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Pictured above - David Kapojos, U.S. Veteran and FirstLight Home Care Franchisee
David Kapojos, 46, of Greater Pasadena, Calif. grew up in Indonesia and immigrated to the United States at the age of 16. He initially studied accounting in college and worked as an accountant in a “Big 6” firm for two years before leaving to pursue a military career. Joining the U.S. Army marked the beginning of a 26-year military career that brought Kapojos to Afghanistan and Iraq. He ended his career as a National Guardsman and retired from active duty in 2015.
When Kapojos retired, he initially wanted to open a restaurant. From the start, he knew he wanted to own his own franchise and relied on VetFran to help guide him toward franchises that supported veterans.
“Because of Vet Fran, I contacted FirstLight Home Care and several other agencies. At first, I wasn’t thinking about home care. But after looking at all of my options, I realized, a restaurant is not what I want. I served my country and want to continue serving my community, especially seniors and the people who really need it,” Kapojos said.
FirstLight franchises offer comprehensive, in-home, non-medical, and personal care services to seniors, new mothers, disabled adults, and others. It is also a 5-Star Member of VetFran, an initiative committed to facilitating the transition of veterans into franchising, of which FirstLight co-founder and CEO Jeff Bevis serves as chairman.
Today Kapojos owns the FirstLight Home Care of Greater Pasadena, which serves an area northeast of Los Angeles spanning Pasadena, Sierra Madre, San Marino, South Pasadena, and Glendale. Surrounded by mountains, the region is home to thousands of retirees. Kapojos took over an existing FirstLight franchise that happened to be located close to his home. In operation since August 2018, FirstLight of Greater Pasadena is thriving, beating first-year expectations.
“At the beginning, they set me up with a goal of billing 450 hours per week. Last quarter, I billed more than 800 hours per week, and next year I want to double what we billed this year,” Kapojos said. “FirstLight told me that I might not make money in the first year – in seven months I started making money.”
Not only has the home care business been lucrative for Kapojos and his family, but he feels it draws upon his own personal experience with the home care industry and capitalizes on the skills he developed in the military.
Kapojos’ father, a former surgeon, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at age 59. After being forced to retire early because of the disease, his father also experienced depression and later, dementia. Finding a reliable caregiver was often a struggle, Kapojos said.
“He needed 24/7 care. It was hard to find someone with the experience and patience to take care of him. Some didn’t understand his situation and would neglect him when we were not at home,” he said.
Having been through the experience as the son of a home care client, Kapojos said he is able to relate to the stress that family members encounter when searching for the right home care agency and caregiver for their loved one.
“FirstLight’s Culture of Care means you treat clients like family members. I want to provide the same kind of care to my clients as I would have wanted for my dad,” he said.
Tim Mackin, U.S. Veteran and FirstLight Home Care Franchisee
To date, 14 veterans have joined the FirstLight family as franchisees, and the company has a goal of doubling this number. To attract veterans, FirstLight offers a discount off the initial franchise fee for all former U.S. military veterans. According their Executive Director of Franchise Development, Jamie Davis, FirstLight believes former military service members make excellent franchisees because they already know how to lead successful teams and have experience executing systems and processes conducive to franchising.
A former platoon officer, Kapojos agrees his leadership background, ability to handle business under pressure, and decision making skills all prepared him for a career as a home care franchise owner. Furthermore, he feels he possesses a special understanding when it comes to serving veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as disabled veterans who have recently returned from war.
“I get a lot of the clients who are veterans because they know I am a veteran and they trust me,” he said.
Tim Mackin is another retired veteran who has owned FirstLight of Greater York and Lancaster, Pennsylvania since 2015. He agrees that service members understand teamwork, collaboration and time management –which easily translate to the in-demand skills required to run a home care business like FirstLight.
While veterans need to adjust to civilian life, Mackin said that can be something easily accomplished if you are prepared.
“When I retired from the military, I did my homework and researched the businesses I was most interested in. I asked lots of questions, talked to other franchise owners, and took advantage of free community resources (like SCORE) to help narrow my search,” he said. “I established connections with other service members who had recently retired and joined the business world, taking full advantage of the knowledge that they shared.”
The demand for home care services is expected to surge. Right now, the non-medical home care business is valued at $80 billion, according to FirstLight. Seniors remain the largest segment of the population who will seek home care. The need for in-home services is expected to grow fueled by a combination of demographic and societal factors:
Aside from growing demand, the home care sector offers owners distinct advantages. For example, your total initial investment for a restaurant franchise could range from $300,000 to $3 million, whereas start-up costs for home care agencies run significantly lower. Your investment primarily supports caregiver recruiting, marketing, training, and office space. And thanks to lower start-up costs, owners can expect to become profitable more quickly. Unlike many other sectors, home care businesses also give owners the opportunity to build strong personal relationships with their clients and “give back” to their communities.
“When I see a client’s smile, I can’t describe the feeling—it’s very satisfying,” Kapojos said.
Starting a business from scratch requires a huge investment in marketing, technology, and operational systems. When you join FirstLight, you benefit from a known brand that has already established best practices and guidelines to follow, Kapojos said. In 2020, FirstLight is projected to operate more than 230 franchises throughout the United States.
“Because I had no home care experience, joining a franchise was the best way to go. If I had started without any guidelines, I would have lost money or spent more money then I needed to,” he said.
FirstLight prides itself on how it treats its caregivers, reporting an 86% retention rate, while the homecare industry average is typically 30-35%. Kapojos said that hiring good, reliable caregivers is the toughest part of the job. FirstLight’s commitment to training caregivers –including a 6-8 hour orientation training, seven check-ins within the first 30 days, and an established list of criteria to ensure the best caregiver/ client matches possible – all help the franchise stand out from its competitors.
Franchisees also benefit from training and support, which includes help meeting state licensure requirements. Owners also receive training in recruiting, networking, marketing, and planning for business growth. Those owners who need to convert an existing home care business to a FirstLight business can also receive up to $25,000 of working capital through affiliate Cornerstone Finance, according to the FirstLight Financial Disclosure Document.
“When I attended their Discovery Day, I was amazed by their support,” Kapojos said.
If you are ready to make the leap from serving your country to serving the elderly, here are some financial requirements you’ll need to fulfill if you decide to join FirstLight, according to the company’s Financial Disclosure Document.
You can also expect to pay royalties that total 5% of your gross revenues. Training includes participation in a pre-training module and a five-day new owner training on-site in Cincinnati. The post-training module lasts16 weeks. Franchisees operate in exclusive territories, which allows them to recruit caregivers and serve in a designated area without competition from another FirstLight franchise.
Owning your own home care business is not only financially rewarding, but its personally rewarding, too. If you are interested in learning more about FirstLight, call (844) 748-0803 or visit https://www.firstlightfranchise.com/request-information/