Closeup shot of two businesspeople shaking hands in an office

When Terry and Suzanne Wilk, of Fayetteville, GA, decided they wanted to open a franchise, the home care firm Seniors Helping Seniors seemed to check all the boxes.

The couple began investing in real estate in the early 2000s and struck success with it, buying and selling 12 properties. Along the way, they made it a point to help seniors and veterans. Now that they are older adults themselves, they understand their cohort’s unique challenges and needs.

Terry and Suzanne Wilk
Terry and Suzanne Wilk

“When I retired I said to Sue, what other ways can we help?” Terry, 69, recently told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. “We looked at other franchises and we really liked the mission of Seniors Helping Seniors.”

Similarly, Kurt and Jen Fehrenbach of New Orleans, who are starting a Hounds Town USA pet care and doggy day care franchise, were looking for a new opportunity as Kurt, 61, thinks about winding down his career in the electronics industry.

“I’m not quite ready to retire,” Kurt said. “It looks promising to me to kind of slow down a little bit. I feel like this is a good balance for that.”

Jen and Kurt Fehrenbach

He hopes to help start the business and then hand the reins to Jen, 48, who is looking to stay in the work world for a little while longer.

“This seemed like the perfect way to do something together … where he would move to the background after a while and I could progress,” she said.

New spin on old idea

The Wilks and Fehrenbachs are not particularly unique in their desire to open franchises. It has long been an avenue for people approaching retirement who may not have saved enough in their lives and want to make and sustain their incomes. The concept, however, has been more publicized lately than ever before, 1851 Franchise magazine publisher Nick Powills told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. The turbulence in the economy and lack of savings may be thrusting this idea into the spotlight again, he said.

Also, the freedom in owning certain franchises has a particular allure that is drawing attention. For example, a restaurant that only serves breakfast and closes at 2 would give a franchise owner the luxury of working but still keep their lifestyle. Then there are those that only require a working vehicle — chuck in a truck, Powills calls them — have experienced a big uptick recently. Think a pool service or handyman enterprise, which requires a smaller amount of capital to start.

“Some of the senior care brands like Seniors Helping Seniors fit the persona very nicely, too,” Powills said.

This month, nine out of 25 franchises that the media outlet has profiled are over the age of 55.

“That’s not the story,” he said. “It’s just the fact that franchising is still viable for those in their 50s, 60s and 70s.”

Ready to jump in

Terry and Suzanne Wilk, who have four children and three grandchildren, are eager to embark on their new venture. Terry, who recently retired from a 45-year healthcare career, is looking forward to tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit he discovered with the real estate business. Suzanne, 75, who has been involved in several nonprofits, including the local Discovering Soldiers’ Potential II, which helps veterans with housing and other transitional services, enjoys giving back.

“I never really looked at a job as a job,” she said. “I always approached it as a mission.”

Seniors Helping Seniors also channels her experience caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s. She recalls the balancing act of giving her mom what she needed while managing her other family relationships. And one particular memory stands out for her — when her mom was helping her make breakfast and the paper towel that she was using to cook bacon caught on fire.

“That was the cold water hitting me in the face,” she recalled. “I need someone who is more qualified to help with mom, because I can’t do it by myself.”

Like the Wilks, Kurt and Jen Fehrenbach of New Orleans see their new job as franchise owners for Hounds Town USA as much mission as money-making. Hounds Town has a charitable arm.

“It’s not just a paycheck. We can also help with shelter dogs,” Kurt told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse.

Going full-time

All four franchise owners see their new careers as full-time jobs.

The Wilks, who signed the franchise agreement in November with Seniors Helping Seniors, recently received their permit license to operate their business. They now are planning to proceed with a marketing and recruitment plan. Over the next five to seven years, they hope to serve seniors in the five counties of their South Atlanta territory — and perhaps beyond.

“We’d look to be a multimillion company and contribute to the growth and franchising,” Terry said.

The Fehrenbachs, who have been working for Hounds Town for about a year, recently closed on a building to purchase for their franchise. They, too, have big plans.

“We feel there is a he need for dog day care,” Kurt said. “It won’t be as susceptible to inflation as other businesses are, and we may open up a second or third.”

Editor’s note: Home Sweet Home is a feature appearing Mondays in McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. The story focuses on a heartwarming, entertaining or quirky happening affecting the world of home care. If you have a topic that might be worthy of the spotlight in Home Sweet Home, please email Liza Berger at [email protected].