Paige Wilson is the founder CEO of Naborforce, a high-growth start-up aiming to enable the elderly to live more joyfully and supported in their own homes. They are based in Richmond, Virginia.
The Very Personal Experiences behind Naborforce
Paige’s mother was a massive influence on Paige. She had suffered many tragedies, including losing her own father while still young and losing a son in late pregnancy. She was only 48 when Paige’s father died after a succession of health problems.
She was a strong woman and focused on raising Paige and her brother. Paige describes her as not just surviving but thriving, never losing her zest for life, and being grateful for everything she had.
She was called Joy, aptly named as she lit up a room wherever she went. She taught Paige that happiness is a choice and was continually full of joy herself. Paige misses her every single day. She recalls that all her friends wanted to talk to Joy because she was so funny and full of life.
Paige recalls that while her mother never worked outside the home, she had an entrepreneurial spirit and always had some scheme or another. On one occasion, she and a friend saw bentwood chairs being sold off for cents. Thinking they could maybe get $5 each for them, they decided to invest. They had to buy 250 of them, which then meant hiring a truck when they had never driven shift stick and solve the problem of where to put them. However, they managed to buy the chairs for 50 cents and sell them for $10 each.
Paige, meanwhile, studied Economics at the University of Virginia. She then worked in finance for many years in both the Public and Private sectors. Her last position was as MD of an investment bank, all of which added to her broad range of experience. She says it paid very well but didn’t hugely excite her. Paige, too, had been widowed meanwhile, and her own family had moved to another town.
By this time, Joy was getting older, and Paige had to watch her mother lose her sense of independence and start to feel a burden. She learned the stress that can put on both the older adult and on their family. After Joy passed away, Paige decided she wanted to use her business knowledge to help other families in similar situations. She determined to restore the joy in the elderly despite the aging process and reduce stress on all parties. In addition to honoring Joy, Paige could see a massive market gap. There was nothing available to enable people to live independently between family support of full-time nursing care.
But in 2018, Paige founded Naborforce., inspired by her mother Joy. She told me how much it warms her heart that they say the word Joy daily and even her license plate reads More Joy.
Naborforce – helping the elderly remain independent
Naborforce is very much a company of our times, powered by a combination of the gig economy and tech and servicing the fast-growing numbers of the elderly who desperately want to stay independent as possible while losing some of their abilities to do so.
The other problem for older people is loneliness which has now been found to have significant and serious health implications to people of all ages. Some studies have shown it to be the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes per day and can cause severe mental health issues.
Paige says as she discovered for herself, it is not just the elderly who need support when someone gets older but the family members involved. 80% of their revenues come from family members who want to support the elderly in their immediate family but cannot provide it themselves.
The process to sign up for the service is designed to be simple without endless form filling. The elderly person signs up online and can order a “Nabor” for a minimum of an hour on a single occasion or ongoing daily support. Services on offer are similar to those a family member might provide. Companionship is a primary. Home help might include food preparation, tech help, help post-surgery, correspondence, pets, or playing games.
A NAborcan also take an older person to medical appointments, on shopping outings, social events, visits with family, or just for a drive and a chance of scenery. They will also run errands from picking up groceries and prescriptions, dry cleaning, or library books. They will even take photographs and send them to nominated family members, just as another family member would.
The Nabors who support the elderly
Paige and her team have grown a network of Nabors. They are united in the goal of supporting the elderly within their community. They have developed a very rigorous selection process, aware of the trust issues involved in addition to those of security. They only use people who show a genuine passion for both the work and their duty within the community.
It is not just the loneliness of the elderly the service helps. Most of the Nabors are older, perhaps in their 50’s with children left home. They, too, are often lonely. One good thing about COVID is that people now talk more openly isolation and its impact on mental health.
Naborforce gives both Nabors and the elderly a social interaction to stop the emptiness and make life more worthwhile.
The Entrepreneurial Journey:
Paige admits that while she expected it to be challenging and difficult, starting a business has been even more difficult than she expected. There are not enough hours in the day. She never knows if her previous experience helps or hinders. She never had to do excel spreadsheets or HR herself, but now she has had to learn to do everything. She says it keeps her on her toes, and her friends still in the corporate world are fascinated by her stories.
Paige has kept everything as a very lean operation in terms of people. Her small team will increase soon on completion of her capital raise. They already have a strong corporate culture based on a mix of compassion and professionalism. Most of their growth has been organic, but Paige plans to add a specialist who will accelerate client acquisition in line with investors’ expectations.
Start-ups often use revenue as the key metric, but Paige’s best metric is her product-market fit. She wants the elderly clients to be engaged, productive, and connected and is passionate about the quality of what they provide. While they had one customer who booked as a one-off for an hour, aged 95, to help roll up a rug, an astounding 95% rebook and 75% are on their monthly plans.
Paige monitors their performance with a popular start-up product fit survey called Superhuman and finds high numbers of people say they would be hugely disappointed not to have their service.
They have little competition with only a couple of other companies in the space. One encourages college kids, like grandkids on-demand, to do the caring of the elderly locally. Paige believes that her older helpers are a better fit as they are more mature and have raised families.
When COVID hit, Naborforce was just finding its stride. Overnight, their revenue dropped by 90%. Paige’s financial experience paid off. They cut overheads and concentrated on survival, but she worried about what she had done, leaving a well-paid job and looking at the future. The service continued but was modified with chats on the phone and shopping dropped off to porches.
What hurt Paige the most was not being able to continue with the mission of providing more connection and support for the elderly. As Paige puts it, a phone call might help, but it can’t change your sheets or make you a grilled cheese sandwich. By late May, the worst was over, and Virginia was starting to open up, and they were able to continue with stringent protection.
It made Paige double down on the original mission to provide that connection and service, and they have now grown quicker since COVID than before. Pre-COVID, 9 out of 10 elderly people wanted to stay in their own homes. Post-COVID, no-one wants to go to an institution.
Long term goals:
Paige is only too aware of what a huge need there is for Naborfoce and that it is growing every day. The number of elderly people in their 80’s will triple over the next three decades. At the same time, with people having fewer children, the numbers of family members able to care and support are shrinking. While there tends to be seven to one older person at present, that will have gone down to three in the next few decades.
Paige wants to do as much as she can to help. It is a case of community supporting community. She hopes that one day the tech will enable people to help themselves and connect to a Nabor three streets away.
Her long-term goal is to be able to create and fund a foundation for those who cannot afford to pay for the service. The aim is for Naborforce to roll out right across the States.
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