Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Resources


Success Story: Kathryn Murphy, Comfort Keepers

After 24 years in the Navy as a registered nurse, Kathryn Murphy retired as a Commander and was selected to serve as Director of Health Services for the Mayo Health Plan, an HMO owned by the Mayo Foundation. After five years in corporate America, Kathryn was ready to write the next chapter of her life – not really knowing how the story would unfold.

She attended a series of workshops put on by the Small Business Development Center at UNF (SBDC) with a friend who was considering starting a business which sparked her entrepreneurial spirit. Kathryn knew she wanted to start a business that put her nursing and management skills to good use helping seniors and those who could not help themselves. She just needed help defining the concept. 

As Kathryn was looking for the right opportunity, she met with a consultant who, after a series of interviews and questionnaires, suggested she considered buying a Comfort Keepers franchise. He had just received the current issue of Successful Franchising that featured Comfort Keepers on the cover.

Kathryn did her own research and found that Comfort Keepers was well-recognized, fast growing and, more importantly, encompassed what she was passionate about – helping people, particularly seniors – who needed assistance to enhance their quality of life. It turned out that the franchise was started by a nurse who recognized that as the population aged, there would be universal need for services to be provided for seniors who wanted to live in the comfort of their homes. 

Comfort Keepers specializes in providing in-home care for the elderly and other adults needing assistance with daily activities. Caregivers provide companionship, meal preparation, grocery shopping, light housekeeping, and personal care which includes bathing, transferring, feeding, cognitive supervision and medication assistance. 

Kathryn purchased the franchise in 2002 with the help of a SBA loan and has consistently exceeded her projections in number of clients and revenue growth. She has grown from a staff of two – herself and an office manager to 75+ employees. All of her caregivers are employees, which is unique in an industry that often relies on independent contractors. This allows Kathryn the ability to control quality and build loyalty amongst her staff and her clients. Kathryn is quick to give credit to the Navy for her leadership and team-building skills. She reaches out to her staff for feedback and provides them the support they need to do their jobs.

Kathryn is not a leader that relies on her staff to handle all customer interaction. She is directly in contact with her clients, providing emotional, social and spiritual support while coordinating resources to meet their physical needs. Compassion for helping people extends beyond Kathryn’s business. 

She volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association, as a team captain for their Memory Walk and has been an invited guest speaker for this nonprofit. She has also participated regularly in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Kathryn also gives back to the health care profession, serving on UNF’s Master of Health Administration Advisory Board from 2005-2008. In 2007, she was recognized as one of the Great 100 Nurses of North Florida. Her peers in the franchise community have elected her to be one of 16 Comfort Keepers owners (out of 350) to represent them and work with the corporate office to plan strategy and new initiatives nationwide. Kathryn believes in providing support for other women in business as well as serve as a mentor to young women. Kathryn is active in mentoring programs including “Girls Going Places” and “Girls on the Run.” As an active member of Women Business Owners of North Florida (WBO), she has served on the board for three years. WBO recognized Kathryn as Franchisee of the Year in 2008. 

Since taking the SBDC series of workshops, Kathryn has turned to the SBDC for additional assistance over the years. In fact, she attended the workshop series a second time with her son who as considering the start up of an internet business. She has also taken advantage of the free one-on-one counseling offered by SBDC certified business analysts to provide guidance on business planning for the future growth of her business. She is also working the SBDC to pursue opportunities for government contracts as a service-disabled veteran-owned business. 
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