When his then-103-year-old grandmother experienced a serious fall in 2013, current president and general manager of Marin County’s FirstLight Home Care location, Mark S. Paretchan knew that anything short of exceptional care wasn’t an option.
“I had worked in the television and radio business for 30 years,” Paretchan said. “I moved from sales into management into ownership. Then in 2013, I had a personal experience with my grandma after a fall.”
“We sold the company and I started managing her care,” Paretchan said. “She was kind of my inspiration for starting FirstLight here in Marin County, California.”
Paretchan’s grandmother, Marie, was “amazing,” according to her grandson.
“She lived to be 106 years old, and she was amazing. She was born in 1909—she was an ‘earthquake baby’ because her parents met in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.”
Paretchan demonstrated the perseverance that clearly runs in his family when, following her 2013 fall, Marie was placed in a hospital for care. Paretchan, who described himself as knowing “nothing about the care business” at the time, met with the hospital discharge planner to discuss Marie’s options.
“The discharge planner said my grandma would need 24-hour care, so we could either put her in an assisted living facility or go with home care,” Paretchan said. “I asked to learn more about home care. When I talked to my grandma, she said she wasn’t going into an assisted living facility. Her exact words were ‘I will be carried out of my home feet first.’”
Paretchan started researching home care options for Marie.
“The hospital gave me the name of six companies. Of the six, four didn’t return my call,” said Paretchan. “Then, the two that did answer the phone seemed to be more interested in the contract than my grandmother. It was really disappointing—just like, ‘here’s your contract, sign here.’ I thought, ‘I don’t want these people taking care of my grandmother.”
So Paretchan came up with a plan.
“I had a friend who had helped his mom and I talked to him. I put together a team of people myself, then started managing them. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur my whole life. Another friend noticed and said, ‘Hey, my mom needs help, too. Can you help me?’ That’s when I realized that this was really something I felt good doing and that I could do professionally,” explained Paretchan.
Buoyed along by his success and the need he identified in his home of Marin County, Paretchan decided to research franchises. He knew he wanted an exceptional home care franchise whose actual business practices aligned with the close attention and care that he’d built his team around. After going online and reading about the brands that were out there, Paretchan sent his info to his top picks, about five companies, including FirstLight.
“Of all the companies I sent my info to, FirstLight was the most professional by far,” Paretchan said. “Other companies sent info and then never followed up. But FirstLight asked me questions; we had a back and forth.”
Paretchan connected well with FirstLight Founder and CEO Jeff Bevis. He also liked the brand’s story and, above all else, FirstLight’s commitment to a “culture of care,” which extends to client and caretaker alike.
“That kind of went along with my own philosophy in life,” Paretchan said. “The better you treat your employees, the better they’ll treat you. So I was very impressed, and I knew that FirstLight was different from other companies.”
Paretchan knew that opening a FirstLight location in Marin County would not only serve his grandmother’s needs, but would also be a great fit for his community.
“I’ve lived in Marin County my whole life,” Paretchan said, “And when you do the numbers and look at Marin and Sonoma, which we also service, you see that there’s a large percentage of people over age 65.” The care-primed demographic in the two areas also has the income level well-suited to home care, so Paretchan said he knew Marin County was “a good match” for a FirstLight location.
Paretchan’s grandmother, Marie, passed away in 2016 at age 106, but her warm spirit has continued to guide Paretchan as he continues in his role as owner and president of Marin County’s FirstLight Home Care. The rewards, Paretchan said, are immense.
“I know that I’m helping families,” Paretchan explained. “It can be difficult, but then when you get a call from a son or daughter who says, ‘Thank you for our caregiver. They have made our lives so much better; they made it so we can be sons and daughters again.’ You really appreciate that.”
Paretchan is focused not only on his FirstLight clients, but on his caregivers as well. That “culture of care,” so central to FirstLight’s brand, is where Paretchan returns as he guides his team.
“The other side of it, for me, is that I have anywhere from 80 to 100 caregivers working on a regular basis. So that’s 80 to 100 families being helped.”
It’s safe to say Marie would be proud.