Lynn Ivey’s unshakeable commitment to her cause has come downto this. Three and a half years after she has left her bank job, she andI are sitting in the high-ceilinged main room of The Ivey, hersparkling $4.5 million adult daycare facility. Although it is midday,we are nearly alone in the center. Only a couple of staff members arearound to care for the two clients who have signed up so far.
We’re taking a break from another tough meeting about The Ivey’sdire financial situation. Lynn, two key investors, her attorney, her ac-countant, and I have worked through the morning, playing out variousrevenue and expense scenarios. Although the fire has not left Lynn’seyes, it’s been a morning of grimaces and long faces.
With virtually no sales after nine months of marketing to prospective members, sheis in danger of running out of money within six months. Her expensebase is weighty, due to the high-end nature of the facility, her pas-sionate attention to every detail, and the fact that she must keep aminimum professional staff on board to meet regulatory requirements.
We talk about what has been learned over the past year. Lynn hadprojected a sold-out center at this point in time and had invested sig-nificant resources into promoting the facility—direct and indirectmarketing campaigns, including reaching out to referral sources likegeriatricians, in-home care services, assisted-living facilities, and thelike. While the pipeline of interested prospects has buzzed with ac-tivity, the number of families scheduling tours has amounted to atrickle.
“Oh my god. I almost forgot,” she says with a self-deprecatinglaugh. “You won’t believe what I did this weekend. My nurse, Betsy,rented my favorite movie of all time, Field of Dreams, and I must havewatched it three or four times. I had forgotten some of the scenes, andI couldn’t believe how perfect it is for what I’m doing here.” I ask herwhat scenes were most on target.
Remember James Earl Jones at the edge of the baseball field, hisspeech to Ray when the bank’s about to foreclose on his house? It’sperfect.” She peels back a few pages on a worn white legal pad andbegins to read aloud from James Earl Jones’s famous speech, only thistime he’s talking about The Ivey. He’s describing how customers willcome for reasons they can’t understand; how they will drive from milesaround and knock on the front door; how they will hand over theirmoney, innocent as children, in search of peace and comfort, and hun-gry for the past.
As I listen, I feel a gut-wrenching mix of admiration for Lynn’sresilient faith and deep concern for the facts on the ground. I’m thinking about all that is at stake here, quite a few jobs and lots ofmoney, but mostly Lynn Ivey’s dream of taking care of families in needand her attempt to honor the mother who had taken such great careof her.If there is a god of startups, how can this venture fail?