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Chris Donnelly: Challenging the Status Quo of the Long Standing Care Industry and Helping Thousands of Families Across England

Chris Donnelly of Lottie.

Tell us about yourself?

Sparked by struggles to find suitable care for my own family members, I’ve got a passion to improve standards of care and challenge the care industry’s long-standing status quo.

I have a strong background in digital and tech, before Co-Founding Lottie, I founded and was CEO of Verb Brands.

A company I launched at university and grew organically into one of the world’s most leading digital and tech agencies before exiting the company to Found Lottie with Will Donnelly.

Combining my expertise in technology and Will’s experience in the social care sector, my goal for Lottie is to use our technology platform to help millions of elderly people across the world live a happier, healthier and more fulfilled later life, whilst driving positive change in the eldercare sector.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

There’s a new lesson to learn each day when running a business – no matter how established it may be. Take the time out of your day to reflect on your achievements, ambitions and any new experiences or challenges you can learn from.

Business and markets are constantly changing, so it’s crucial to stay on top of industry trends and adapt to meet the changing needs of customers. If you’re struggling to achieve a goal or experience a knock back – don’t see this as a failure.

There’s no business that’s got everything perfect the first time round. Learn from your experience and evaluate what you can do differently or what may need to change within your business. Being quick to adapt will help your startup to thrive.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

If there was one key piece of advice I would share with someone looking to start a business, it would be to start now and start with a purpose.

When starting your own business it’s important to start early and to always have a purpose behind every decision you make – this has helped grow our success over the last year.

Lottie was born from our own personal struggles to find suitable care for our own family members, which drove our mission to transform the elderly care sector.

Combined with Will’s expertise in later life, this purpose and insight has helped us to make the best business decisions for Lottie’s growth.

For instance, when hiring new team members or deciding how to scale up our business, we’ve been able to go back to the main reason we decided to start Lottie and evaluate how these decisions fit our business purpose and visions.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

As an entrepreneur it can sometimes feel difficult to switch off from work – especially in the early days of your business. Of course there will always be those days or weeks where everything seems a bit more hectic – especially in a startup where everything is fast paced.

However, it’s important to strike a good worklife balance, taking a break from work can leave you feeling refreshed and reset, less likely to make a mistake and focused on driving results – something that every entrepreneur aims for.

Through setting boundaries, scheduling personal time and continuing to take time out of my working week to spend time with family and friends and doing the activities I enjoy I’ve been able to find a balance between work and my personal life that works for me.

A good work life balance will look different for everyone, so it’s important to find what works for you. In my opinion being able to find a balance between work and life commitments has been a great achievement and has helped me to drive positive growth and innovation, not only for Lottie but within the care sector too.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

In July 2021, brothers Chris and Will Donnelly founded Lottie (https://lottie.org/), a digital care home marketplace – to help families place their loved ones into the best care homes and retirement living at affordable and fair prices.

Sparked by struggles to find suitable care for their own family members – and Will’s care expertise in working in the social care sector – the brothers launched Lottie to drive positive change in the elderly care sector. In addition to providing support to find the best elderly care for your loved ones, Lottie has recently extended its service to retirement seekers – working alongside some of the biggest providers in the retirement sector – including Lifestory and McCarthy and Stone.

Each care home and retirement living property listed on Lottie are vetted and selected by a team of care experts for their outstanding care, facilities, and homely environments.

From outstanding care ratings and 5* customer reviews to luxury facilities and thriving experiences, Lottie partners with the UK’s best care homes and retirement living operators that offer an enhanced later living experience and home culture like no other.

Now valued at £45million and exactly one year on, Lottie has grown from strength to strength growing and dominating the later life sector, challenging the status quo of the long standing care industry and helping thousands of families across England.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

Since launching in July, we’ve stayed true to our mission to elevate later life and this has helped us to drive positive change within the elder care sector.

From care home fee transparency to providing a free concierge service with our care experts, Lottie has redefined the care seeking process by providing care seekers with the freedom to find the best and affordable care options in an easy accessible process.

Lottie is the UK’s first directory to showcase a vetted supply of care homes and to offer care seekers full transparency when it comes to residency fees.

We’ve done this by making it compulsory for care providers to showcase their care home fees to care seekers, for up to eight care categories including residential, nursing and dementia care services.

Similarly, we have stayed on top of technology and digital breakthroughs in the care sector. By blending smart technology with market leading human expertise, Lottie makes finding your perfect care home easier, quicker and more affordable.

Recently we have completed the acquisition of Found (https://foundcrm.care/) – one of the UK’s leading CRM and occupancy care home software.

The acquisition of Found will help us to continue to drive change in the elder care sector and provide care seekers with an even better care seeking experience.

Over the last year we’ve been committed to transforming the eldercare sector and we’re proud to say we recently launched Seniorcare by Lottie (https://lottie.org/seniorcare/).

The UK’s leading eldercare employee benefit solution which enables businesses to help their employees understand, find and fund an elderly loved ones’ care.

One in seven employees have caregiving responsibilities to an elderly relative and with an ageing population this is expected to increase, Seniorcare is at the forefront of supporting businesses to help their employees who are unpaid carers.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

As a startup business we’ve gradually adapted our business model to scale up and grow with the increase in demand for Lottie’s services from care seekers. Over the last year, we’ve learnt a number of lessons that have shaped our business today.

