Check Her Out: Kristi Horner from Courage to Caregivers!

What exactly is your business?

Courage to Caregivers is a new nonprofit serving Northeast Ohio. Our mission is to provide hope, support, and courage to caregivers, family members and loved ones of those living with mental illness with a focus on personal health and wellness provided in a positive and uplifting environment. We believe that when you support someone you love with mental illness, it is absolutely essential to ‘put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you.’ We know that self-care is the oxygen mask for the mental illness caregiver.

How did you come up with your business idea?

As Founder and Executive Director, I lost my brother to suicide in 2014. I was his primary long-distance mental health caregiver for four years. At the moment he took his own life, we knew that we had learned a great deal about how to effectively support someone you love with mental illness and we knew that there ‘had to be a better way.’ The idea for Courage to Caregivers was born.

How did you find out about Aviatra?

Former board member Lynn-Ann Gries heard my pitch and suggested the Explore program. I was probably somewhere between Explore and Launch – Explore was a perfect fit to hone and improve my pitch and business plan.

What is your inspiration?

My brother’s memory, our family and the daily calls, emails and engagement we receive from the many mental illness caregivers who feel alone on their journey supporting a loved one.

What has been your biggest accomplishment with your business so far?

SO many!!

Receiving our tax-exempt 501c3 status on July 20.

We were invited to submit a formal grant to a Foundation that typically does not fund startups.

AND .. I’m excited to have been selected a semi-finalist in the Health and Wellness category for Cleveland Leadership Centers Accelerate program. I’ll pitch my idea for Courage to Caregivers on Wednesday, February 21.

What was the most valuable thing you gained from your experience with Aviatra?

The value of a good hook! Being concise and clear and compelling with your mission.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting your business?

Being compared to the ‘competition’ (which isn’t really the competition. Being able to articulate how we are different (and early in the pitch) is critical to demonstrating need for our future programs and services.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

We conducted a regional marketing research study, gaining over 150 returned surveys with valuable feedback​ in Spring 2017​. From that survey, we narrowed our program offerings to the top 6. In July we conducted focus groups on our proposed models​.​

​We plan to pilot our top three programs for one year: One-to-One Peer Support, Support Groups and Breathing Meditation beginning in spring 2018. ​

​In 5 years, I hope we have two dedicated spaces (east and west side) with a mobile ‘office’ that is able to take our programs and services to our participants, serving the inner city and surrounding areas.

Any advice for future Aviatras?

It’s going to be HARD work. Don’t forget to take care of YOU in the process. As we promote self-care for the caregiver, the same goes for the tireless entrepreneur on a mission. Our best advice from stakeholder interviews as we prepare to launch – focus on doing LESS better.

Interested in exploring more?

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