Shelly Sun never intended to launch her own business, let alone build a $500 million company, but after enduring the home health-care journey with a loved one, the Chicago resident felt like she could personally make a difference in the industry. So in 2002, she founded BrightStar Care. By Jessica Jones
Shelly Sun never intended to launch her own business, let alone build a $500 million company, but after enduring the home health-care journey with a loved one, the Chicago resident felt like she could personally make a difference in the industry. So in 2002, she founded BrightStar Care.
“Through my own personal journey, I identified a gaping hole in the health-care sector and saw first-hand the need for a better in-home care option that would offer families a highly personalized service,” noted Sun, a former CPA. “I was not an entrepreneur and never thought I’d be an entrepreneur. An accountant is probably as far from ‘risk-taker’ as you could possibly imagine. The shift in my career came because of a personal experience, not because I didn’t want to be an employee.”
Growing the BrightStar Care model from an idea to a stand-alone service did not happen overnight, but Sun says she managed the task by building her network and considering each step as an important learning milestone. In 2005, the company expanded into franchising, a move that Sun identified as “an important piece of the puzzle.”
“My relentless pursuit to provide a higher standard of care meant working hard to ensure that locally owned and operated agencies are Joint Commission accredited,” Sun said. “Over the years, we have had to pivot in terms of adding on services and being nimble with whatever the world threw at us, but we continued to adapt at a rapid speed.”
BrightStar Care, which provides medical-level in-home care, non-medical home-care services, and hospice care, is now active in 39 states and has 340 locations throughout the country. Sun credits the company’s successful expansion to steadfast market research and a commitment to quality patient care.
“I am a big believer that to truly deliver the care to families and the support to franchisees that we do, we needed to understand the business first-hand,” she noted. “I can’t imagine franchising a concept I hadn’t learned every aspect of first.”
Stressing the importance of maintaining company-owned locations to test new marketing and recruiting strategies and to pilot new technology, Sun said her business model is unique because of its breadth of services.
“We have a professional care team led by registered nurses who oversee every case to develop a truly personal plan of care,” Sun said. “We also provide health-care staffing solutions to businesses and personnel to hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, and labs.”
And while many of BrightStar Care’s services had to adjust because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sun made every effort to protect her caregivers.
“We created a centralized fulfillment center for franchisees to equip all locally owned and operated BrightStar Care agencies and their staff with PPE,” Sun said. “BrightStar Care developed a complete Respirator Program to ensure the highest levels of safety during this pandemic and to enable our caregivers and nurses to use N95 masks.”
A hands-on mom who squeezes in a daily workout before her children wake up, Sun says she does her best to keep the work/family balance but has faced challenges as a female CEO.
“I recognize that my drive and focus on performance are referred to as ‘aggressive,’ where I don’t think that would be the case if I was male,” she noted. “That said, I don’t focus on challenges or adversities and instead just give my all every day.”
Identifying the health-care market as constantly changing, with more elders preferring to age in place, Sun said BrightStar Care’s future is focused on being part of the solution.
“Meeting the goals of medical care is important and meeting the specific needs and preferences
of our clients is our top priority,” Sun concluded. “As we continue to innovate, we know that our client is always looking for new ways to make sure their loved ones remain safe and our national and regional account partners are looking to us to improve outcomes and bend the health-care cost curve.”
– Jessica Jones