One family’s loss inspires the start of a new business

Ioannis Pashakis//September 30, 2019

One family’s loss inspires the start of a new business

Ioannis Pashakis//September 30, 2019

Leigh Twiford, owner of FirstLight Home Care in Lemoyne, stands with Emily McConnell, a FirstLight caregiver coordinator and Kendra Koser, a community liaison for FirstLight. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

When Leigh Twiford’s mother died in 2015, it was up to her and her brother to care for their father, who had Parkinson’s disease.

It was a challenge, given that Twiford lives in Pennsylvania, her brother was in Texas, and her father was in Virginia. With help from friends and relatives, the siblings cared for their dad on rotating weekends.

Twiford never knew there were services meant to deliver the care she was driving hours to deliver until after her father died later that same year.

“I was going down every other weekend and my brother was coming up on the other weekends, it was a mess,” Twiford said. “If I had known about homecare I would have jumped on it. I was burning up I-95 every other weekend.”

When an opportunity came to start her own business, she decided to become a franchisee for FirstLight Home Care, a national home care provider based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Home care companies allow individuals to live in their own homes. Staff offer clients services such as transportation, running errands and meal preparation as well more hands-on work such as feeding, bathing and grooming.

“I looked at lots of different businesses and home care kept popping up,” Twiford said. “I felt that I really understood the need for home care and it was something I was passionate about and could sell.”

In late 2017, Twiford opened her FirstLight franchise in Lemoyne, Cumberland County. Since then, the business has grown to employ 35 people spending more than 500 hours a week with clients. In July, Twiford expanded the franchise to offer home care throughout Harrisburg.

Before opening her franchise, she spent six years helping her husband jump-start Conexus, his automated building controls business in Lower Swatara Township, Dauphin County. Twiford served as COO of the company for six years and that, she said, is where she learned what it took to create a successful business. She left the company in 2017 to start her new venture.

“I don’t think I could have done this without running the company with him,” she said. “I learned so much about the importance of hiring and setting up the right infrastructure.”

Donna Sims a caregiver for FirstLight Home Care visits with Annabelle Paul, a FirstLight client, in her home. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

FirstLight operates in 35 states and will soon open a location in Oregon. The company has five franchise owners in Pennsylvania operating in eight regions.

FirstLight offers services in Montgomery, Lackawanna, Bucks, Washington, York and Lancaster counties. Both the York and Lancaster FirstLight franchises are owned by Tim Mackin. Mackin opened the York FirstLight in 2015 and three years later opened the Lancaster location.

Jamie Davis, director of franchise development for FirstLight Home Care, said Pennsylvania’s aging population makes it a prime location for more FirstLight franchises, particularly in population-rich regions like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

“There is a wide open opportunity for FirstLight to grow in Pennsylvania and we fit really well with providing a service needed in the commonwealth,” Davis said. “The Philadelphia market is obviously the densest from a growth perspective and is where the vast majority of our growth will come from.”

Other home care companies offer franchise opportunities like FirstLight, but Twiford said the company streamlines the process of caring for clients and keeping track of staff in ways that she wasn’t seeing at similar companies.

FirstLight’s staff, or caregivers, can clock-in for work using GPS, which gives Twiford data on when caregivers arrive at a client’s home and when they leave. There is also an online portal that allows family members to view notes written by the caregiver regarding the client.

In the past two years that she has owned her franchise in Lemoyne, Twiford has helped families get the information and services they need to care for their parents, something that she wished she had known when caring for her father.

Twiford recalled a recent phone call from a woman whose mother was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer.

“I walked her through everything, all of the services available from home care to home health and hospice,” she said. “I got a lot of satisfaction from being able to walk her through that. That is extremely rewarding because I was in the same spot.”