The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (UGA SBDC), helped Poonam Datta create a thriving adult day care center and then, thanks to continued support from UGA SBDC, she expanded into two other areas, including home care and structured family care. Each service area has experienced strong growth and UGA SBDC remains a valuable partner for Datta as her business continues to thrive.
“The UGA SBDC really gives us clarity,” said Poonam Datta. “Working with SBDC helps us know when to move forward and when to take a step back. It shows us what decisions are right or wrong for our business.”
“When my in-laws were living with us, I saw how it changed their quality of life,” said Poonam Datta. “Having just moved here from India, there was a language barrier, they couldn’t drive and they didn’t have friends. It became very lonely for them, and I knew there were others in the same situation.”
Her experience led her to leave her corpotate career and set her on a path to enhancing the lives of senior citizens. First, she created Seva, an adult day care center in Norcross focusing on improving the quality of life for seniors. Seva Adult Day Care, which means “service with gratitude,” gives seniors citizens a place to go and connect with their peers through daily activities including yoga, bingo, trivia, games, music and fellowship.
In 2020, just three years after opening, Seva was at capacity with 60 seniors visiting each day. With capacity maxed out and rent increasing, Poonam Datta and her son and business partner, Chirag Datta, were ready to expand.
Kruse worked with them to review real estate options and coached them through developing the financial projections needed to secure a loan to purchase the new location.
As they began looking at properties, the pandemic hit and left Seva’s future uncertain. The Dattas put their real estate search on hold and quickly pivoted their day care services to an online platform to stay connected with their seniors.
“We had no idea what we were going to do, or how we were going to pay for it,” said Poonam Datta. “We just jumped in to help our clients.”
Chirag Datta suited up in personal protective equipment to make home visits and connect members with a tablet and a quick lesson on virtual meetings. Soon, members were participating in the same activities virtually as they would have in the center.
Within just a few weeks, telehealth was approved by Medicaid, and Seva was reimbursed for the virtual technology it purchased.
“Seva is a story of resiliency and creativity,” said Kruse. “They did the right thing for their clients without expectation of compensation. They focused on customer satisfaction, and it ended up for their betterment. If you focus on customer needs, it almost always pays off in the long-term.”
Later in 2020 the Dattas continued their real estate search and found the ideal location to lease. The online business model gave them time to revamp the facility and once the new space was complete they switched to a hybrid business model, offering online and in-person activities.
“We know some of our seniors simply cannot come to the center,” said Poonam Datta. “But for three hours a day they are totally occupied. They have a reason to get ready every day.”
From 2017 to 2022, Seva Adult Day Care experienced a 1,686% growth in revenue and went from three employees to 16.
With Seva’s success, the Dattas were ready to explore the next steps for their business with help from the UGA SBDC. They called Kruse and began working on a new component: home health care.
Expanding into home health care would allow Seva’s members to continue day care activities but also have a health coach visit them to provide an extra level of care.
“We want to be there for every step of life when they become elderly,” said Chirag Datta.
The Dattas again worked with the UGA SBDC to develop financial projections to support the expansion. Kruse helped the Dattas create a financial model to guide the growth process.
The Dattas utilize weekly projections from UGA SBDC to ensure their business is on track and are now seeing success. Adding the home health care platform allowed Seva to hire an additional 60 employees to accommodate the new service. Through home health care alone, the Dattas have served more than 80 families since 2021 and seen a 647% growth in revenue in the home health care portion of the business.
But the passion and drive did not stop there for the Dattas.
They expanded again, into a third option for families—structured family care. This service focuses on family caregivers who cannot work outside the home due to their full-time care commitment. Through structured family care, Seva provides a health coach trained in gerontology to perform assessments and provide personalized training programs, supporting the physical and mental health of their family member.
“Others in our industry didn’t want to do structured family care and encouraged us against it. But when we met with UGA SBDC and ran the projections, we realized the margins were there. We learned it is scalable,” said Poonam Datta. “You can help a lot of people but actually grow the business. It helped us to know this is a business we can start. And it’s a business that will serve our clients well.”
In the first six months of offering structured family care, Seva has served five families with projected six-figure earnings from the service in the first year.
Chirag Datta has participated in UGA SBDC’s GrowSmart class twice—once prior to the pandemic and then again after Covid when their business model shifted.
Designed for businesses with more than two years of successful operation, UGA SBDC GrowSmart guides participants through a step-by-step evaluation of their business to develop a business plan with long-term vision and growth strategies. It gives participants the opportunity to step away from the daily business tasks and dedicate 35 hours to focus on the future of their business.
“Through UGA SBDC, GrowSmart provided a playbook that I still reference today,” said Chirag Datta. “In the eight months that have followed my second GrowSmart session, we have built out so many new systems and processes. It has completely changed the atmosphere of each asset of our business for the better.”
The Dattas look forward to continuing to work with Kruse as their passion and business grows.
“They have been fun to work with,” said Kruse. “They are givers. They know they need to make money but are willing to take a short-term revenue impact if it’s better for the customers. And I think that pays dividends.”
For More Information: University of Georgia SBDC | (706) 542-2762