By combining her legal and software-industry backgrounds, attorney Shelley Rhoads Perry, founder of Lasting Links Solutions, was able to bring to market a comprehensive solution that hadn't really existed before. Together with her partner and co-owner, Linda Flores, a former banking executive with over 25 years’ experience in the financial sector, Perry has built a business designed to protect vulnerable adults from abuse and exploitation through a range of services to support the individual and family caregivers. Perry shared the story behind her entrepreneurial journey and why her business is such a critical component to retirement planning and beyond.
When Perry launched the business, she and Flores were pretty well known in the community. Perry has served on the Board of the Collier County Women’s Bar Association, the Leadership Coalition on Aging and Greater Naples Leadership. She was an adjunct professor at the Ave Maria Law School, and taught its estate planning clinic. Flores, who is Spanish bilingual, was a Board member and volunteer at the Neighborhood Health Clinic, a member of the Shelter for Abused Women and Children’s Guild and had assisted Legal Aid Service of Collier County.
To grow the business, Perry and Flores reached out to their colleagues in the senior services, banking and elder law areas. They also focused on education and conducted presentations on various topics, including the Forgotten Financial Caregiver, Digital Asset Estate Planning and Administration, and Elder Abuse and Exploitation. As the word got out, referrals started coming in. As Perry shared, “There was a tremendous need, but very little being done.” Before long, attorneys, bankers, CPAs, financial advisors, social workers and family members of current clients were recommending their services.
Perry incorporated her business in 2016 and moved to the Naples Accelerator the next year.
By combining their respective strengths in law and banking, Perry and Flores have developed a full array of senior protective services. From Personal Records Oversight and Healthcare Coordination to Bill Pay Management and Fiduciary Services and Support, Lasting Links Solutions offers a complete package for seniors and their loved ones.
“If you or a family member are on the journey toward cognitive decline or chronic illness, you need to have documents and people in place,” Perry said. “That includes trusted legal and fiduciary pieces. With the ability to act as an agent under a durable power of attorney, a healthcare surrogate, a professional guardian and also an independent trustee, we have the legal authority necessary to protect our clients, especially those who are widowed, divorced, or have no children or family members to help them.”
Perry and Flores, who volunteer their services at the Alzheimer’s Support Network, are both driven by the overwhelming feeling of gratitude they receive from helping people and are very optimistic and excited about the future of Lasting Links Solutions. After 2½ years at the Naples Accelerator, the business had grown, added additional employees, and moved a few miles away to the Greater Chamber of Commerce Building, at 2390 Tamiami Trail N., Suite 202, in Naples.
They’re currently in the process of re-branding, creating new messaging in line with their long-term vision. “We are rebranding as the Senior Advocacy Group, which is so much more descriptive of what we do,” Perry said. “The Senior Advocacy Group will be a Florida B Corporation, which is an entity with both a social and profit purpose. That was very important to us. We also have established a non-profit, Senior Safety Matters, to help those who might not be able to afford our services.”
Both organizations will provide services, support and education dedicated to protecting vulnerable adults from all forms of abuse and exploitation. They’re looking at creative ways to package and price their services and will look toward outside investment as a possible way to scale the business.
What advice does Perry have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Be prepared for a not-so-great experience in the beginning,” she said with a laugh. “Be flexible and pay attention to changes in the real world. I was guilty of having blinders on for at least the first year. Linda joining the firm added so much. Never underestimate the value of a great business partner! It's also very important to listen to your clients and understand their needs. Don’t assume you have all the answers. And finally, it would have been so easy to quit, mostly because it was so hard to keep going! Stick with it and don't give up.”