When Bianca Padilla’s grandmother returned home from the hospital after surgery, Padilla needed to take care of her despite having no experience as a caregiver. She was overwhelmed trying to get a hold of nurses and choosing the right health products. So in 2017 after her grandmother recovered, Padilla, now 29, founded Carewell with a mission to make the lives of non-professional caregivers easier by providing high-quality home health products, personalized service, a simplified shopping experience, and education content rarely found in the at-home healthcare industry. The Charlotte-based business flourished, reaching more than $26 million in 2021 revenue and landing at No. 248 on the 2022 Inc. 5000 list. –as told to Xintian Tina Wang
In 2015, my grandmother had surgery that was meant to help her walk better, but it failed and had the reverse effect. She couldn’t move further than the kitchen without being in tremendous pain. I had no idea how to manage the care at home that she had been receiving in the hospital. What really stuck out to me is that it was hard to get a hold of doctors and nurses when we called. Plus the products she needed were really complex, and I couldn’t find what I needed in the local pharmacy.
I learned that there are more than 53 million caregivers in the U.S, and the vast majority of care for the senior population happens at home and comes from inexperienced, informal family caregivers like me. The problem is only going to get worse because by 2030, every baby boomer will be 65 or older. A big portion of that population is going to need care, so there’s going to be this massive demographic shift that we’re just completely unprepared for.
I saw this opportunity in the market and launched Carewell with my husband Jon. We wanted to build a convenient one-stop shop, providing the education and guidance that’s required to care for a loved one who is aging, sick, or disabled. We offer a team of empathetic care specialists who are there 24/7 to provide these caregivers with help finding the right products and to teach them how to use them.
It’s still taboo to openly talk about health issues in our society. We’re attempting to lead a change by giving support for all kinds of health issues on social media and through our ambassador program. That allows us to talk openly and freely about health care in a safe space.
I’ve noticed that consumers are demanding higher-quality products these days. When you’re caring for your loved ones at home, you want the packaging to explain how to use these products. So we focus on providing that education and guidance. Right now, we don’t create our own products, but we try to source ones that have consumer-friendly packaging. We’re excellent at recommending products and our return rate is incredibly low.
We’ve benefited from caregivers’ real-life experiences using products–learning, for example, how to deal with incontinence leakage when adult diapers’ leg holes are too big. We then pass that knowledge along to our care specialists.
Most of our revenue comes from e-commerce, but 20 percent comes from caregivers calling to inquire and order products from our care specialists. Our future plan is to build it into our digital experience by creating an online community where caregivers can exchange ideas and get guidance from other people, because not everybody wants to make calls. Also, we’re going to be growing our library of content to better educate at-home caretakers by compiling questions that we get asked over the phone and online, many of which are different from what you typically find on health sites.
Our biggest competitors right now are major online marketplaces like Amazon, but there really isn’t anybody offering the same level of service. The other challenge we’re facing today is inflation. We’re getting price increases all the time from manufacturers. I know it’s been really challenging for people who have to buy these products with fixed incomes, so we’re trying to find ways to partner with the manufacturers to help bring those costs down.
I hope more people can support Hispanic-owned businesses beyond this month. Finding and sharing them online is a great way to celebrate diversity. We should go back to the point where we pride ourselves on being a diverse country.