Marin SBDCSan Rafael, CA

"The SBDC made me feel like I was not alone in starting this business; I had community and support which brought me encouragement and perspective. Senior Settlers succeeds because of my Business Advisor's guidance and the SBDC.” 

Moira Brennan

Background Senior Settlers is a senior move management company that provides skilled downsizing, de-cluttering and relocation assistance to Bay Area seniors.  Marin’s residents are the oldest and most rapidly aging in the Bay Area: one in four Marin residents is 60 or older, and by 2030, that ratio will jump to one in three. Moving is tough at any age; for an older adult it can be overwhelming, or even detrimental to their health. As senior move managers, Senior Settlers is specially trained to assist these older adults and their families with the organizational, physical and emotional aspects of relocation or aging-in-place. Their expertise reduces clients’ stress and makes these transitions thoughtful and respectful.

Senior Settlers is Marin’s only business affiliated with the National Association of Senior Move Managers professional trade group, and it adheres to a Code of Ethics that prioritizes the safety, privacy and wellbeing of the senior in transition. It is also the county’s only green business certified in this category, and they are vigilant about reducing waste by recycling, reusing and repurposing. Moira Brennan, founder of Senior Settlers, puts her energy and focus on first making her employees happy because that translates into client satisfaction and referrals. 

Challenges Moira started Senior Settlers after years in non-profit work. She wanted to continue in service, but knew that she needed to tighten her focus to the personal, individual level. She saw that the senior population represented a big market and offered opportunities to do well by doing good. However Moira recognized that didn’t know anything about starting a business. Therefore, she took a few classes, conducted research in the community to learn how other similar business handled their operations, and began to identify possible vendors and partners.  Once she’d identified her niche in senior move management and formalized her idea, she sought out support from the Marin SBDC. 

Actions Taken In Spring 2014, Moira started working with an SBDC Advisor on her business plan and financials. She learned to distinguish different revenue streams and which were more profitable, how to track operations, and what the breakeven was for running the business. The SBDC helped her set up and understand financial statements, which created the foundation for Moira to develop a business mindset (a shift from a non-profit background where she was willing to deeply discount or give away services for free). The SBDC's coaching helped Moira get her first client, and he advised her on strategies to identify and reach clients and partners that could afford her fees, as well as on ways to best grow the business over time. In such a high-touch business, employee satisfaction and retention are key to developing an reputation for competence and integrity. John has worked with Moira on HR issues, advising her on how to personalize incentives that keep employees happy and growing.

Results

  • Started business
  • Hired 3 people
  • In 2015 exceed projections by 300%
  • In 2016, profitability doubled

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.