Hanging out with Jenna Leo, Co-Founder of Home Care Heroes
Gen caught up with Jenna, one of the founders of Home Care Heroes.
Home Care Heroes is a social startup harnessing the power of community to combat social isolation. They are disrupting the aged and disability care industry by trying to build long lasting connections and relationships rather than just provide services. They have the best people in the community helping out where they are most needed!
Watch the video here or look below to read the transcript:
G: Jenna is going to tell us about her startup story.
J: Thanks Gen.
G: Who are you? What do you do?
J: So, I’m a founder of Home Care Heroes, which I started with my…
G: ... see the top, I’m trying to like in a non-awkward way pointing at your top logo.
J: Oh yeah, it’s right here. Yeah…which I founded with my husband, last year, Matt. So, I guess my journey is that I worked in corporate for about five-and-a-half/six years. I was working in finance, marketing at large, multi-national corporations, FMCG. Then I started teaching yoga and completely loved it.
G: I didn’t know that about you.
J: Really … so basically, I was … a teacher and that was in a class and all of a sudden, this girl just broke down crying, and I was like “Oh my god!” So yeah, she just broke down crying and I freaked out and I was like “Oh my gosh what do I do?” I put up everyone in…and is spoke to her and she was like, “I always suffer from anxiety and depression and I’ve never actually been able to take a full breath but just now, in your teaching, I was able to take a full breath.”
J: “And it feels amazing, like it’s so good to actually be able to breathe.” And I was like “Whoa!”
G: Mic drop, not even a penny drop, mic drop.
J: Yeah but after that I was just amazed that it felt so good to make someone else feel really good. And I went back to work and I was like “Well you know what? You do all this stuff and every day you think you’re doing great things, you just don’t feel that…”
J: Yeah, you just don’t feel that connection. You really want to make that difference so after that, that kind of sparked my journey to entrepreneurship.
J: And the story behind Home Care Heroes, my husband Matt is from Montreal. So his dad was 20 years older than his mom and he got lung cancer and at the same time when she was taking care of him, his mom got a brain disease called encephalitis so it’s a swelling of the brain. So she was in a comma for three weeks and when she came out, she couldn’t remember anything.
J: And over the next two years they had to teach her how to walk, talk and eat and go to toilet. It was a really traumatic time for Matt because he was in Sydney. So he had to move there for a little while and help them out. But after the first two years …things settled and after two years they were really independent. His lung cancer was in remission which was great but because they were living in Montreal, they had really harsh winters and Jerry, Matt’s dad had pneumonia ten times. So, oh my god, we really need to bring them back to Sydney so that he can have …summer and they can live here where it was more comfortable, weather wise.
J: So, they moved here which was great, but we were both working full-time. So, they used to like to go out obviously.
J: When they would go out, they would get sick every time because he had early stage dementia and she had the gray virus. And it was really hard for them to make friends, we tried to introduce them to the Quebec club and other clubs in the city because they were older and got disability, it was really hard for them to find a connection…so Matt would spend about two hours every day on the phone because they would be like “we don’t know how to get back”. So, we’d have to use like find my friends to direct them home or he would have to leave work and get a cab and pick them up. And a few times they were like “Oh we didn’t tell you, but we hitchhiked home,” and we were like “What!”.
G: Oh no.
J: “We couldn’t find our way, so we asked someone to take us home” and we were like “Oh my god”. So it was really stressful so we had a friend who was like “Oh don’t worry about it, I’m not working right now” …that’s cool…and finally her name is Destiny…she is beautiful and she is like incredibly sweet and passionate and she is actually a teacher but she has moved in from, she’s from the U.S. So, she moved here from the …she was teaching here. And she moved here in the interim period when she wasn’t working. So yeah, they went to the beach, they took the bus so nothing special, had a coffee, went for a walk. It was really funny…Jerry inside, he was 75, 77 and he was like “Oh no one should take care of me, I'm fine, I'm good” and he was like one of those…had a lot of ego…
G: …got no ill intentions, right?
