How this founder used his caring experience to tackle the healthcare labor shortage

When 37-year-old Helen Addison began her master’s program in education policy and management at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, she didn’t think of herself as an entrepreneur. But an eye-opening course – coupled with her previous experience as a home-care worker – gave her the confidence she needed to start Care Academy, one of the fastest-growing companies in America, in six short years. will become one of , Their Boston-based training business for care workers generated more than $2.1 million in 2021 revenue and more than $33 million in funding, but navigating COVID has certainly been anything to go by. – as told to Rebecca Daczynski

my thoughts for Care Academy Cross-listed at Harvard and MIT came together in a class called Development Ventures – it is still offered today. The premise for class is that you form a company for social benefit. Students share their thoughts and everyone votes for their favorite. I panicked and raised my hand and shared my thoughts.

I wanted to create more avenues for upskilling in healthcare for direct care workers. I worked as a direct care worker in high school and undergraduate, and I had family members who worked in the field as well. Through that experience, I saw that there is a natural progression of skills you can take to become a registered nurse from home health support – but these kinds of avenues for opportunity are really broken in our country. With online training, this may change.

When I first shared my idea with my class, it really resonated with people—and it gave me the confidence boost I needed to invest in it. I joined CareAcademy in 2013, but I didn’t really start paying attention to it until 2015. I remember having some sort of panic attack when people first bought our courses, but I knew it was also proof that we were building something we needed.

Our mission to empower and elevate direct care workers to step into the truly critical health care gap becomes even more essential during the pandemic. This is a win that creates additional income opportunities for those who are largely women and people of color, and a win for our overall health care system and access.

We don’t look at our growth from the perspective of workforce, but how we can get smarter as an organization and how we can streamline our processes. A lot of people in venture capital would say that you can only accelerate growth through headcount, but we think more about how we can leverage those that we already have. We practice what we preach in many ways, which is why we think so much about helping our people reach their full potential. There are people at CareAcademy who have been with the company since they intern, and they’ve been with us for almost half a decade. I believe that your best customers are the ones you already have- and your best talents are the employees you already have.

It does not mean that we have understood everything. We’ve made some significant changes over the years. We initially thought it was very important to talk directly to caregivers and buy them into our classes. But we learned that was not financially viable for many caregivers. So we started thinking about ways to work with employers like hospitals and other care organizations.

Our first courses focused on training caregivers to work in childcare settings, as we thought those types of specializations would be most in demand. Then, however, we realized that there were actually more people looking for elderly care workers, so we switched gears. But timing is everything. Now, as more and more people are looking for childcare, as workplace policies have changed since the start of COVID, we are looking back at that offering.

At this point in healthcare, there is a trend where more people want to have access to different types of home care, more people want care workers who reflect and look like them, and more people are looking for affordable care. Direct care offers a lot – and we’re ready to provide training pathways that can bring more people to the job.

explore more Inc. 5000 companiesrectangle