Startups

Published: May 14, 2020 | Updated: May 14, 2020

Samantha admits her new business supplying care homes has been emotional rollercoaster

Samantha Harley, Founder and Managing Director, Communicate Care.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

What a time to start a business supplying care homes.

Samantha Harley admits she’s been on something of an emotional rollercoaster since launching Communicate Care on Monday March 2.

Exactly three weeks later – March 23 – the UK went into lockdown with the care home sector finding itself under intense scrutiny as coronavirus cases were reported at homes across the UK.

For Samantha, a 38-year-old mother of two from Bournemouth, a particular challenge has been to get much-needed masks and aprons to her clients.

It’s not been easy.

They’ve been in short supply and those available have been subject to over-inflated prices

Samantha said: “I found it very emotional in the early stages of the business.

“You want to be able to supply your customers but also know that, through no fault of your own, there are others in the chain who may be profiteering.

“A good example is disposable aprons.

“They were previously selling at two pence an apron but the price has risen to 25p, that’s an increase of 1,250 per cent.

“Frustratingly I’m currently waiting for a pallet of aprons but the supply chain is still severely strained.

“I’m just in a queue and I know that there are some people – but most certainly not me – who are profiteering from the current position.

“The prices are changing all the time and it’s a challenge to keep track of them sometimes.”

Samantha, who has a background in sales, got to know the care sector well while working as an account manager for an independent wholesaler specialising in the catering, leisure, care home and janitorial markets.

She handed in her notice to her most recent employer just three days before officially launching Communicate Care.

Samantha, pictured far right, at the opening of Encore’s new Oakdale home.

Her largest client is Encore Care Homes which has three homes in Dorset – Oakdale in Poole,  Fairmile Grange in Christchurch and Great Oaks in Bournemouth.

Samantha said: “I provide the majority of supplies for the kitchens, housekeeping, nursing and maintenance and aim to be the single point of contact.

“It can run into many thousands of products.

“The job is stressful but it’s what I call good stress.

“I love getting to know and looking after my customers in what is a very difficult time for them.

“I do as much as I can to make sure they get what they want.

“I don’t like saying no and it really hurts if, for reasons outside my control, I have to say sorry but I can’t get this or that.”

Samantha, who is married to Paul, a jeweller, has two children, Mia aged five and Tommy, two.

Most of her family live in Australia where her dad, a former greengrocer, runs Direct2Florist Australia while her sister is a physiotherapist.

Samantha said: “I always wanted to do something independently.

“Even at school I would charge other pupils £2 for a hair braid and I used to sell them sweets from an old Easter egg box.

“I’m looking to grow Communicate Care across Dorset and Hampshire.

“Paul, my husband, has been amazing and so supportive and I hope to take on staff at some point in the future.

“The last two months have been a steep learning curve but I don’t regret going it alone for a minute.

“Things are getting easier and I’m pleased with the way things are going.”

Samantha’s new business has received a glowing tribute from no less than the boss of her biggest client.

Rachel Dryden, Chief Executive of Encore Care Homes, pictured left, said: “We’re proud to work with Communicate Care and value the service that they’ve shown during this challenging time.

“Sourcing quality equipment and supplies requires lots of time and diligence to maintain stock levels.

“Our care homes have shown enormous resilience and that’s only possible due to our incredible staff, residents and the support of our trusted suppliers.”