J: Exactly, it’s about like, having the dignity, you know, they are like they are not ready to be old. But because Destiny is kind of young and pretty and fun and…I don’t mind…
G: We can hang.
J: And yeah, they just had the best day ever, … doing selfies, having fun. But she was really really cool, but then when Destiny found work…Yes, we looked around and we couldn’t find anything affordable and reliable, and you can find people on … gumtree which is great but there’s no verification, so we don’t know if they’re a really good person. And on the flipside, nursing a…wanted to charge between 60 to 85 dollars an hour, which was super expensive. We were like, we don’t need them to do medical care, we really need someone to have fun with them and they were like yeah, that’s the price. So, because they also didn’t get government funding, we had to pay from our pocket, so we were like okay, that’s not achievable. So that’s how Home Care Heroes came about. So like a new way to think about the…economy in terms of like using everyday people who are passionate and really friendly, who want to make a difference. And getting them to participate in social inclusion so to help out people, to help disables, to help elderly or even if someone’s like injured.
G: …take care of or hang out with.
J: Yeah exactly so, our heroes do things like people who need dialysis often, they sit with them, so they don’t feel so alone and vulnerable and sad and kind of just make a conversation and they do things like go to the …. And play sports or just go to the apartment and …
G: …trying to help…elders.
J: Because they are old so that psychological connection, we don’t actually, because heroes are actual people, they don’t have necessarily qualifications so that’s why…just companionship services, we do it for affordable flat rate, so it’s 32 dollars an hour and that doesn’t change whether it’s weekend or after hours, which means heroes can get a lot of work…after hours…
J: Yeah, exactly. Where there are other organizations who charge double or triple in the weekends which doesn’t work anyway because heroes can’t get work because no one can afford to pay like a hundred dollars an hour.
G: Nice, so this is I mean obviously it’s a very personal project…yourself…family. How did you take the next step you know? From this is all for yourself…to other people.
J: So, when we first started, we were really like “What are we doing?”, “should we do something?”, “I’m not really sure” and then everything we…about startup it’s always like validate, validate, validate.
G: Did you print your shirts first or…every time I see you…lifts the brand.
J: [Laughter] So we spent a couple of months validating and trying to do surveys or like just having … and then we were like “Hey what do we do?”, “Let’s just go, let’s just do it”
G: Okay, go on say it.
J: [Laughter] Just fuck it, let’s just go. So, we did an MVP by finding someone who could do our website really cheaply and then…
G: How did you find that person? What was that process?
J: It was really hard because when we started, this was in like July 2015 and I didn’t know about Sydney Startups, I didn’t know about…my pitches.
G: …by the way.
J: What? So, in order to find it, I just talked to friends, couple of friends, that I need someone who said that they use a website as well…okay cool, let’s hear it right. Did that, and it was pretty good, it was okay, it wasn’t the best experience and I think when you are contracting …. Exactly how you want it to be, but we had an MVP.
G: What did you learn from that process? How would you approach that process differently? …day one …
J: I would say milestones, make sure like milestones are very, very clear. Make sure that your brief is super clear and that you keep that communication up because once that’s set, you also, when you’re first starting, maybe ask around to other peoples’ MVP briefs because there’s a lot of things that we didn’t realize and once it’s set, they want to charge you like 500 bucks for every feature that you want to upgrade and then that becomes unaffordable. So all these things that we didn’t think about when we started but we’re…so clear like two months, three months, four months flowchart and I think timelines are super, super important. And maybe there’s like ….if you don’t buy this today, you don’t get a…like something to kind of pique them, incentivize and so keep up …. And make sure you get someone very good. But so we had to contract that for a while and we hired a CTO, he started in at the end of June so it was really cool. But it was a long process to get here because you know when you first started, you can’t afford a … so yeah, just keep hustling. Basically, we created our MVP, and then we added some features, we’ve gotten an agency in Sydney here which is really great, helps us … and then after that we moved on to just getting someone from UpWork so then all the features after that was super cheap, which was awesome. And then now we’re launching version 2 in about a month, which is very cool.
