Gloria Osorio, founder of Mi Casita ALF, Inc., decided to open an assisted living facility while caring for her father in her home.
"My dad came home to live with me after being diagnosed with cancer," she said. "He came from Miami and when I compared the services available there to those in Deltona, there were great services available but not for Hispanics or other cultures. The only thing I desire towards the end of life as person is dignity. I decided that someone had to do something about the lack of culturally aware senior services in the area so I got an investor and generated a different kind of business plan. It was a project of the heart."
Osorio calls the business plan a different kind of plan because Mi Casita is a cultural facility versus simply a bilingual facility. She says the difference can be profound. "When you speak to someone's culture, you speak to who they are," she explained. "When you speak their language, you might be communicating but you are not necessarily making a connection with that person. When you connect with them, it helps with feelings of anxiety and increases trust."
Osorio's dedicated approach has earned her positive press in Volusia newspapers and television media in addition to producing positive results for facility residents. "A local hospital asked me if I wanted to take a patient that no one else would because he was combative and in the psych ward," Osorio said. "He was a prominent Cuban-American physician in the past. The hospital said to put him on hospice because they didn't expect him to last six weeks. I had him for three years. He came to life in a culturally informed environment. I had to keep him away from the patient charts because he improved so much that he wanted to start practicing medicine again. Someone who was supposed to last six weeks thrived under our care."
Osorio's success has not gone unnoticed. She has received so many requests for advice on how to replicate what she is doing that she has launched a Latino-senior consulting firm. Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is fill a market gap, believe in yourself and clearly define your target market.
"Look around and see what's missing in the market. That’s how I saw the need for a better ALF," she said. "Start wherever you are and believe in it. The largest mistake I've seen is that businesses want to market to everyone. Restaurants say their demographic is people who eat. That's not right. Put your business plan together and clearly determine a precise target audience before you open your doors."