Ruffner, 56, founded Navigate NC in July 2013 after recognizing a disconnect between the health care system and seniors' ability to access it.
About eight years ago, Ruffner helped her mother as she dealt with a physical disability and breathing challenges and her father struggled with memory issues and a benign tremor. Soon, friends and family were asking Ruffner and her sister, Kathy Ruffner-Linn, for help with their parents.
"They saw what we had done, and they knew where we worked," Ruffner said.
In May, Ruffner left her employee assistance position at benefits services provider Workplace Options.
Her six years at the company included providing solutions for people across the U.S. who were struggling to care for elders.
Ruffner-Linn, who worked for the Triangle J Area Agency on Aging, also provides administrative and marketing support for Navigate NC.
"She is one of my best bloggers," Ruffner said.
After Ruffner left her job, she enrolled in a social media class at the Wake Tech Small Business Center, a state-funded organization that provides entrepreneurship classes, counseling and resources at community colleges across the state.
Ruffner also reached out to the Women's Business Center of North Carolina in Durham, and turned to SCORE, which provides free small-business mentoring and low-cost workshops, for seminars on pricing, taxes and business plans.
"I hit all of them," she said. She continues to use those resources as she explores financing and other growth options. Ruffner also joined professional and networking organizations.
She also established agreements for Navigate NC's subcontractors and clients, and secured liability insurance.
Navigate NC's services include home health assessments, accompaniment to doctor's appointments, hospital bed and medication monitoring, along with helping patients and their children understand treatment options and medical bills.
"We are going in there and getting that medication listed," Ruffner said. "Who prescribed it, how long, what for, and making sure that all the doctors know about it."
Other services include checking on patients during inclement weather, or when their children are or on vacation, and identifying when it's time to modify a patient's home or consider a move to an independent or assisted living facility.
"And reporting across the miles to the adult children," Ruffner said.
Ruffner spent the summer establishing her company's infrastructure, processes, and liability insurance.
In the fall, she turned to professional networking organizations, reaching out to former and new contacts that work with the elderly population and learning about related businesses and organizations.
Ruffner's business goals include serving 25 clients in the company's first 18 months. As of February, she had three clients, two through the business' website and a third was from a referral.
"I can see where it is going to get a lot bigger," she said, "Once the standard operating procedures are honed."
Bridges: 919-829-8917; Twitter: @virginiabridges
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