G: Fantastic and what about yourself I mean obviously your husband as well I suppose family …. Were trying to develop something yourself, you’ve done a … program …
J: So our website is … it’s going to be … so Matt tried to do it a little bit. So we both already know how to work on Wordpress so before we started to … so basically because I was a yoga teacher and Matt’s a … trainer, we were training together all the time, we were like “Oh this is so fun” I mean like other people, couple go to the gym and split up and they are like “see you later” but we are like “Oh but we came together and it’s so fun” …cool. So we launched like a lion, it was so cool, it was a passion project and then we thought we make it like ….
G: …split up and … lesson …
J: Exactly because that’s a big thing for us because when we started, we were actually solving a problem, we were just like “Oh what are we good at and what do we love and let’s just make a business out of it”. We were like “Hang on, what problem is there that we I’m solving’ So because … …. So we can do that part but we are not “coder” coders, Matt’s kind of learning as we go. ….I decided I wanted to do computer studies. And then I was like “Oh god this is so boring” I just remember being like…
G: …like learning to fast typing…
J: Yeah, so we didn’t look back, we learned a little bit of coding but yeah when I’ve done that a little bit…it feels good when you’ve done it and things pan out really well but it’s the opposite situation when you’ve done it and nothing happens … that’s terrifying.
G: ... I think that’s what I love about especially in Sydney …there’s this giant community …this the importance on everyone just …little bit … right?
J: Yes, definitely. Yeah, that’s…
G: Well for everyone that’s watching, what’s a free tool like code academy, railsgirls and different programs like that you can start … and do something. [Laughter] So you’ve gotten started, now you’re an entrepreneur, how do you think your culture, what is your culture? First question.
J: …people really identifying as heroes, so when you become a hero, you get a free t shirt and you can wear it to work or wear that in general. Because people love the shirts, we were like start selling … so what was the question?
G: What’s your culture like?
J: So our culture is like us, we’re very flexible. We’re not clock-watchers, so we’re not like okay you have got to be here like at 3 o’clock or like when someone works till 10, we’re not like “Great work guys!”, it’s more about getting the job done. So it’s like as long as if you say you’re going to do something and you’ve done it, then great. You have ideas to make things better and better. Our values, one of our values is to stay hungry, so we want people to be constantly learning and stay curious and it’s like we don’t need the answers, no one does. But it’s more of that, having that curiosity and drive to …figure something out. So …problem solving and … our platform is working, which is really cool. So howard, our CTO who works flexibly and he has a … so he works part time in our office, part time home …it doesn’t really matter… target, he is all over it. So we work, people want to trust us, I really don’t believe like why would you hire someone that if you don’t trust them? Because the way our team works now…we’re looking for someone to …someone who can come in and assess heroes to… whether someone is a nice person…really committed and reliable and to have fun. That’s why they can’t teach them you know. So we’re looking for someone who can help do that. [Laughter]
G: How do they apply?
J: so if you want to apply, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we have some job listings on Angellist. And we’re also looking for a head of … customer success. That’s actually more work, with Matt….we have great customer service, and that’s for heroes, and for customers…are purely emotional. ….shaken up a lot and people are really frustrated. But it’s also super important …you’re dealing with people who are vulnerable people. So to them we really want to make sure that they are supported and they feel valued so customer success …great people. I guess the kind of what we’ve set is pretty good, …customer service for years, he works as …. So we also support each other a lot.
G: And you’re also working really hard, a lot of people say they can’t do that. [Laughter]
J: Exactly, sometimes it’s fun. I guess the really good thing about it is that we’re really open, honest and not fun because I feel like when we are working with someone else…”Oh it’s a great idea, however maybe we can …… so that’s pretty good.
