Back in 2001, Connie Hill-Johnson had a great job in Healthcare Management and a steady paycheck. But after the harrowing experience of being on a plane during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she was downsized from her job shortly thereafter. At a crossroads of what to do and where to go next, she happened to read her latest issue of Black Enterprise magazine. One of the featured stories was about the number of growing minorities purchasing franchises. Hill-Johnson jumped on the Black Enterprise website, took a franchise profile assessment, and read an article with a list of franchises she should consider. The brand Visiting Angels appeared on the list and she was immediately drawn to it. She had years of experience in healthcare and was very familiar with in-home care as her father received this type of service when he was ill.
In 2002 she purchased a Visiting Angels senior care franchise, and opened her home office in her mother’s basement. Being able to start her business with little overhead allowed Hill-Johnson to focus on marketing, hiring, and networking.
Thriving in A Competitive Industry
It’s been 16 years since Hill-Johnson purchased her Visiting Angels franchise. With approximately 70 home healthcare aids on her team, she’s seen and learned a lot. When asked how she has been able to do so well in her business, especially as the vast number of senior care businesses that have entered the marketplace since 2002 has expanded, she cites picking the right market.
“One of the reasons I decided to move back to Cleveland to start my business is because I was very familiar with the market”, she says. “I knew I wanted to focus on Private Pay clients only, so I chose a territory within the Cleveland area that had higher incomes.” As seniors continued to get older and live longer, she gained more clients, saw her billable hours rise, and experienced year over year growth. This, coupled with the fact that she was very good at building relationships and recognizing the importance of doing so with adult children of aging parents, has led to a successful business.
Hill-Johnson welcomes the competition as it has heightened the level of awareness about the industry and, in turn, boosted revenues. “Unlike today, consumers didn’t know that there were several alternatives to putting parents ‘in a home,’” she shared, “and technology, such as the internet, has also aided in educating consumers.” The other aspect that has propelled her business forward is the support, camaraderie, and respect of the other Visiting Angeles franchisee owners located in North East Ohio. They’ve chosen to create a team mentality versus a competitive one, which keeps the brand strong and well respected in the area.
As for where the senior home care industry is headed, Hill-Johnson asserts that even after 16 years, we’re only at the beginning of the curve—and she couldn’t be more right! It is the fastest growing industry in the country today with 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the U.S. It’s predicted that it will be one of the most viable business ventures of the coming four decades, with annual expenditures on home care topping $75 billion.
Making A Difference
One of the aspects of her business that Hill-Johnson loves the most is being able to make a difference. With a senior care business, she touches the lives of her clients and their families, her employees, and her community. “By being an employer, you see firsthand how people rely on you to take care of their most basic needs, and the needs of their families” Connie expressed. She’s also served on the Board of Trustees for the Cleveland Foundation and several nonprofit organizations.
As if the success of her Visiting Angels franchise wasn’t enough, Hill-Johnson is striving to do more. Two years ago, she decided to launch a new endeavor providing one-on-one coaching and speaking to women over the age of 40, about how to empower themselves and become business owners. Her slogan “Pivot to Win” captures her message of focusing on your next move so you can succeed.
Through it all, Hill-Johnson has learned that you don’t have to be born with an entrepreneurial spirit to become a successful business owner. Sometimes all it takes is for life to shake you up a bit, the support of people that love you, the confidence to take a risk, and, perhaps, a little help from Black Enterprise.
Visit www.conniehilljohnson.com to learn more about Hill-Johnson’s words of wisdom for aspiring women entrepreneurs.
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