Business ideas for 2014: Boutique care home business

With an aging Baby Boomer generation, 2014 marks the perfect time to start an independent care home…

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Much like the recent rise of boutique hotels, we expect to see the rise of boutique care homes. Just as Mr and Mrs Smith, Cool Camping, and Wild Swimming books captured the imagination of those who want something a little different, we think it’s only a matter of time before Cool Care Homes becomes a reality.

By offering personalised, stylish, and intimate accommodation to the ageing generation of the post-war Baby Boom, boutique care homes will provide an alternative to the characterless ‘beige’ quarters often experienced by Boomers’ parents.

Starting a boutique care home business: Why it’s a good business idea

Born between 1946-1964, Baby Boomers are now reaching a pensionable age and have cash tied up in property following years of market growth since they got on the property ladder in the 1960s and 1970s.

For many, thoughts of residing in a care home may seem premature and as a generation that was at the forefront of the civil rights and feminist movements and had more liberal attitudes to sex, drugs and fashion, a traditional care home would be anathema to many.

Instead, smaller, more intimate properties, with more independence, varied dining options suited to their dietary requirements, and stylish interior design are likely to grow in popularity.

Living longer than their parents, the largest retirement community in history are actively looking for new ways to live comfortably and safely as frailties of age become a reality. Sheltered housing, typically where pensioners buy apartments in warden-managed buildings and have access to a communal area are one possibility.

Another idea becoming more popular is the Danish concept of co-housing, where friends with shared interests buy larger properties together and share communal areas while also accepting responsibility for caring for one another.

Not right for everyone though, boutique care homes could be the answer. As a people business it not only offers a viable commercial opportunity but the personal rewards are vast; enabling you to make a difference to people’s lives.

Boutique care home business opportunitie

There are various options to choose from when launching a boutique care home and you don’t need to have a medical background although qualified, trained staff and carers are a necessity.

The general cost to buy a care home ranges from £300,000 to £2m and sites such as collate both new and existing care houses for sale with the opportunity to re-decorate and personalise care accommodation for a boutique operation.

Most boutique care establishments on the market have between 10-20 rooms, care facilities and level access and there is the potential to add personal touches such as a café or spa treatments alongside daily care. Your success will be judged on the quality of the care and facilities that you provide so it is essential to provide good customer service and to maintain client feedback.

In recent years this area has become very well-regulated and you must register with the Care Quality Commission which regulates the care and premises. It is also advisable to get accreditation with the social services and your local authority as a proportion of your business will come via this channel.

Private funding is available from local councils and authorities who may support resident’s fees dependent on your care facilities and whether you launch your boutique home in an area that has restricted care services.

Opportunities in this industry are not just limited to housing as there is growing demand for in-home care specialists for those that do not wish, or do not have the financial capability, to enter a care facility.

Aptly-named Home Instead Senior Care – the overall winner at the 2008 Startups Awards and the bfa’s Franchisor of the Year 2013 – operates a successful in-home care franchise. There is space in the market for entrepreneurs to utilise this same model or to seek a franchise opportunity.

Who else has started a boutique care home business?

Currently, there are only a small number of boutique care homes operating in specific regions across the UK, and most of these are well established, such as Culwood House in Buckinghamshire which was founded over 30 years ago.

However, other models for retirement living will become more apparent over the next few months as entrepreneurs begin to tap into the market. For instance early-stage business Evermore is set to officially launch later this year and will aim to provide “alternative” retirement living for older people who still want freedom and independence but are increasingly unable to live on their own.

Hence there are start-up opportunities to innovate this industry and tap into a relatively un-crowded marketplace. In November 2013, a £7m boutique care home development, Rossetti House, opened its doors claiming to “mark the arrival of a new generation of personalised care homes” and called for UK entrepreneurs to follow suit.

Insider opinion

Sara McKee, Evermore founder and director of market innovation:

“We have an ageing population that doesn’t want to move into care and a market that doesn’t cater for the baby boomers who want to buy retirement housing. What’s more, growing numbers of older people are experiencing isolation and loneliness, impacting on their health and wellbeing. Combine this with shrinking government budgets, and it is clearly time for a new offer.

“After working with Dr Bill Thomas from the Green House Project to try to change the existing model, I knew it was time for a revolution, not an evolution. I founded Evermore in 2012 to offer the antidote to residential care and a model that will help older people live happier, for longer.

“Just like the Green House Project, Evermore provides small, family-like environments for older people looking to retain their independence and control but with the safety net of knowing there is support when needed. Our focus is enablement and advocacy, helping older people to continue doing what they love. This will benefit society as it means their contribution to local communities won’t stop.

“Ultimately, it provides a positive future for the older people who are living alone but want companionship, meaningful relationships and fulfilling lives.”

Published Jan 2014

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