G: How do you deal with conflicts…I’m sure it comes home you know.
J: Well we’ve been living in my parent’s house for two and a half years now, startup dreams and conflict comes up, all the times but I think that we’ve really been able to communicate a lot, so you get angry, you let everything out and then you move on. You can’t sit on your emotions and feelings and just kind of have to..yeah that’s kind of how we also run our team as well. Everyone, this is what needs to be get done, we need you to put good work, right…good work then you’re like “Ah, keep doing things better”…really supportive environment …like you don’t know something, ask your team and we help each other out.
G: So what’s next for you guys? I mean you’re moving to Fishburners, a. what made you decide to move into Fishburners and I’ll come back with the b after you answer that.
J: So we started out working from my parent’s dining room and we continued to do that till March this year and at the start of April, we got accepted into the remarkable accelerator program, which is great.
G: Why was it great?
J: So, it’s for tech startups who’re working on social inclusion and disability. So, it was completely down our alley. It’s also run by the … and backed by …so it’s part of a you get a $20,000 grant, no equities. They don’t take equity, just give you 20 thousand dollars, which is really cool. On top of that, they also gave us office space. So we started out at … then we moved to … and that was really cool because it kind of gave us more focus and kind of made it more real. Up until April, we were kind of working part time as a …yoga teacher and … allowed us to continue to…
G: Yeah, fund everything.
J: Yeah, exactly. …. Let’s really commit and cut down all of our hours and then we became completely full-time and the office space made a huge difference it’s like you know you’ve got somewhere to collaborate, got somewhere to meet, somewhere to be. I think it’s good to have that separation because otherwise you’re just like waking up at all hours and thinking okay this is a great idea, we’re just going to go out with it. Now it’s a little bit more structured. So the reason to move into Fishburn is we really like the collaborative environment so because our team, operation and we had two people which is Matt and me. We don’t know all the answers and we’re not experts in everything.
G: Except you’re always right, he’s always wrong?
J: That’s how it works. So, for us, we really needed that collaborative space where we can say “Hang on, why isn’t this working? Can somebody give me a hand?” What was great about … that they’ve got all the mentors which are really great supports but at the same time, when I'm right, “Can somebody explain why my Facebook ad has these results and these results, but I thought that they would be this, that doesn’t really make sense” … I did the campaign with five different photos and those photos had a really high reach but not as many link clicks, there were other photos that had many link clicks but not too much reach and I was like “That’s really confusing to me”, there happens to be no…
J: Yeah so when I ask mentors, they’ll go “I don’t know.”
G: This is helpful.
J: So, can anyone tell me how this works? And in conclusion, I still don’t know.
G: If anybody knows online.
J: Yes, that would be really helpful. Because for early stage startups, like us, it’s great to have those mentors who can really help you and guide you. But then you also need kind of people who are like three steps ahead or one step ahead.
G: …even found that around you in Fishburners in a day or two.
J: We start officially on Monday but so far people … really helpful and I’ve heard the reputation in the community is insane and that’s probably the benefit you get here to grab someone for five minutes and “Do you know why it’s like this?” …..
G: Flexibility to show you so much behind the scene as well., give and take right?
J: Yes, exactly. And at the same time, we also want to get involved for people who are just starting up, we’re only one step ahead of them so want to contribute back to that as well. Plus, the like…
J: Yeah, it’s all the things that we wanted, when we started so we want to give back to that as well so…
G: So how did you figure out what metrics where important to you? I mean everyone is talking unit economics and marketplace …CACs, your monthly return revenues and lifetime values and that sort of stuff, how did you figure out what was important to your business?
J: So at first to be honest we didn’t know that much at all …
G: I’m going to take over the world!
