked for was part of a larger organization, putting local folks at the mercy of corporate decisions. But it was the way they treated team members that pushed Rebecca to the edge.

“We had a branch manager and an office receptionist who had gotten sick,” she says. “The company I worked for didn’t do anything for them. We were a care company, but we couldn’t even care for the people who worked for us. I was so disillusioned, and that pushed me forward.”

Rebecca wasn’t just another frustrated employee. She’d been working with the Ozarks Small Business Incubator (OzSBI) for about three years before she took the leap into entrepreneurship. But her initial business idea had evolved.

“I had a different vision for helping social workers and hospitals,” Rebecca says. “I actually won second place for my idea at EPIC, but my mentors said it was such a big idea; they asked, ‘Can you make it smaller?’ So I condensed the idea. And as things developed at my job and I was getting disheartened, one day my mentor told me to do something or get off the pot. So I took the leap of faith.”

The power of mentorship

That kind of encouragement can only come from people who know you well and know you’re ready.

Rebecca had connected with John and Joanna Perkins through OzSBI. Both members of this husband-and-wife duo are among the organization’s highly trained mentors. They helped Rebecca hone her business plan so she’d start out on the right foot.

“I love John and Joanna,” Rebecca says. “They are wonderful. Every time I have a session with them, I am always so uplifted. As an entrepreneur, you deal with so many different situations, and there are so many different hats you wear. John and Joanna showed me that the things I’m feeling aren’t unusual — it’s just how you deal with them.”

Assist America started out in the OzSBI office space. But four years after opening her doors, Rebecca has a team of 36 employees, and the business has moved to a separate location. Even though she’s not officially in OzSBI anymore, John and Joanna are still very much a part of her team.

“They still contact me,” Rebecca says. “I can reach out to them with questions or concerns at any time. They really are a wonderful resource and support.”

Business growth despite adversity

Assist America didn’t flourish immediately. There were some bumps along the way, like a noncompete lawsuit and the pandemic.

“We stayed really under the radar, to be honest,” Rebecca says. “It took a year before we got any contracts. We had some 24-hour private-pay clients, and that kept us going. Because I’d been in the business for so long, I was lucky to have good contacts. It was a blessing, and it sustained us.”

The company actually grew during the pandemic and now serves clients via Veterans Administration and Medicaid contracts as well as private pay. The team can provide personalized care to people in a 12-county area around West Plains and is looking to expand.

“I think what makes our business unique is that we are the corporate office,” Rebecca says. “No one is making decisions about what I want for my caregivers other than me and my staff. We all live and work here. And the respect that we give to our caregivers helps us retain excellent workers. They don’t work underneath us; they work beside us. It takes a special person to be a caregiver.”

Guidance for entrepreneurs

Starting any venture can be tough. But Rebecca has advice for future business owners.

“The first thing I would say is have the support of your family,” she says. “I was lucky to have family support because friends might not be as supportive as you think they might be. The reality of starting your business and the fantasy of starting your business are totally separate.”

Her second piece of advice? Know your stuff.

“Don’t start a business that you don’t know 100%,” Rebecca says. “If you know the ins and outs of the business, then yes, go for it. But if you don’t, you better learn it before you start. There are going to be things that you think are important that aren’t and things you think aren’t that are extremely important.”

And her third piece of advice?

“Find a good tax accountant!” Rebecca says. “The first two years of business, my accountants were nice, but they weren’t compatible with starting a new business and what I needed them to tell me. A good tax accountant will help you understand what your taxes are and how they impact your business. It’s a must.”

Speaking of money, Rebecca also encourages entrepreneurs to be realistic.

“Please don’t think you’re going to be making money in the first year. You’re not going to get rich quick,” she says. “Work on your business. No one is going to care about it like you do. Don’t hand it off — work it. Put in the hard work, and you’ll reap the rewards.”

Part of that hard work is finding the people and programs who can help you work smarter.

“If you have an incubator in your town or a chamber of commerce, those are good places to find people who are willing to help or answer questions,” Rebecca says. “Not everybody has the opportunity to have an incubator, but go online to find like-minded individuals.”

Resources for small business owners

An easy way to find those like-minded individuals is connecting through MOSourceLink. Our Resource Navigator lists more than 600 business organizations across Missouri that offer free or low-cost business help. Want to iron out your business idea or scale your existing venture? Our Resource Partners can help.

Check out the MOSourceLink Calendar for the classes and events that can help you meet your business goals. Wanna find a workshop or need to network? This listing of events all around the state can help.

And if you really don’t even know where to start? MOSourceLink’s got your back. Reach out to our Network Navigators for a free Personal Action Plan. Provide a little info about your business and your goals, and we’ll create an individualized checklist of next steps and the experts and organizations that can help. You can also call us 8 a.m. – 5p.m. Monday through Friday at 866-870-6500. Whether you’re ready to start or ready to sell, Personal Action Plans are designed just for you. And they’re free!

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