Photos courtesy of Visiting Angels
Photos courtesy of Visiting Angels

Entrepreneurial Angel

by Caitlin Gipson

Margaret Boggess lived on her family’s citrus farm in Claremont for 65 years before macular degeneration threatened to take it away. As the progressive disease gradually narrowed her vision, day-to-day tasks became more difficult, and she began to worry that she would need to leave her home. “Staying in my home was important to me, so my friends and family urged me to consider getting some help,” she said. Enter Lindsey Rehfeld ’86 and Visiting Angels. Rehfeld, who runs two locations of the franchise-based, in-home care agency, arranged for a professional caregiver to visit Margaret every day and help with activities of daily living. Little did either of them know that this relationship would span more than eight years and provide a bedrock of friendship and support for both Margaret and Gracie, her caregiver. “The home care relationship plays a transformational role in the lives of both the caregiver and the client,” said Rehfeld. Creating a career of facilitating these connections, Rehfeld intentionally placed herself at the intersection of entrepreneurial business and powerful ministry.

Rehfeld’s journey with Visiting Angels began in 2002 during her tenure as a business professor at Azusa Pacific University. “When I taught Strategic Management, we talked a lot about emerging industries and how entrepreneurs should make sure they set themselves up for success by choosing an industry that will support growth.” As she considered which industry she should enter, a conversation with the dean at Claremont Graduate University kept coming back to her. “He had told me that he was looking for a caregiver for his mother and couldn’t find one.” Rehfeld’s own research into the offerings in the San Gabriel Valley confirmed a dearth of home care agencies in the area. “I discovered that the competition was almost nonexistent,” she said. “The industry has grown a lot since then, but at the time it was in its infancy, and there was a lot of opportunity to break new ground.”

Opportunity aligned neatly with Rehfeld’s passion and experiences. “I’ve had a heart for seniors ever since I helped care for my grandmother as she battled Alzheimer’s disease,” she said. “Then later, as my brother and I cared for our aging parents, I experienced the difficulty faced by adult children as they struggle to respect their parents’ independence while meeting their changing needs.” These experiences played a foundational role in her decision to enter the home care industry. “I have firsthand experience with what our Visiting Angels families are going through. Caring for an elderly relative can be overwhelming and emotionally draining.”

"The home care relationship plays a transformational role in the lives of both the caregiver and the client."—Lindsey Rehfield '86

With her niche determined and market vetted, she considered her entry point options. “I was reluctant to start a home care agency by myself. I had a solid business background, but I wanted connections and training from an organization that brought the social work and nursing expertise that I lacked.” Visiting Angels fit the bill. Started by a social worker, the fledgling corporation operated only 70 franchises, most on the East Coast. “I got in on the ground floor,” she said.

Today, Visiting Angels boasts 500 franchises across the country, with 40 in Southern California. Some of the success of the organization can be attributed to Rehfeld, who served as vice chair on the original Franchise Advisory Council, and who consistently pushed the corporation to adopt cutting-edge methods and technology. Lisa Bott ’10, the former marketing director at Rehfeld’s Visiting Angels franchise in Glendora, saw this dynamic at play. “Lindsey’s business savvy makes her unique among home care franchisees, most of whom typically come from a health care or social work background,” said Bott. “She pushes for innovations where others might hold back or lean on the status quo.”

For example, Rehfeld’s Glendora and Upland Visiting Angels branches lead the way in the home care industry as some of the first to use an employee and client Web portal for communications and scheduling. “My undergraduate work was in IT, so I love finding ways to use technology to streamline our operations,” Rehfeld said.

Bott sees this business acumen as Rehfeld’s fundamental edge. “Long-term vision casting, strategy, marketing—all of the skills foundational to good leadership come naturally to her,” she said.

Over the last 13 years, that formula for success resulted in significant growth. Rehfeld now runs two locations, where 225 employees serve more than 150 elderly clients. The Glendora franchise won the Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year in 2010, and Rehfeld garnered recognition as one of Foothill Magazine’s “50 Fabulous Women of Influence” in 2011.

But for Rehfeld, recognition and success pale in comparison to her work’s life-changing results. “God calls us to care for widows and marginalized people. I’ve discovered that in this role, I get to do both,” she said. “I help make sure that the elderly are cared for, offer relief for their adult caretaking children, and provide professional caregivers a safe, appropriate, and supportive environment in which to work.” Rehfeld’s success with Visiting Angels demonstrates that when personal conviction, Christ-centered mission, and business savvy meet, everybody wins.

Caitlin Gipson ’01 is a freelance writer, marketing consultant, and search engine optimizer in Reedley, California. [email protected]

Originally published in the Spring '15 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.