J: At first, we decided we just need people, we just needed a lot of people. And then it became after two months we were like “Oh we should probably be tracking something” so yeah, it didn’t happen at the start. You know we watched a lot of US Shark Tank, which was the bomb. So, we kind of looked at metrics through that I have really good sheet, so I use office hours, the Sydney Startup office hours …VCs so people go and talk to them. So, I had a really great meeting with ... and he sent through a key metrics sheet, I think you sent me. So, from those two sheets, I was able to kind of see what some great key metrices are, so yeah then that was really useful because when I plugged that back into the team, and I was like “Hey guys, these are our goals now and before, we kind of, didn’t really give, have daily, weekly, monthly goals that we shared with the rest of the team. But it became really useful for us to do that.
G: Can you share that below in the comments?
J: Which one? The sheet? Oh yeah …share both of the sheets. Yeah, yeah, sure. But the cool thing about the sheet is you get to see how it improves over time, and then you can kind of see, the trends so I guess in the first year, we were, we were brand new so weren’t able to … metrics but then now we’re at 18 months old so we can, we’re looking at the trends a lot more. …public holidays, school holidays, it changed our demand a lot and people were creating profiles on certain days …so that’s the goals. The goals are really great, for getting the team commit into something and it’s kind of like a check in for everyday so we can Slack and everyday add the goal and how we are tracking for the week and the month, which is really cool because “we achieved our monthly goal last month!
J: So, organizing guys and like this is our target for the month and if we, when we make our goal, we’re going to have a big celebration. So yeah, organizing that is so cool….so … kind of gets the team together because outside mapping ….so we have a couple of cures to help us out…really know how to use the website working and we have one of our … helping out with social media.
G: That’s awesome.
J: Yeah, so, we have that good little team and yeah so being able to share that on Slack…share a lot on Slack.
G: And do you guys you know pull shifts if you want to call it that, with yourselves, like go out go try the product out and … get to know the customers ….
J: So I feel like we’re always on the ground, so Matt’s like, oh we’re back?
G: Sorry, yep, we’re back.
J: So …
G: So getting to know the customer, always being in touch with the customer, how are you, doing shifts yourselves?
J: Yeah, so we’ve, both Matt and I have done shifts as heroes and...for people who are …all the time and we also get …..check it with that. But we also hold bimonthly events… so it’s called …. change and it’s around promoting social inclusion so they are, they’re actually so cool ,like really really fun….workshop on … so learning how to do sign … it’s not something. But there’s a lot of people, even though people are ……which we did last week was understanding cerebral palsy which is really cool. So we had a panel of people who have cerebral palsy and one of our customer’s mother, the mom of one of our customers…
G: Kind of like figuring out how Jon Snow and Daenerys are related!
J: I’ve always like “Hey…um.”
J: Yeah, aunty-nephew.
G: Aunty Daenerys, yay!
J: But I feel like it’s okay because that’s what they do…so we had a panel of people discussing what is cerebral palsy and then they were just discussing what they want for the community to get involved. It was really interesting, check it out on our YouTube channel.
G: What’s your YouTube channel? Just … Home Care Heroes?
J: Yeah, you can find lots of videos, all of the cerebral palsy is over there. Lots of art collections …stories.
G: So if you had to go back to day one, what are the three things you would want to know as a day-one startup?
J: I would, oh, it’s all around community and learning. At first you really go alone, so say get involved with all the … startups, groups … because they provide support as well and you’re like “You know what? I’ve had a really crap day”, in a startup, it’s never really an amazing 9 to 5.
G: It’s never easy.
J: Yeah, it’s never easy. And it’s always a wrong looking stat, things are always up and down and even though … friends or really supportive or really sweet, they just don’t get it. People just don’t get it unless they’re in it. That support and that access to information, that’s life, I feel like you’re always bombarded by too much information.so it’s really great to kind of get the right articles, which are always interesting and teach you a lot. So that would be.
G: That’s one?
