June 16, 2024

Thrive Insider

Exclusive stories of successful entrepreneurs

Karen Maurer, OT and Founder at Capable Spaces

Who are you and what business did you start?

I am an an Occupational Therapist (OT) with a passion to help people to be able to live as independently and safely in their homes for as long as possible. After working for over a decade in a government role, I left to start my own OT business so that I could continue in the roles that I love to do with people who I want to work in a team with.
I run a small team of occupational therapists in Newcastle called Capable Spaces and we all love to support people to be able to live independently as possible, and participate in everything that is meaningful to them, despite having a disability, neurological condition or spinal cord injury.

We love designing home modifications and home automations, and using assistive technology to help enable people to live the life that they want to live. We also love training and supporting other therapists to be able to do the same all across Australia.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My father passed away a number of years ago now from cancer, and from this time I started to really appreciate how short our lives can be. I committed to live with the motto of ‘No Regrets’ so that I would not live in fear or shy away from the things that are most meaningful to me.

After working for over a decade in a government role it seemed like the only way to progress my career was to be in management. After working in a management role that included going from meeting to meeting, writing policies and procedures and managing staffing issues, I realised that this role was not what I really wanted for my future.
I really missed seeing the people and making an impact to help those people who I got into the career for in the first place.

So I decided to take the leap to go and work in the area that I was most passionate about.
After a while I realised how lonely it can be running a business while trying to see clients, so I started to employ my first team members. The business has continued to grow as we’ve attracted other people who are also passionate to help support people living in their home to be able to live well who have very challenging and traumatic conditions.

Describe the process of launching the business.

There were many long days and long nights working from the corner of my lounge room while I learned more about running a business. Step by step we worked through the official steps like signing up for a business name, defining our business structure, figuring out accounting systems and starting to build my support network.

At first there were no spare funds to pay for a bookkeeper or administration support, so I would work all week on clinical work and spend most weekends doing the billing and accounting. I had signed up for a business to get a work-life balance but I’m sure that there was absolutely no balance. Businesses in the early years take a lot of work to get things moving, and a lot of hustle to get established in your area.

I had a large network of health professionals in the area and so getting clients was relatively simple. It was so great to be helping the clients who I loved to support. Learning about business and entrepreneurship has definitely been the focus of the last 3 years.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

After working in the same area for over 20 years, I have developed an extensive network of health professionals and other referral sources. 90% of our business is referred through word of mouth. However we are working very hard to develop our online presence and marketing strategies so are starting to see more referrals come through our website and online presence. Our team is expanding as the demand is strong.

We also try to work hard to retain our existing customers through regular contact and updates through our support team, and providing a quality service. Many of our clients have been with us for years, as they have long-term health needs. We’re there ready to support them as their needs change if their condition changes.

Many people who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition like multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s Disease, cancer prefer to have one team support them so that they know who to go to when they need help. We aim to be there for the whole of life, and are happy to walk that journey alongside our client, and then support those who may need palliative care and end of life support.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We are thriving as a business as we establish ourselves as a service who supports people with neurological conditions and spinal cord injury, so we have worked over time in developing our niche market. We are also passionate about home modifications, technology access, home automation, and assistive technology and our clients know that they can come to us to help them to be able to access these supports.

We are very excited about the future as we are working to expand our team to provide more holistic health care. As our clients have been through such challenging situations we want to introduce a well-being professional to help support their well-being and whole of life. Eventually we plan on providing other holistic supports like remedial massage so that people with advanced and complex conditions can feel ‘normal’, have those special moments that are hard to access when you have high level disabilities with complex wheelchair and seating needs.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Stay the course- running a business is a marathon and not a sprint. There are some super tough days but there are also amazing days when you realise just how far you have progressed. So just keep moving forward. It is important to celebrate every milestone and achievement and recognise the importance of why you do what you do.

Progress before perfection- it’s important to just keep moving, and correct as you go and not hesitate in indecision. It takes courage to run a business, but keep taking steps and doing micro-corrections is vital.

In the end the most important thing for me is to work in the area that I am most passionate about, as it gets me out of bed in the morning, and keen to make a difference and impact in the world. If you work from this place of passion then you can overcome many challenges along the way. And keep moving forward.

Build a strong network of professionals around you who are really good at what they do, so you know who to go to when you need help. Having my network of graphic designer, lawyer, business coach, accountant, web developer, marketing, bookkeeper and others helps me to be able to do what I love most, while making sure the important parts of business are supported at a professional level.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Microsoft 365 for our team, iinsight software for client management, Xero, Activecampaign, WordPress website, Monday for project management

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Marie Forleo- Everything is Figureoutable
Brene Brown- Daring Greatly, the Gifts of Imperfection
John Ortberg- If you want to walk on water, You’ve got to step out of the boat
Michelle Obama- Becoming
Amy Porterfield- online marketing made easy podcast
Christian Women in Business and Leadership Podcast
Kingdom Business Podcast with Wez Hone
Game Changers Mastermind with Rachel Reva DeGiorgio

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Know your why! This is the most important thing to remember to get you through those tough days

Where can we go to learn more?