Born and raised in Sarasota, FL, Peggy Hines, Owner of Modern Day at Home and US Army Veteran, started her business after identifying a need to help seniors better understand technology. Utilizing her ability to help people overcome anxiety about technology and her “educator’s approach”, from past work experience; she began working on curriculum to teach others how to be successful 'gurus'. The gurus would then help seniors learn to navigate and develop a general understanding of how today's technology works. From repairing Hawk Radars in the Army to working at Emory and eventually starting her own business, Peggy shared the story behind her entrepreneurial journey.
“When I was young, my parents moved us from Sarasota to a little place called Horn Lake, Mississippi,” Hines said. “It was a culture shock for me and, to be honest, I floundered a bit before I decided to join the Army. I served from 1985 through 1987. It was good experience. It also taught me that I don’t like people telling me that I don’t get paid to think.”
Once Hines left active duty, she started her career at Morehead State University in Morehead, KY. She was hired by the Radio Television Department to teach undergraduates creative writing. The summer after she started, the department shifted their focus to distance learning and asked Hines to learn PowerPoint, which was very new at the time, and teach it to the faculty. She spent two years in this role before graduating and moving to Atlanta, GA. She was hired by Emory University to help them launch and grow their online program.
Hines explained, “I was hired by Emory to create its first online master’s degree program. Once that program was up and running, I was asked to develop and run the faculty development program at the university. I built a background in teaching strategies and instructional design and incorporated those skills into my technology teaching program. I eventually worked with faculty designing learning events that utilized a wide variety of technology tools.”
After Emory, Hines moved to Gainesville, FL, in the spring of 2008, where she worked for the University of Florida’s College of Education in the same capacity. After four years in Gainesville, she was ready for a change. She also wanted to be closer to the water.
“I took a grant position with Indian River State College,” she said. “After moving, I was often approached as a 'helping' resource for seniors struggling with technology. That’s when I decided to launch Modern Day at Home.”
Modern Day at Home is a technology teaching and support company aimed at helping the senior community navigate and get the most out of today's technology. As Hines shared, technology is everywhere. However, understanding it is sometimes easier said than done.
“Technology has become so personalized that a simple set of instructions is almost impossible to create,” she said. “Personal technology, like smartphones and tablets, are almost like a ‘chose your own adventure’ novel where every choice you make changes the entire story. Huge manuals like ‘Android for Dummies” are created and then quickly outdated. Modern Day at Home was created to help people learn to use the tools they want to use, not to become technology experts. We seek to provide general understanding and then help build confidence in our clients so that they may learn and explore on their own.”
So far, reaching the individual client has been Hines’ biggest challenge. She’s still working on crafting the right message, but found that presentations have been the best way to get people to know her and understand the value she brings.
“Telling people, "we teach you how to use technology" is, I fear, a little off-putting,” she said. “What I learned from my years of working with faculty is that no one wants to look 'stupid', and seniors typically feel 'stupid' when it comes to technology. No one wants a geek talking over their head and making them even more confused.”
Hines’ growth strategy is to offer her company's services as a yearly contract to communities that offer amenities. For example, a community of 500 homes could have the services of a 'guru' for one day a week for as little as $54.00 per year per home. The challenge is getting in front of Boards of Directors to pitch the service as an amenity.
Regardless of the challenges, Hines’ business is certainly one of a kind. “I have not found another company in the U.S. that offers one-on-one personal technology training with educationally trained 'gurus',” she said. “Our company focuses on the needs and understanding of the learner, not the processes of the technology.”
Looking ahead, Hines, who thoroughly enjoys working with seniors, wants to focus on getting the first 8 to 10 communities going to iron out the bugs. She’ll then systematize the process and take it to other areas of the state and eventually other retirement-heavy areas of the country.
What advice does Hines have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Think outside the box,” she said. “Don't be afraid to change course if what you are doing isn't working. Also, remember to breathe.”