One piece of advice we would share with entrepreneurs is to think big. Whilst it’s important to set realistic goals, always try to challenge your expectations – this will help to drive growth. In just under a year, Lottie grew from a team of 2 to 40, from a business idea to now having a portfolio of products in the elderly care sector and working with partners across the country.

Always believe in yourself and your business will follow. Similarly, there’s no one way to start a business – this will be unique to you, your business idea and the market. Run with your idea, explore opportunities and take risks.

Start to share your business content now – over time your support will grow and you’ll attract people that think the same way you do. It’s absolutely worth the time and effort. Over time build a team of people that believe in your vision.

From strengthening your company culture to driving business growth, it’s important to build a team that can contribute towards your goals.

At Lottie, our team are at the heart of everything we do. Our aim is to connect families and their loved ones to the best care homes and at a fair price. Building a team of people that also share this vision has helped Lottie grow from strength to strength over the last year.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?

Over the last year, Lottie has gone from strength to strength: growing and dominating the later life sector, challenging the status quo of the long standing care industry and helping thousands of families across England.

The care sector was heavily impacted by the pandemic, which made our mission to drive positive change that bit harder. One year on, Lottie is already driving positive change in the elderly care sector, but it wasn’t without a struggle.

Our achievements with Lottie haven’t come without challenges. From breaking through fierce competition in a saturated market to making Lottie a trusted and respected brand name, we’ve learnt a lot on the way.

Lottie is fast-becoming an industry leader and driver of change, and we’ve been fortunate to achieve this by sticking to our original purpose and mission to elevate later life.

What do you find are the advantages of operating your business in London?

Over the last year, Lottie has gone from strength to strength: growing and dominating the later life sector, challenging the status quo of the long standing care industry and helping thousands of families across England.

The care sector was heavily impacted by the pandemic, which made our mission to drive positive change that bit harder. One year on, Lottie is already driving positive change in the elderly care sector, but it wasn’t without a struggle.

Our achievements with Lottie haven’t come without challenges. From breaking through fierce competition in a saturated market to making Lottie a trusted and respected brand name, we’ve learnt a lot on the way.

Lottie is fast-becoming an industry leader and driver of change, and we’ve been fortunate to achieve this by sticking to our original purpose and mission to elevate later life.

Are there any issues with having a London based business? Have you experienced these?

As the capital of the UK, operating costs in London are often expected to be higher than other locations. However, we have been able to control our operating costs by gradually scaling up our business and awareness and demand for Lottie has grown over recent months.

How has the higher than UK average cost of living impacted your ability to work and live in London and how has this also impacted your ability as an employer?

The care sector and older people have been particularly impacted by the cost of living crisis. With recent research revealing 9 in 10 adults taking action to reduce their spending on food, fuel and utilities.

As a business we’re committed to helping the care sector and our service users combat the cost of living crisis.

From sharing practical, emotional and financial support to caregivers that may be struggling – as well as sharing useful resource centres we’re actively raising awareness of the impact of the cost of living ciris for those who are elderly or vulnerable.

Our team of care experts are also on hand to support care seekers to find the best and affordable care for their loved ones through our free concierge service. We’ve also been supporting care operators by sharing tips on how to reduce their energy bills and combat the cost of living crisis.

If you had to relocate your business to another city in the UK, which one would it be and why?

Basing Lottie in London has been the perfect location for us as a startup and our growth – and we’ve benefited from all the advantages of being based in the UK’s capital.

With great transport links from London across the country we’ve been able to attract talent from all over the UK including Manchester, Edinburgh and Bristol. For now, our roots are firmly based in London branching out to a northern city could provide different opportunities for Lottie.

What is your vision for your company in the next 5 years?

In the next five years we see Lottie becoming a household name that is well-known and trusted by care seekers.

We aim to become the market leader in the elder care sector and have already started on this journey by driving real positive change through the care industry in our first 12 months as a business.

We’ve shed light on the transparency of care fees across the care sector, supported caregivers with their responsibilities, launched the UK’s leading eldercare benefit solution and elevated later life with luxury retirement living.

We’re only at the beginning of our journey as a startup and we’re very excited to see what the future holds.

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

There are various ways you can join the Lottie community and find out more about our business. Our website (https://lottie.org/) includes detailed information on our mission, how Lottie works and how you can access our free concierge service with our team of care experts (https://lottie.org/meet-the-care-experts/).

Of course our website also showcases all of the amazing care homes (https://lottie.org/search/) and retirement living (https://lottie.org/retirement-living/) properties available through Lottie.

If you’re a caregiver and looking for advice or support our Lottie Blog (https://lottie.org/guides-insight/) covers a range of eldercare topics from dementia care, fees and funding advice and practical and emotional resources.

We’re active across our social channels, including Instagram, (https://www.instagram.com/thankslottie/) Twitter (https://mobile.twitter.com/thanks_lottie) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/thankslottie/mycompany/) and we regularly post business updates, care industry trends and wholesome content.

Our YouTube channel also includes videos on your community visits and activities. If you’re a caregiver and struggling to find care, get in touch today and let us find you the best care home for yourself or a loved one.

Follow Lottie on Twitter or Linkedin.

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