Former Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has joined the board of Mable, an Aussie startup connecting small business aged care and disability service providers with the users who need them.
Headed up by co-founder and chief Peter Scutt, Mable is intended to offer service users a range of alternatives to the big players, while also providing more flexibility for the SMEs, fostering more personal connections.
It’s also designed to be more cost effective and free from the bureaucracy associated with this sector.
For Carnell, who came to the end of her five-year tenure as small business ombudsman in March, this new board role plays into her passions.
Having run a community pharmacy, she has seen the challenges older people and people with disabilities face when trying to get the services and support they needed to stay in their own homes.
As small business ombudsman she also saw the opportunity for small business operators in the sector that could provide such services.
Mable gives them the opportunity to reach consumers they may not have had access to previously.
But this is also something she’s had personal experience with. When her own mum was unwell, Carnell saw the current offerings are often “not fit for purpose”.
“She hated the fact that there were different people all the time,” Carnell recalls.
“That’s the problem with the bigger operators. Who comes to your house is who’s available,” she adds.
“They try to have some level of continuity, but that’s not necessarily possible.”
A growth industry
There are plenty of small business providers that can meet these kinds of needs. But in the conversation around aged care that plays out in the media, they rarely get a mention.
According to Carnell, Mable has some 11,000 approved and active small business operators on its platform, and new business owners applying constantly.
This is a growth sector, she explains, “and that’s not going to go away”.
Where previously this sector has been dominated by big players, “there’s a huge opportunity for small business operators to really grow their businesses in a growth environment”.
That’s particularly true in regional Australia, where many of those major operators can only offer limited services.
“This really is a small business issue, but also a policy and community issue.”
Finally, Carnell says this sector in particular provides opportunities for entrepreneurs looking for flexibility.
Some of the providers on the platform are people who have been made redundant or lost work, and set up businesses supporting other people in their communities.
Some are people whose backgrounds are in finance, who are now helping young people with disabilities manage their household budgets.
“There are some great stories,” Carnell says.
“This is innovation, small business and growth industries all coming together,” she adds.
“It’s a good outcome for everybody and I hope more small business operators really think about this as something that really has potential.”