Bizu Getachew has been providing care to people who are old or infirm for most of her life. An immigrant from Ethiopia by way of Bulgaria and a refugee camp in Greece, Getachew settled in Seattle in 1996 soon after winning a U.S. Green Card Lottery. While working at an adult family home in Seattle, she realized that she enjoyed her work and was good at it. That's when she started thinking, "Why don't I have my own business?" Today Getachew and her husband, Tsegaye Mekonnen, own two eldercare homes in Ferndale.
Grace Adult Family Home, is located on five rolling acres surrounded by gardens, fruit trees and pastures of sheep and llamas, and is licensed for up to six residents and provides dementia care. Grace Retirement Home is an adult boarding home with space for 12 residents. It is closer to downtown Ferndale and residents can walk to the library and other city services.
As anyone who has ever purchased a business knows, keeping a new business going through thick and thin is a challenge. Unfortunately, Getachew and her husband had bought when the market was high, in 2004 for their first home and in 2006 for the second.
When the recession hit, it hit them hard. "Thank God the bank trusted us," she said. Getachew and Mekonnen kept their homes going through determination and hard work, but handling the day-to-day finances continued to be stressful. The work is 24/7, hands-on, generally low paying and governed by a binder full of state regulations. A 2010 investigation by the Seattle Times found that for every four new adult family homes that open, three older homes close.
Getachew learned about the SBDC in 2012 and started meeting with Wade Stringfield at the WWU SBDC office. She first met with Stringfield when she was considering the purchase of a new facility.When Stringfield left the SBDC, Getachew began meeting with SBDC advisor Debra Lee. Together they continued to work through the process to get qualified for an SBA 504 loan and to refinance her current property.
The refinance made a significant reduction in monthly mortgage payments and has given Getachew more breathing room. She continues to look for opportunities to grow her existing business or start other businesses and is grateful for the opportunity to discuss her ideas with her SBDC advisor. "
Any questions I ask, they don't have any personal interest, they just give me an honest answer," she said. "I am very thankful to the (SBDC) for this opportunity.
"I have pointed many people to the SBDC for advice and help," Getachew said. "I want to say from my heart how grateful I am for the opportunities we have had in this country, to own our own business and to care for the infirm. We are very blessed."