Conchy Bretos has seen firsthand the difficulties that aging seniors living in public housing face when trying to access services, often becoming “older and invisible” while trying to retain some sense of independence.
She launched Mia Senior Living Solutions in 1995 as a consulting firm that aimed to help low-income elderly and disabled adults stay in their homes. Bretos quickly realized that the problem required a more direct approach. In 1998, she bought a senior-designated public housing building from the City of Miami, renovated it and created the Helen Sawyer Plaza, an affordable assisted living center.
Today, Mia Senior Living Solutions manages one senior living facility – The Marigold at 11th Street, which opened recently in Washington, D.C. Since its launch, the company has set up – handling preliminary work, licensing, leasing-up and in many cases temporary management – 40 senior living facilities and adult day care centers in 23 states.
“Our company is a for-profit but also has a social impact,” says Bretos.
She admits that the road to success hasn’t been easy. “One of the major problems that small businesses have is lack of capital for operations, to basically stay alive.”
SBDC helped Mia Living Solutions secure funds for new growth
Last year was especially difficult for Mia Senior Living Solutions as several contracts ended. “All of a sudden you’re missing $200,000 from your budget,” says Bretos.
Amidst the economic downturn, Bretos approached SBDC at FIU – Florida International University’s small business development center – for help in securing a line of credit to give Mia Senior Living Solutions a larger footprint and expand the business.
SBDC at FIU helps small- and medium-size businesses grow and succeed. The center’s team of experienced experts provides quality business consulting to assist international expansion, financial management, marketing strategies and more.
At SBDC, Bretos worked closely with Marjorie Weber, an SBDC business finance consultant. “Marjorie went through incredible pains to find a financial institution that would work with us,” she says.
Bretos recalls that at one point she gave up, telling Weber that the only solution would be obtaining a home loan that she’d use for the business. “She wouldn’t have it… Marjorie is a true friend and partner,”
Then JPMorgan Chase Bank came along. Through the SBDC at FIU, Mia Senior Living Solutions obtained a $35,000 line of credit and $57,000 in working capital.
“The SBDC at FIU has been a lifesaver,” Bretos insists. “Small businesses encounter major obstacles when they try to grow – you need capital to hire people, to travel, and for a multitude of things you need in place to take advantage of increased business.”
Would she recommend SBDC at FIU’s consulting services to others?
“We already have,” says Bretos. “SBDC can help you from day one.”