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Interview: Shelly Sun, BrightStar Care

Interview: Shelly Sun, BrightStar Care

A history of unrivaled care: we speak with Shelly Sun, founder and CEO of BrightStar Care, about the story of this personable brand.

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When it comes to brand awareness within the healthcare sector, few names can compare with BrightStar Care. With over 300 locations across the United States and Canada, the franchise distinguishes itself by providing professionally skilled home care alongside the staple offerings of in-home care, companionship services, and childcare.

But the BrightStar story begins over a decade ago, with one woman and her experience with below-average healthcare at the time.

“In 2002, my family struggled to find a dependable, high-quality care provider to take care of our grandmother,” says Shelly Sun, founder and CEO of BrightStar Care. “It was a frustrating experience, and it motivated me to fill that need for others who were going through the same experience – that’s why I founded BrightStar Care.”


The brand’s conception in 2002 was just the first step in a long line of adaptations and improvements that would see BrightStar Care grow to the giant it is today, and become a brand that could claim the average unit revenue for top-quartile franchisees’ first locations sits at around $3.6m – certainly nothing to balk at.

“In 2005, we expanded through franchising, and each franchise location that opens remains committed to the same high-quality standards that inspired the first BrightStar Care location,” explains Sun. “The decision to have franchisees live up to the high standard of third-party accreditation was a significant and brand-defining milestone. I sleep well at night knowing that we are unified in our commitment as a brand to deliver high-quality care to our clients.”


As the years went by and more and more franchisees joined the BrightStar family, you’d be forgiven for thinking that admin became a logistical challenge in and of itself. The brand soon had hundreds of franchisees to onboard, train, and keep in touch with – for even the biggest organization, these aspects can prove time-consuming and costly.

But Shelly Sun and her team planned ahead: “BrightStar Care invested in a proprietary platform even before we started franchising,” she explains. “This was partly due to a lack of compelling, commercial, off-the-shelf platforms back then, but more importantly, due to the breadth of the BrightStar Care model and the desire to have a unified platform that can drive efficiency for our unique mix of business.”

Nowadays, CRM software and management technology, in general, have come leaps and bounds ahead of the early 2000s. Yet, BrightStar Care has opted to stick with its proprietary software.

“While the options for third-party platforms have come a long way in the last decade, we still see a compelling value for having our own proprietary technology to drive our workflows, capture important data for our analytics platform, and be customizable to the BrightStar Care way of doing business,” says Sun. “Providing technology to the franchisees does require us to have a deeper support organization, including a tier-one help desk, a product development team, and an in-house learning and development team.”

The payoff for such a platform, however, appears to be invaluable. As of 2019, the franchise reached sales of $500m.

“Our franchisees feel good about the work they do every day”


The best training system in the world would be useless were it not for dedicated franchisees at the core of the business. So why does Shelly Sun believe BrightStar Care attracts top talent? “Our franchisees feel good about the work they do every day,” she explains. “They know they are part of a premium brand that is committed to delivering a higher standard of care, and they know that by being part of BrightStar Care, they can have a positive impact on their clients’ quality of life.”

The journey of a BrightStar Care franchisee isn’t viewed in isolation, however. “We make decisions strategically and efficiently, where some other companies might be more focused on short-term success,” says Sun. “We are committed to a long journey of success and growth, and this is something our franchisees know and appreciate.”

Something also appreciated by the brand’s franchisees is its rigorous and detailed support system, which means that entrepreneurs are never left up the creek without a paddle.

“It begins with four weeks of training, followed by ongoing franchise support. We provide training for each franchisee’s director of nursing, sales director, and branch manager. They receive guidance from a field support coach, BrightStar Care corporate staff, and fellow franchisees.”


The demand for in-home care grows every day, and for franchises like BrightStar Care, this demand ensures consistent relevance. In fact, according to Bill Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, 2015 marked the first time that more money was spent on in-home care than nursing home care.

“One of the industry trends we watch very closely has been the continued shift toward providing care in the home,” says Sun. “Giving the clients the option to remain at home, safely and longer, has and will continue to drive up the average age and acuity level of new move-ins for assisted living in the U.S.”


However, for when assisted living is needed, BrightStar developed a second franchise opportunity to cater to that alternative market: “BrightStar Care launched its Senior Living brand in 2014, as a natural evolution of the BrightStar Care mission to enrich people’s lives,” explains Sun. “Our homecare model is owner-operator. The senior living model is more of an investor model, and while the owner is still involved in the community, the operational demands on the owner are much less.”

Sun’s approach in a nutshell? “I think it is essential that quality standards for in-home care continue to improve as our population ages, and it is important to me that BrightStar Care sets the standard.”


Kieran McLoone is the deputy editor for Global Franchise.

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