Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the June 13, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
New in Town: Seniors
Bill Velez, a member of St. Anthony of Padua church in
Hightstown, brings Communion to seniors living at the Meadow Lakes
retirement home. And there he found an idea for a business.
On May 1, Velez opened an office of Home Instead Senior Care, a
franchise based in Omaha, Nebraska, in the Ewing Professional Center.
From that location, he offers non-medical services — including
grocery shopping, light housekeeping,
and rides to the hair dresser or doctor’s office — to folks who
have trouble doing these things for themselves.
Velez’s wife, Lynne, is a co-owner, although she spends most of her
working hours at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where she is the executive
assistant to the vice president of sales. Velez recently worked at
BMS, too, but was not an employee. During his prior career, in food
service, he managed BMS’s employee cafeterias in Lawrenceville and
A graduate of Notre Dame High School, Velez studied English literature
at Trenton State College and hotel and restaurant management at Mercer
County Community College. In addition to his work for Sodhexo
Marriott, the company that operates BMS’s cafeterias, he was director
of food service at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
Of the reason he chose to look for business opportunities in a
field, he says: "Corporate food service is a terrible
In the mid-1980s, he says, margins were 25 percent. "Now, it’s
3 percent or less," he says. "That’s a big reason I left.
You’re working for peanuts."
From his visits to Meadow Lakes, Velez, a forty-something himself,
knew he enjoyed spending time
with older people, and filed the information away. Then his
a Trenton resident, began to need help with day-to-day chores, and
he began to see the potential in getting into the senior care
Researching the pros and cons of owning a business, Velez
took courses offered by the Small Business Administration at MCCC
and at Brookdale Community College.
"I discovered that starting a business from scratch is really
hard," Velez says. He took a course in franchising, and decided
that was the way he wanted to go. "I used to think when you bought
a franchise, you just bought a name, but you’re really buying an
Velez did due diligence, including phone calls to many franchise
owners, and decided that Home Instead, with 50 franchises around the
country, including 10 in New Jersey, offered good value for the fees
it charges. He also discovered that the franchise for Ewing, where
he grew up, was free, and he signed on for a territory that includes
Trenton, Ewing, Lawrence, Hopewell, Pennington, and Burlington County
down to and including Mt. Holly. His office is just across the street
from Incarnation, where he attended grammar school.
(Another franchise in East Windsor covers the rest of Mercer County
and southern Middlesex County and is doing well. After just nine
months in business this office employs 85 caregivers and has 40
The new business owner knows his biggest challenge will be finding
and retaining good workers, and he says his experience in managing
$6 to $9 an hour employees in a food service setting will be a big
help. "A lot of people think money is the most important
Velez says, "but surveys show workers rank it only number eight.
Recognition is number one, and there are a lot of ways to provide
So far, he says, response to his advertisements has been positive,
drawing college students, homemakers, and active seniors. In business
just about a month, he has 15 caregivers on his roster. Nationwide,
he says, 60 percent of the caregivers Home Instead sends out are
Velez offers an hourly wage of $7 or $8 an hour, and charges clients
$16 an hour, which he expects will work out to about a 15 percent
profit. Nationwide, 90 percent of Home Instead clients pay for
the services out of their own pockets, while 10 percent have long-term
care insurance that covers the charges. Velez says he expects
the latter percentage to pick up as the long-term care policies gain
Rates work out to considerably less an hour for overnight stays or
24-hour assignments. Clients, whom Velez plans to develop through
contacts with hospitals and nursing facilities, can hire a Home
Instead caregiver for any one of 75 non-medical tasks any day of the
week, and at any hour.
Still new in the business, Velez has discovered that what seniors
often want most is simply companionship. "A lot of senior citizens
are very lonely," he says. Often, adult children are busy working,
and there is no one close by to lend an ear.
Says Velez: "I think we’re going to be easing the guilt of many
people in the Baby Boom generation who want to spend more time with
mom and dad, but can’t."
Suite 48, Ewing 08618. Bill Velez, owner. 609-530-0600. Home page:
www.homeinstead.com Also at 379 Monmouth Street in East Windsor.
William Shea, owner. 609-448-7555; fax, 609-448-8449.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.