Former ETHS grads win $2500 for service that helps seniors video chat

Alexandria Johnson

Best friends for more than 30 years and former classmates at Evanston Township High School, Evanston residents Allie Payne and Silveria Steele were recently granted $2,500 for their joint startup of a home care service company in September.

Payne and Steele’s idea to help clients communicate with family through video technology took fourth place in the Chicago State University Entrepreneurial Idol competition, the first innovation competition the university has hosted. Their business, Silver Care Home Services competed against 93 other businesses for a top prize of $10,000.

“We loved the competition – we thought it was a wonderful experience,” Steele said. “It really put us out there, and it really let us meet a lot of people. We got to network with people that were really in the know in Chicago.”

Silver Care was chosen as one of 10 finalist groups which presented their executive project summaries in front of an audience Feb. 3.

Steele and Payne’s presentation was “so sharp” that a fourth-place prize was added because the competition was so close, said Yvette Clayton, event organizer and director of experiential programs in the College of Business at Chicago State University.

“Silveria and Allie, they were wonderful,” Clayton said. “They actually started off as being amongst the most nervous, and when they got up on the stage, they were really among the most confident. They did a fantastic job.”

Steele, who has worked in the home health care industry for 20 years, said she felt she could most effectively aid the clients in the North Shore area by starting a new agency that allows the clients to stay in their homes and yet receive all of the care they need.

Silver Care aims to help clients communicate over Skype and FaceTime so their family members can see the exact state of their relatives.

“Everything is trial-and-error so far, so we are seeing exactly what is needed with our clients and our caregivers,” Steele said.

Steele helped care for Payne’s mother while Payne, who works as a real estate agent, was caring for her three children. After the experience, Payne and Steele decided to start a home care service of their own.

“We really want to be there for people and be a place they can trust,” Payne said. “This is something that’s really going to explode with all the baby boomers aging, and kids don’t live as close to their families as they used to. So this could be a big problem in the future.”

Eileen Hegg, a Chicago resident, has worked with Steele for about one year to provide assistance to her son, Jim, who suffered a stroke.

“They are very good and have a lot of patience and a lot of helpful hints,” Hegg said.

Steele and Payne said they plan to use the prize money for marketing and hope to become the primary home care service provider on the North Shore.

“Long term, we plan to be a franchise one day, ” Steele said.

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