J: Yeah, that’s one. My second one would be, oh the grant and all of that. So there’s an MVP grant, I didn’t know about it until we were no longer applicable for it.
J: But I would say make sure you have a look at all of these grants. On top of that there is the small business grant, you need to register your employees within 60 days of the starting so that you can get two thousand dollars after …. for a year.
G: Free money!
J: Yeah, free money and that’s, I think that that’s really important because at the beginning…
G: Everything counts.
J: Yeah everything counts. We hustle for ….like “But you’re just a small startup” so like it’s funny because Matt and I are always hustling. So it’s really great to, we want free stuff.
G: Of course!
J: So like when we go to a restaurant, and you go to an Indian restaurant, sometimes they have free papadams, sometimes they make you pay five bucks which is outrageous. So whenever we go, we’re like “Do you have any free papadams?”, they are like “Oh papadams are five dollars,” and we’re like “Oh come on, you can give it to us for free”, “You want to give us free papadams”, and they are like “Okay”. [Laughter] And like we’ll go with our friends and they’re like “Guys that is super embarrassing”, and we’re like “But you’re eating out free papadams” so like we’re always doing …stuff but it really makes a difference because we are still bootstrapping but when …. We’re really in a position to raise now because like we can show them we hustled. But you can stretch a dollar, it makes a huge difference. And there’s a lot of sharks out there, a lot of sharks, a lot of people being like “Oh, I’m a consultant and you should pay me money and I can help you out.”
G: “I know the answer: pay me.”
J: It’s terrifying that if you don’t have a community behind you, and you want to access it, and you want access to information and people are desperate because, it’s their livelihoods, their payday and it’s horrible. And we’d hate people to spend all their money, giving it to a “consultant” or like doing something rather than hustling into it themselves. I think that’s like one of the most important things. Just do it, just give it a go. And the third thing, oh yeah, just to finish that point off. A lot of grants and stuff are out there, and I would suggest that people have a look around to make sure they apply. So in 2016 I also got awarded a grant from … so they are awesome and it’s just, straight up grant. It can be for anything, so it doesn’t need to be for business. They also support things like, people, who want money to support their programs, programs for … or they actually do support, if you do businesses, so people who do … so like they support lots of different things. Like all of these interesting grants are really helpful because we haven’t got a loan and we’re still bootstrapping and part of it is because of all of the grants. Yeah, it’s the grants and the awards that are kind of giving us that extra boost, and allow us to stay alive and that’s …
G: Perfect. So people should really look for free money. And if anyone has any direct question, can they directly hit you up to see if you can …
J: Yeah, definitely. Feel free to …
G: Stalk, harass.
J: Yeah, it’s cool.
G: So last question: What superpower would you want if you had one?
J: I would choose to time-travel.
G: Time travel, we get a lot of that “time travel”, why time travel for you?
J: Just because I love history, I love like all that’s …so I would want to actually experience what it was like, but I also want to know things. I’m so just like really curious. Because I also think like time travel also … that teleportation element as well so it’s like transporting you through time and space.
G: Fair enough. True.
J: So, if you could have that, that would be pretty cool.
G: Of course, if you could just Google it.
J: Fly. I’ve traveled a lot but I’m a terrible flyer, really afraid of flying.
G: Really? Panic attack sort?
J: Yeah yeah, I’ve got a little bit better. When I was younger, I used to have to take Valium and I was like “Oh god” ….so now it’s just kind of … and glass of wine.
G: Really big glass of wine.
J: Yeah so teleportation would have that. I’ve said this to someone else and they are like “Every superpower comes with drawback… repercussions” I feel like teleportation, it’s like the, it’s the repercussions are … I’m like “No way but whatever”.
G: Well, thank you so much for your time.
J: Thanks for having me.
G: Guys, thank you so much for tuning in and we will see you next time at Fishburners at Facebook live, check out Home Care Heroes.
J: Thanks guys.