1. The beginning
For almost 30 years I worked in various nursing and health care schools instructing student in patient transfers and ergonomics.
In the 2010s, a change began in the universities of applied sciences (UASs) and vocational school sector, as a result of which UASs limited liability companies. Financial performance targets were set for these educational organizations. This changed teachers’ work, and in this context e.g. the earlier ethical principles prevailing in social and health care education were subjected to a new kind of review. As a patient transfer teacher for almost 30 years, I felt that my work as a teacher had changed significantly due to financial goals that were set in the institution. It was time to think about doing something else. I had previously been a partner in a company called Liikuntahoito in Jyväskylä, and in Ilomantsi I had had a company called Ilomantsi Physical Therapy Institution. In both of these companies I also worked as a physiotherapist. Experiences of entrepreneurship in the health service sector came to my mind and resulted in the idea of entrepreneurship in production of assistive devices. At the same time, my colleague, who worked as a teacher in the design degree program, became unemployed when her training program was discontinued. These changes provided an opportunity for both of us to try something new in the field of entrepreneurship.
When teaching patient transfers to nurses, practical nurses and physiotherapists, I had noticed a lot of shortcomings in work ergonomics while activating patient movement.
The beginning of CareCare Oy dates back to 2013. The business idea was, in short, to lighten patient transfers and promote the rehabilitation of patients. CareCare was thus born and inspired by all the feelings associated with moving and assisting people in moving in challenging situations, often in connection of an illness or an accident. In order to take the idea forward, there was an opportunity to participate in the Karelia University of Applied Sciences Draft project led by Heikki Immonen. In the project, Heikki recommended a designer as a partner. Later it turned out that a textile artist was also needed for the team. The final refinement of the idea was carried out by three people including a physiotherapist, an industrial designer and a textile artist. The products designed by this enthusiastic team would aim to lighten the work of the nursing staff with patient safety in mind. The products would also meet the hygiene standards of hospital and care facilities. The actual company, CareCare Oy, was founded in 2014 and the company became a customer of the Science Park Business Incubator. In the incubator, the initial enthusiasm turned into realism. The development of planned products required money. Self-financing was needed for the team to refine the idea into a product. CareCare decided to participate in the Business Idea competition and finished number one on the first try. The win gave more boost to product design, but more funds were still needed. Thanks to the win of the business idea competition, a “business angel”, investor Kim Väisänen became interested in the company. With the help of Kim’s investments, TEKES grants and loans, product development could be taken forward. A marketing plan was created.
3. The early stages of business
Our first office was located in the premises of the Joensuu Science Park. From the office, we led product development for subcontracting companies and carried out the first operational tests on transfer films. To move the company forward, we made a business plan, a cash flow analysis and a large number of different financial datasets as well as elevator pitches. We received guidance from the business incubator, but the processes were heavy. We hired the first top salesperson Erik “Jorge” Tahvanainen, and due to the distances in Finland, the challenging sales work around Finland started. We had numerous discussions with medical staff related to product development. To our surprise, the nurses did not feel that the lightening of the work was significant, but what was more significant was the time spent on the introduction of the assistive device. Our business was at stake. In addition, money was spent, for example in website implementation and various consultations, e.g. brand building. Fortunately, a new product to be developed was added to our product range. At first we called it safety sock, which later gave rise to Petre Pitosukka – The Grip Sock.
4. Inventing, launching and starting sales of the Instant Grip Sock
A nurse was hired to help our team, and she told about the patients’ challenge to stand up from bed in medical care. The patient may not be able to find footwear of a suitable size, in which case the patient will stand up with hospital tube socks on. In this case, the feet can slip on the floor and legs tend to spread as no friction from the floor to the socks is available. The CareCare IGS sock was launched at the 2017 Assistive Technology Fair in Tampere, where it gained great popularity. However, it took a lot of work to promote the product throughout Finland, because Finland is a big country from the point of view of distances. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of kilometers driven was over 10,000 km. The more we drove, the more the company’s sales grew – the sales were also helped by the establishment of the online store with a renewed website. The Grip Socks are currently in use in all university hospitals in Finland and in several central and regional hospitals. In particular, it has been found to be useful in intensive care units and wards that treat people with memory disorders. People with memory disorders often find it difficult to accept new habits/products, but the Grip Sock forms well on the foot, so they do not feel them on their feet. Later, it was also discovered that the Grip Sock is a great rehabilitation tool for bed-ridden patients, allowing them to move and correct position in bed independently.
Now that the Grip Sock is known throughout Finland, the next natural step is to explore the possibility for the international market. I have applied for an additional member to the Board of Directors of CareCare Ltd through an international market expert and I am applying project funding for testing the Grip sock in the international market. The target countries for the opening of international market are the Nordic countries, where healthcare mainly operates in the same way as in Finland. However, there are cultural differences.
In addition to the grip sock, we have developed a new product, the CareCare IGR Friction Band. The friction band is intended for shorter-term use, especially for outpatient clinics and home care to lighten the physical workload of nurses and physiotherapists.
Our company is small and beautiful. Our assistive devices are developed and manufactured in Finland, they have CE-markings and they offer a choice for the newly formed Finnish wellbeing services counties instead of ordering foreign products.
There are more and more possibilities to use the grip socks (mesh tube) and the slide films. Share your insights with us at https://carecare.fi/en/feedback/. CareCare and friends thank you 😉