A two-year-old Aussie startup has seen its membership numbers and website traffic skyrocket after appearing on ABC’s youth-focused radio program Hack, with the founder urging business owners to take any opportunity that presents itself.
Jenna Leo and Mathieu Bertrand are the husband-and-wife founders of HomeCare Heroes, a Sydney-based startup that matches young people with socially isolated people or those with disabilities. The ‘heroes’ are there to provide care or even just company, with the platform aimed at a range of people, including new mothers and the elderly.
Leo and Bertrand have a background in business management and analysis, and had started a previous business focused on couples’ fitness. But speaking to SmartCompany, Leo said the two began to realise their fitness business was solving a problem neither of them were particularly passionate about.
At the time, Bertrand’s parents fell ill; his father with lung cancer and his mother with encephalitis, which lead to her falling into a coma and losing much of her memory. The couple moved Bertrand’s parents from Montreal to Sydney and became their primary caregivers, something that was tough for them, as well as the two founders who were working full-time.
“It was hard for them to integrate into the community. They weren’t able to make many friends because of their age and disabilities, and we got concerned about them leaving the house as they’d get lost,” Leo says.
“Then we were talking to a friend about it and she offered to take care of them for a day. She took them to the beach and they got a coffee, and his parents absolutely loved it.”
This was despite Bertrand’s father being a classic “old man” and eschewing the idea of getting a carer. The founders realised this form of companionship was a valuable idea, sparking the concept behind HomeCare Heroes.
“Get really good at asking”
The startup has been running since 2016, is fully bootstrapped, and has been through the Remarkable disability tech accelerator. The company operates out of Fishburners in Sydney, and Leo says it was through a connection there she had the opportunity to pitch her business at the ABC.
This led to the company appearing on Hack last week, which featured one of the company’s young carers and the person they were helping – a 65-year-old blind woman.
In the wake of the feature, Leo and Bertrand also appeared on ABC Newcastle radio and Weekend Today. The exposure has been a massive boon for HomeCare Heroes, with Leo reporting the company’s website traffic exploded to 80 times its normal amount.
“We also saw a huge increase in members on both sides, with six times the number of carers and four times the number of members,” she says.
The company now has more than 12,000 heroes and customers, and is using the increase in users and associated publicity to kickstart into a new phase of growth.
Along with looking to hire a growth marketer and operations lead, the business has implemented its own national day focused on eradicated loneliness. Called #NotAloneDay, the event will run on July 26 and will feature a number of ambassadors keen to raise awareness of the risks of loneliness.
Leo says PR was previously a part of the business kept in a “side pocket” and never really focused on, but with the response from Hack she’s keen to make it more of a priority.
“I think for businesses it can be a tough one, as you never really know when’s the right time to make PR your focus. But at the same time, you need to always be prepared for it,” she says.
“For me, it’s about really knowing your pitch and your business so you are prepared to talk to anyone about it at any time. Also to take advantage of any opportunity; it’s one of those things that if you don’t ask you might never find out, so get really good at asking.”