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Inspirational Mumpreneur Tamar Krebs

“Don’t give up even if people tell you it’s a bad idea”, advice from mumpreneur Tamar Krebs.

Tamar Krebs is a mum to four children, including twins. She is also the founder and CEO of start up company, Group Homes Australia.

Tamar was only seven years old but she remembers her great-grandfathers final words. He said to her, “I love you, doll.” Tamar always remembered her great-grandfathers end of life journey surrounded by his family and friends. This stirred a passion deep within and prompted her to become a nurse.

As a child, Tamar always believed that when people die, they pass away at home, surrounded by their loved ones. After completing her studies, she realised that this wasn’t true. She told her husband, Gad that her dream was to create a home for people with dementia that looks, feels and smells like a normal home.

In 2012, her dream became a reality. The first group home was set up in St Ives, NSW. The homes have no logos or signs. Tamar sets up the homes to be just that – homes. She wants them to blur into the leafy suburb and streets and not stand out. Her desire is for residents to live with dignity and respect, while families can feel like they are simply visiting a residential home.

Tamar worked in aged care for over 18 years managing nursing homes, and dementia units. She started to ask herself why we as a society felt the need to warehouse our elderly?

If we live our entire life in a community surrounded by friends and family then why at a person’s most vulnerable point in their life do we lock them away from society, focusing only on their disability?

All this lead to the search for people to be able to age in a home that looks, feels and smells like a home in a person’s familiar suburb.

Tamar ensures that homes are nestled within local communities, being modern yet safe. The homes are beautifully designed and decorated. Residents can choose to eat together in one of the lovely dining areas or they can eat alone or in their rooms if they chose to do so. They can still enjoy tasks like cooking or baking, visiting the shops to purchase ingredients for a favourite recipe, assisting with hanging washing on the line, gardening and even hosting a BBQ with assistance.

Dementia advocate and sufferer of early onset dementia, Kate Swaffer, recently visited three of Tamar’s homes. Kate was so overwhelmed and grateful to Tamar Krebs for bringing such a compassionate and nurturing ‘residential care home’ to Australia.

In an open letter of gratitude, Kate states:

“I would, quite happily live in one of their homes. They have somehow found a way to ensure autonomy and safety are working in harmony, in a way that does not seem to demean anyone, or make anyone feel locked up. This style of residential accommodation and care is the best I have seen in Australia.”

Kate expected to see the logo emblazoned on the gate or door of each home. However, the homes are indistinguishable and blend into their individual suburbs and streets providing dignity to those living there.

Kate exclaims,“I definitely had no sense I was visiting a ‘facility providing residential care’. There were people in rooms folding up the washing, staff and residents in the kitchen preparing meals; smells of cooking, and not a hint of urine. Doors that opened out onto gardens and recreational areas, with washing lines, and one even with a swimming pool. Laundries in working order, various areas to sit and relax or play cards or watch television.”

She then adds, “Staff who sounded and looked like family members. Family members sitting around, relaxing, waiting for a mother to return from some shopping. Dining rooms, allowing for mingling and shared meals, and smaller eating areas allowing for more privacy.”

Kate concludes, “ This is the first time, and only time, I have felt I would or could move into ‘residential care’. As a person living with a diagnosis of dementia, I cannot tell you how much of a relief it felt to see someone who ‘gets’ it, and has taken such a risk (financial, and professional) by refusing to do it as everyone else is doing it; following their intuition, their heart, and actually ‘doing it’ so well.”

Tamar founded Group Homes Australia in 2009. The first home opened in 2012. Today there are eight homes and the company is growing rapidly.

Q&A with Tamar Krebs, Women entrepreneur, CEO of Group Homes Australia

1. What inspired you to start your business?

The inspiration for the GHA vision started at the age of 3 when I lived in New York with my great grandfather in his home, I lived there for 8 years during that time he became very sick…
I had the privilege of walking his end of life journey with him, I was the last person he spoke to and he said “I love you, doll.” I knew from that moment, I wanted to make a difference in aged care.

Later as an adult I worked in Aged care for over 18 years managing nursing homes, and dementia units. I started to ask myself why we as a society feel the need to warehouse our elderly?

If we live our entire life in a community surrounded by friends and family, then why at a person’s most vulnerable point in their life do we lock them away from society, their familiar suburb and why do we focus on their disability?

All this lead to the search for people to be able to age in a home that looks, feels and smells like a home in a person’s familiar suburb.

2. Did you start the business on your own?

Yes, I started Group Homes Australia on my own. I presented 38 times to high net worth individuals, venture capitalist, private equity groups, anyone that would listen to my story!
I eventually found a wonderful syndicate of investors that saw the vision of changing the way Dementia care was being delivered in Australia.

3. Did you raise capital yourself?

Yes, I raised $3.7 million in capital

4. What challenges did you face?

I’m female, young and a mother to four kids (including twins). I didn’t overcome any of them but used the skill of all three to show my passion, drive and inspiration to change something I believe so strongly about! I did try much harder since I didn’t have the “pin stripe suit” or the gender.

5. Advice for mumpreneurs?

Dream big, follow your dream and don’t give up even if people tell you it’s a bad idea. Focus on the goal and walk step-by-step.Be prepared to take different routes but keep the end in mind.
Try and learn from every person you meet along the way, even the mean ones. Motherhood/Children teach you how to juggle, to be tenacious, courageous and to multi-task. Even when you feel empty those are great skills for an entrepreneur.

6. Did you face any industry related struggles?

Struggles in the first year were to prove the model to be effective in a very big, old-school industry.

7. How did you overcome these?

People believed in me and my journey and they wanted to know why I did what I did. They wanted to know if I was authentic and if I would hold their hand through this very difficult dementia journey.

8. Advice to new start ups?

Plan big, back yourself, believe in yourself, keep thinking and get a great mentor. Learn to listen more then you talk – that’s why we have two ears and one mouth.

9. Your blue-sky dream?

GHA will expand all over Australia; it will become the most popular model for people living with dementia.

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