Home healthcare is an important and growing industry. As the U.S. population ages, the need for home healthcare, which can be a cost-effective alternative, grows. Valerie Riley, serial entrepreneur and founder of Fokes, recognized an opportunity.
Fokes is a three-way communication tool that can be used to connect caregivers, home care agencies, and the families who engage care services for their loved ones. See how it works.
“I have two other businesses,” she said. “I started Life Squire about twelve years ago. It has evolved as an assistant placement and training company. About five years ago, we developed a technology for our assistants and clients to communicate. We white-labeled the application in the app store and saw that it could be a fit for other industries.”
E3 prepares Fokes with in-depth market validation and access to pre-seed capital.
“I had originally spoken with i2E when I was seeking to franchise Life Squire,” Riley said. “They didn’t invest, but we maintained our relationship. When I reached back out to talk about our application being a fit for the home health industry, they suggested that we go through their E3 assessment program. Before the E3 program, I didn’t know what our next industry vertical should be.”
“E3 has been impactful in several different ways.”
“When I started my first business,” Riley continued, “I jumped off feet first. i2E taught me how to do market research and how to figure out if the problem I was solving really exists.” She received operating advice too.
“I was stuck on deciding if we should bring in a full-time salesperson or outsource sales,” she said. “i2E connected me with an advisor who had 25 years of sales experience. They have advisors in other areas, too.”
Fokes also received two pre-seed investment rounds through i2E. Fokes is using the second round now to advance business and product development on the Fokes app.
Valerie Riley’s tips for entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart,” she said. “Think about your long-term goal. It has to be important enough to motivate you to keep working when the days are hard and cash is low.”
For Riley, the pandemic was that test of fire. “I never would have thought my business Life Squire could be threatened with a shutdown in a blink of an eye,” she said. “I took a picture of our office when we closed in March 2020, and I went home and cried.”
The company was closed for two months. “I haven’t ever worked harder than I did from home,” Riley said, “so my employees would have a business to come back to. It took us a solid year and a half to get back to where we were before.”
What was the number one thing she learned?
“Before that, I had lost some of my passion,” she said. “I am a starter. The pandemic reignited my creativity in a major way. I need to have time in my schedule to innovate. That’s what Fokes is all about. I also learned that we are not in control of anything. We have to be ready to pivot at any time.”