Help for an elderly relative turned into a business opportunity
20th December 2012
SARAH BOSLEY interviews HELEN and MICHAEL BATES, of SeND Technology Limited, InkpenHELPING an elderly relative has led to a thriving business for a husband and wife team from Inkpen.
Sales manager Mark Bates was able to use his in-depth knowledge of one of his industrial products to adapt it to fit the domestic setting.
"We had a great aunt who had a fall and nobody knew," said Helen Bates, Mark's wife and business partner.
"Because of his knowledge, Mark was able to develop his existing product to cover the domestic setting."
And so the SeNCit monitor was born.
The monitor is placed into the home of an elderly or vulnerable person and scans the premises three times a day looking for movement. If there are any problems a text message is sent to a carer or friend.
The fully automatic device also tells you if the home is too cold, there has been a power cut or if someone is continually wandering around at night.
The monitor can also include a door sensor and is available for a one off fee, plus the cost of a text message every time you receive an alert.
The launch of the device, just over two years ago, sees the business move from the industrial sector towards a very topical social arena, with the ever increasing number of elderly people in Great Britain. And the ever increasing media coverage of the stresses and strains our ageing population will have on the younger generations.
"The device allows people to stay in their homes as long as possible," added Helen.
"Anything that helps a member of the public keep an eye on a friend or relative is a good thing.
"It is also saving society money by preventing the need for people to be hospitalised, as someone can get to them quickly.
"Lloyds Pharmacy has also decided to stock it in their product range, which is a great breakthrough for us and a great endorsement.
"It is great people are living longer but we do now have a duty of care to them.
Younger people need to find the money and the time to look after them and this can help."
Mrs Bates said she was now hoping to link up with a number of organisations that were encouraging recently retired volunteers to keep an eye on elderly members of their communities.
The couple began working together about ten years ago when they set up SeNd Technology Ltd, after Mark realised there was a gap in the market he was working in at the time.
Helen said: "He was working as a sales manager, selling industrial components, and started to get asked more regularly if there was a product where a text message could be sent if there was a fault with a remote, unmanned machine. He didn't know of any and he could see it was a product that would have a future.
"It would be a great cost cutting product, as knowing there is a problem with anything immediately saves time and costs.
"The items that could have one of these systems are endless."
So the couple decided to source the product and distribute it across the country.
With the SeNCit added to their product list the company is now receiving daily queries from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, America and South Africa.
But how do they manage their work/life balance when the two are so interlinked?
"We probably laugh at something every day," said Helen. "We consider ourselves very lucky to be able to work like this.
"It can be isolating but we make up for it by going out and about in the evenings.
"We worked hard to get here and it was quite a leap of faith.
"I believe the success of our business is due to the strong after-sales technical support we give our customers, which means we have gained a lot of trust throughout the industry and hence get lots of repeat business and recommendations.
"This level of service cannot always be given in larger businesses where you may wait a long time to get put through to someone who can help and then their knowledge is limited because they have such a vast range of products to support.
"Coupled with the cost-cutting benefits of the products we sell and the popularity of anything mobile phone linked, we believe this is why our small family business has survived and grown despite two recessions over the last ten years."
The couple moved to West Berkshire from Maidenhead just under three months ago. They have one daughter, Hannah, aged 18, who is currently on a gap year.
"We came for the peace and quiet," added Helen. "We decided once our daughter hit 18 and left college then we could live where we liked. We chose here and we love it."
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