In Conversation with Brandy Archie of AccessAble Living

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Describe AccessAble Living in a few words?

We provide seniors & persons with a disability with the necessary equipment, treatment & resources to live safely at home in Kansas & Missouri.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I’ve been an occupational therapist for 13 years and have worked, at some level, in home health the whole time. I struggled with knowing what my patients needed to be safe and independent at home but then not being able to get what was needed because it wasn’t covered by insurance. Seemingly simple things like bed rails or toilet risers.

There were a ton of barriers including no family members to go buy the items, being a renter and construction not allowed and especially short time frames. People needed things like ramps and shower chairs quickly as they came home from the hospital.

Since I found no way to solve it consistently within the system I went outside the system and that’s how AccessAble Living was born.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I have worked diligently within the healthcare system as an occupational therapist in all of the settings (hospital, rehab, home health, outpatient) and also all across the country in 10 different states. No matter where I’ve worked I’ve always run into the same problems and no consistent solution. So I know the service we are providing is a big need!

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship. I didn’t always have all the vocabulary to know that was what I was doing when I was younger. But when I look back I notice that I’ve been filling community needs for a long time from selling ink pens in middle school to charging admission to my backyard pool to neighborhood kids in the summertime!

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

Marketing has turned out to be a lot harder than I originally thought. When I first began, I thought if I got out and met some people and put up a few ads the referrals would roll in. I knew my services were great and that it was a need. But as with life, it’s just not that simple. I’ve learned that relationship building is a really important key and is one of the most sustainable ways to grow. Also marketing is expensive! So I’ve found it more effective to continue to network and be a connector for others.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

When I first started the business I spent all my time working on our processes, tools, materials and website, trying to get them all perfect. While we did and still do need all of those things I developed, it was unnecessary to try to perfect them first and then jump into providing the service. I needed to spend more time out networking and marketing our services and then build the tools as I needed them. Because honestly, the tools are always evolving and will never really be “done”. But what takes more time is relationship building in order to get repeat referrals which is what I learned that I really needed to sustain a business. 

Now I know that while having excellent tools and resources is certainly great, it’s more important to drop the perfectionism and build as you go!

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

I am most proud of the fact that 4 years in we are still in business! I was a side hustler for 3 of those years and just got to the point where I’m full time in the business. This has been a journey but we have been a part of making life easier for so many in my community that I really feel it is my responsibility to keep growing and making our services available to more communities!

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

I appreciate behavior based questions so people have the opportunity to express who they are and how they operate. In school, I always preferred an essay over a multiple choice test because in my mind the options are never black and white! So I feel behavior based questions help give the interviewee the opportunity to show their best selves.  A go to question is: “Tell me about a time that you had to stand up for yourself or your patient because your clinical opinion differed from someone else’s on the care team. How did you handle it and what was the resolution?”

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

At AccessAble Living we combine three separate services into one to provide comprehensive care to people as they age or acquire a disability.

  • An occupational therapy professional does a clinical home assessment, determines the problems and prioritizes the solutions.
  • Then, we set up the equipment required, like bed rails or a shower chair and train on how to use it. In essence a mobile, medical supply store.
  • Finally, we handle any additional tasks that need to be managed like building a ramp or getting a wheelchair covered through insurance.

Since we go into people’s homes to solve their everyday problems, our services are even more necessary now as there are fewer people in our client’s lives that are around to help because of COVID concerns. While we are proud to serve, our staff is also at an increased risk of catching COVID and almost all of our clients are in the high risk category for susceptibility to hospitalization if they acquire COVID.  So, we are investing in technology to allow us to do even more of our work virtually. While that is excellent for safety it has had the added benefit of helping us reach people who really need us but are too far away for us to typically access in person. So despite the challenges, we are growing!

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

Some of the technology we are investing in includes an app we are currently developing for in-house use to scale our model & provide very quick turnaround times for our clients who often need quick service when discharging from the hospital. The app helps us to coordinate our three services into one in a seamless way which truly solves problems quickly for our clients. Not only will that help us operate more efficiently in Kansas City but it gives us the ability to take our model to other areas. We are already starting to provide services in Wichita, KS and over the next few years hope to continue to expand.  Additionally, we’ve started telehealth services which allow us to access homes that are outside of our driving radius and provide some needed solutions. We plan to continue to grow that service and be known as an excellent resource throughout the region.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

I learned that as long as you keep moving and keep adjusting you can’t fail. The only difference between success and failure as an entrepreneur is not giving up! Our 2020 addition of custom wheelchair evaluations to our list of services has been a game changer but that only came about because I kept searching for more ways to reach more people within this tangled web of services we know as healthcare. I had no intentions of doing that when I started the business but by God’s grace and steadily moving forward – no matter how small the steps – I was able to be prepared to capitalize on the opportunities that I happened to come across!

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

I so wish I realized that people refer to you not always because of your great services but because they like or respect you as an individual. As a clinician I have a really scientific, clinical mind about work (which is good!) but also about other parts of my own life. If a business offers a good product at a good price those are usually all the factors I need. But it is much more common for people to feel more comfortable to choose what businesses they engage with based on who works there or what their feeling about the company is. 

At first I worked really hard to sell our services on all of its clinical, wellness and scientific markers of success. While all of those were true (and good) we have had much more success by telling the stories of the people whom we have helped and my own story as to why I created this business in the first place.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

Honestly, in my line of work it is easy to stay grounded. Day after day I meet people whose situations are, by most measures, more of a struggle than my own. Whether it’s a permanent disability like an amputation or a progressive disease like Multiple Sclerosis or newly trying to take care of life’s duties alone after losing a spouse of 50 years, my clients are fighting through tough situations. I’m happy to be a part of the solutions and also grateful to have the opportunity to learn from their resilience!

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I don’t think it’s ever balanced. Balanced means equal and as a business owner it is inevitable that at some periods more of your effort is going to go to one over the other. I heard someone once call it work/life synergy instead of balance. That resonates with me because as long as I’m fulfilling all my roles: business owner, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend in a synergistic way then I’m happy! When I had a newborn the other roles besides mother took a step back. When I first went full time in the business I really had to focus hard to get our revenues and referrals up to sustain my income. It’s’ never been balanced, but I do work to have it all in a good flow.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I think people might be surprised that among all the other roles mentioned above I’m also president of my local chapter of my sorority – Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc (Grandview MO chapter). We meet (virtually) monthly as a chapter and many other times through the month to plan community service events, mentor girls in our youth groups and to raise money and awareness for other service organizations!

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Schedule out your time each day – not just for business but also for your personal and family life and stick to it!
  • Reserve time on your schedule for “chunking”. For example, is it better to do this task a little everyday or stack it up and focus on it once per week? You will likely do it more quickly when you “chunk it”.
  • Do your most challenging tasks at the time of the day you are at your best.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

It means being a boss and remembering to own that no matter how much Imposter Syndrome wants to creep in!

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