The thought of having to work with your parents on a daily basis would make most people want to tear their hair out. Melinda Caughill of 65 Incorporated feels just the opposite.
Caughill, an entrepreneur instructor at the UW-Madison Small Business Development Center and chief marketing officer of 65 Incorporated, founded her Medicare consulting firm with her mother, Diane Omdahl, in 2012. This year, they’ve decided to release their new software, i65, which aims to help employed seniors, 65 years and older, identify if they need to enroll in Medicare.
It may seem like a strange idea to go into business with your parents, but for Caughill, it was an easy choice.
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“I watched my mom start her first business in our basement, and while I was growing up I was able to see her business become the No. 1 provider of Medicare expertise to home health care providers across the country,” Caughill said.
Her mother was so prominent in the Medicare industry that the government would call Omdahl to make sure the new Medicare regulations made sense and could be easily explained to consumers.
In 2008, Omdahl decided to leave her thriving company.
“She heard so many horror stories about mistakes made by Medicare enrollees that would cost them upwards of tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime,” Caughill said. “She wanted to give unbiased expert Medicare guidance directly to consumers so they could make the best informed decisions.”
A few years later, Caughill and Omdahl founded 65 Incorporated in order to help guide new and existing Medicare enrollees through the often difficult and confusing process. Their new software, i65, is specifically designed to help still-employed 65 year-olds get definitive, expert answers about whether they need to enroll in Medicare.
“Seniors answer simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions in order to help them figure out if they should enroll, and for an extra fee they can get one-on-one consultation with one of our experts,” explained Caughill.
Their new software was entered into the Governor’s Business Plan Contest in January, and they’ve been selected as a finalist. They’ll find out their fate at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Madison this June, where they can potentially gain investment capital to expand the software.
“We would love to expand the software to a point where anyone 65 and over, retired or not, can use it. We need to prove that the little monster (i65) can work before we build the big monster,” Caughill joked.
It may sound kind of strange that software would be the best way to help people who are 65 and older. That’s not usually the age range many would consider to be the most tech-savvy.
However, through their research, Caughill and her mother discovered 74 percent of all seniors aged 65 to 69 go online daily. As more baby-boomers turn 65, this percentage is only going to increase.
In the end, Caughill and Omdahl’s main goal with this software is to make Medicare enrollment consultation more accessible and easier to understand.
“Medicare.gov isn’t consumer friendly,” said Caughill. “They’re not in the business of customer service. They’re in the business of making changes to existing legislation.”
Whether they win the Governor’s Business Plan Contest or not, this mother-daughter duo is going to continue working on simplifying this complicated process. What started as a mother’s concern for others soon grew into a passion shared by the entire family.
When asked about the best part of working with her mother, Caughill joked, “I don’t have to worry about leaving my purse unattended in the office. Mom already knows what’s in there, anyway.”
— By Megan Hanas, for WisBusiness.com . Hanas is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.