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Making the move easier for seniors

Entrepreneur identifies niche in local market

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It may have been just another demographic trend to some, but when entrepreneur Valeree Wylychenko looked at Winnipeg's growing seniors' population, she saw a business opportunity.

That's why in 2009 she launched Takin' Care of Business, a moving-management firm that specializes in helping seniors make the daunting and often traumatic transition from family home to personal care home or assisted-living apartment.

Wylychenko was going on more than just her own instincts when she decided to start her home-based business. She said she spent about three years researching the moving-management industry before making her own move. She learned that it was already a booming business in the United States, and that within 10 to 15 years, one-quarter of Canada's population is expected to be seniors.

"I thought, 'Who is going to look after all of these seniors when they have to move?' I thought, 'There's got to be a one-stop shop for all of these kinds of services.' "

There were 10 local companies offering moving services, but many of them were smaller operations that didn't offer the full range of services.

Her firm prepares the home for sale, packs up the belongings they'll be taking with them, disposes of the ones they don't want, arranges and oversees the move and unpacks and sets up everything in the new home.

Wylychenko estimated she and her team of up to five contract employees have helped about 50 Winnipeg families make their downsizing move in the 18 months since she launched Takin' Care of Business.

"It's going great. I can't complain at all," she said.

She said she's kept her hourly rates well below the industry standard of $70 to $80 -- she wouldn't reveal how much below -- until she builds up a solid customer base.

She said her fees so far have ranged from as little as $300 or $400 for a simple job -- packing some belongings and doing a little cleaning -- to as much as $5,000 to $6,000 for a complex move.

She cited one case where it took almost a month to complete the job because in addition to sorting and disposing of reams of possessions, the homeowner's daughter, who lives in Toronto, wanted the bathroom updated and the entire house painted before turning it over to the new owners. She hired experienced tradespeople to handle those additional tasks.

But a typical job, which involves packing up the items in the existing home, some de-cluttering and cleaning, overseeing the move and unpacking things at the other end, usually runs between $1,500 and $2,000.

Although the bulk of her clients have been in their 70s and 80s, Wylychencko said it's usually their children who hire her. She's found seniors are often reluctant to pay someone to move them, but their children have no such qualms.

"In this day and age, the children are usually just too busy. They don't have time to tend to all the needs associated with a downsizing."

And it's usually unrealistic to expect the parents to do it themselves, she said, because they often have difficulty deciding what to keep and what to give away and aren't happy about moving in the first place.

"It's very, very hard for them. It's the end of one era in their life and the beginning of another, and they often think it's not going to be a better one."

The 50-something Wylychenko said she likes working with seniors, so she's thoroughly enjoying her new venture.

It's also not her first foray into the world of entrepreneurship. Before launching Takin' Care of Business, she owned a chain of health food stores -- A1 Nutrition -- for 14 years that had three outlets here and three in Toronto. And for 12 years she also co-owned and co-managed a hotel in Fisher Branch.

She also noted her parents owned and operated a store in rural Manitoba for many years and she helped out there when she was growing up.

"Our family is all about entrepreneurs," she said.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2011 B8

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