Featured Business Profile
DANALEE ROBB – KARIB SERVICES
It took perseverance for husband and wife team Keith and Danalee Robb to get their health care business, Karib Services, Inc., off the ground in 1977. They researched the business. They put in the time and investment. Based on the research, they started the business, and waited.
It took six months before they got their first patient. “Not knowing the sources to turn to for referrals, because we were new in the business, made it a difficult endeavor” said Mr. Robb, explaining there weren’t many people who took the same route to assisted living as he and his wife.
“We got started not knowing about this business,” he admitted. “We just had this home licensed as an assisted living facility, ready and waiting for patients to move in. We didn’t know anything about marketing, advertising, or attracting people.”
Fast forward, 12 years later, the company now has three divisions. These are the Personal CARE Program (PCP), the SPRINGTIME HOME – Assisted Living (STH) and DANA’s NURSING AGENCY (DNA). All of them are run by Mr. & Mrs. Robb, both of whom are from Jamaica, West Indies.
Karib Services is the umbrella company that provides a variety of home and health care services through the three divisions, according to the Robbs. Each division at some level offers a different aspect of the health equation. STH founded in 1997, specializes in providing assisted living and retirement care; PCP helps individuals who are chronically ill, disabled or frail to remain in their homes or apartments in the community, while their care is managed; and DNA, founded in 2000, places registered nurses on exclusive private duty cases, case management duties and delegating nurse duties.
Danalee Robb, a registered nurse is the director of DNA, which is based in Mitchellville, Maryland. According to Mrs. Robb, DNA’s philosophy is based on two fundamental principles: the belief in innate worth of the acutely ill and disabled person, and the belief that each individual, regardless of age, sex, race, religion, handicap, or position in life, is entitled to maximize his or her potential as a human being and a member of society.
On any given day, Mrs. Robb may be answering numerous phone calls, handling hefty stacks of paper work and performing case managerial duties for DNA or PCP.
The PCP program is supervised by Baltimore City Health Department, and it provides low-income residents who receive Medicaid in Montgomery County with in-home care services. As the number of patients began to grow, the Robbs saw the need for a service provider such as Karib Services, and the company became a contractor for that health department.
Mrs. Robb has been a case manager with PCP for more than 13 years. Her duties include visiting and assisting patients, ensuring patient safety and placing providers in the home, collaborating with physicians and social workers, so as to prevent them from being institutionalized. This enables them to live independently in their own homes, she said.
STH consists of five homes that can shelter up to eight residents each. Presently, there are thirty seven residents who are cared for by certified caregivers and two registered nurses available around the clock. Mrs. Robb said that STH has a board certified physician on call 24 hours, as well. The homes are called Springtime Home I to Springtime Home V and are located in Bowie, Mitchellville and Hyattsville, Md.
“It’s hectic,” said Mr. Robb who is president of Karib Services Inc. He and Mrs. Robb also operate Norbrook Medical Equipment and Supplies Inc., a medical equipment store where he can be found on weekday mornings checking receipts, deposits and preparing the manifest for the day’s deliveries.
The couple said they did not receive a lot of help from the few people already in the assisted-living business when they started. But their persistence allowed them to stick with it.
The Robbs said that once they received their first patient, more kept coming. “The families were pleased and they kept making referrals,” Mrs. Robb said. “That’s how we got 90 percent of our patients-through word of mouth.”
Once they became more knowledgeable on how the process worked, they were generous with those who chose to follow their steps.
“We gave away software, paperwork, whatever people needed, to help them get started in assisted living,” Mr. Robb said.
“And we are still encouraging, especially nurses, to get into the business,” said Mrs. Robb, adding that it is a lucrative business and can only get better with healthy competition, and the involvement of professionals will lift the standards of service provided.
A Jamaican Upbringing
Mr. Robb is from Kingston, and Mrs. Robb is from St. Catherine in Jamaica. They said they lived in environments in Jamaica that would influence them to become entrepreneurs. Mr. Robb attended Wolmers Boy’s School and the University of the West Indies. He worked at a radio station, bank and a life insurance agency, and was a member of the Raiders Hockey Club before he migrated to the United States in 1992.
Mrs. Robb said her family life and high school days were the most memorable times of her life back in Jamaica. She said she was surrounded by business as her parents allowed her to be actively involved in their family’s grocery store, which helped tremendously when she migrated to the United States.
“That was something I enjoyed doing,” she explained, adding that her upbringing was instrumental in her decision to go into business. Mrs. Robb moved to Washington, D.C., in 1982 to join her grandmother and to go to school. She attended the University of the District of Columbia and Prince George’s Community College where she obtained her nursing degree.
“I finished college while living with my grandmother,” said Mrs. Robb, adding that she remained close to her grandmother and credits her as the driving force that motivated her to be where she is today. The couple met at Mystery Church of God where Mr. Robb’s father is the pastor, three days later after he arrived in Maryland from Jamaica.
“There was something there ,” recalled Mrs. Robb. “I saw him and noticed he looked just like the pastor and I said, ‘Oh, that has to be Pastor Robb’s son.’’’ The two had a conversation after church, and that ultimately began their relationship.
They were married in 1995, and have two children together – a girl and a boy.
The Robbs expressed that they are aware that the opportunities that are provided in America, for the most part, are not provided in their homeland of Jamaica. They believe that whatever one chooses to do in America, if it is done with dedication, focus, and hard work, one will succeed.
“Of course, throughout our endeavors, we have placed God at the forefront.”
WILLIAMS WRIGHT, TECHNICIAN/OWNER WRIGHT REFRIGERATION
A head-on collision almost derailed William Wright’s dreams on the very day he arrived in the U.S. from Guyana in 1996. Wright began his career working at Sears where he became one of the company’s youngest lead technicians. Some seven years later, encouraged by a late uncle and Paul Jones, a fellow Guyanese technician, Wright 31, founded Wright Refrigeration which services and repairs air conditioning units in the DC/MD/VA area. Currently with two vehicles, he hopes to expand his fleet and staff over the next three years. He also plans to expand philanthropic activities that he and his wife Ellia currently undertake in Guyana. Since 2006, they have annually sponsored one student to attend the University of Guyana’s medical and law schools. In 2007 they donated funds towards rebuilding a home that was destroyed by fire. In July 2009, they donated $500,000 Guyanese dollars ($2,400 US) to needy children. Wright’s advise to budding entrepreneurs is “don’t think about the money and don’t take short cuts
PAUL JONES, TECHNICIAN/CEO, P.J. APPLIANCE, Inc.
When PAUL JONES, 49, founded P.J. Appliance, Inc. In 1997, he was fulfilling a dream of owning his own business, just as he had done back in his native Guyana. Jones, who earned a certificate in electrical engineering from London-based City & Guilds, emigrated to the U.S. in 1988. After earning his certificate in air-conditioning and heating at Lincoln Technical Institute, he worked at Montgomery Ward and Sears before launching P. J. Appliance. The company, which is licensed in Maryland, services and repairs air conditioning and heating units and appliances for residential clients, and has earned a strong reputation as one of the most reliable air conditioning and appliance companies in the area. Jones’ staff includes a second technician and an office assistant. Looking back at his career, Jones’ advise to others is to “educate yourself in your field” and to “dream hard and dream big”. The father of three hopes to retire in another seven years, and to later resettle in Guyana.