A Promise and a Personal Loss Are Inspiring a KC Entrepreneur to Change an Industry
“Grandma, when you get older, I’ll take care of you.”
Little did Patricia McCreary know, that promise she made as a 5-year-old was the seed that, decades later, would grow into a business that aims to fill a big need in the heart of Kansas City.
More than a decade ago, Patricia’s grandmother Margaret Brown was diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As they traveled across Jackson County, Missouri, searching for the right facility where Margaret could make new friends and keep her mind active and engaged, Patricia discovered that most adult daycare facilities weren’t up to par: bad smells, poor food, discontented patients. No facility was a fit, but Patricia kept her word to her grandmother.
From back left to right: Patricia’s brother Damien Luster; her twin sister, Pamela Luster; Patricia; Front: Patricia’s grandmother Margaret Brown
“I wanted to make good on that promise,” Patricia says.
Margaret spent the last three years of her life on bed rest with Patricia’s family. So Patricia, a natural entrepreneur but not someone who had a lot of experience in the medical field, hit the books and learned as much as she could about her grandmother’s conditions.
“I literally picked up the adult daycare manual and read it six times and highlighted a bunch of things,” she says.
Books are fine, but Patricia felt a calling. After seeing a need she could meet, she followed her entrepreneurial instincts and opened her own facility.
“We opened Margaret’s Place in her honor so other people in the urban core could have a nice facility,” Patricia says. “Margaret is the reason for all of this, so what better way to remember her legacy than a space like this for others?”
Today, Margaret’s Place Adult Recreation and Wellness Center, a name Patricia carefully crafted to avoid the stigma of “adult daycare,” serves 37 people, more than double what it was a year and a half before.
In the halls, you see faces on the wall of loved ones, participants who spend a lot of time at the facility and others who’ve passed on. You might see the cook whipping up something in the kitchen as you chat with one of the residents. You might catch a game of bowling, some air hockey or arts and crafts. And if you’re lucky, you might catch the residents working out to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
“When I started this journey, it was a spiritual connection for me,” she says. “… I felt like I had the responsibility to change the way people perceive senior care.”
And Patricia has some big goals for her operation. She’s looking to grow her business locally, regionally and internationally and expand to nursing homes and senior living facilities. But she also has a much bigger goal:
“We want to be the reason the industry changes its standards for care for seniors and disabled people,” she says.
Patricia will tell you that it hasn’t been smooth sailing and that she didn’t have all the answers right away. But she does have the drive.
Since she was 14, she’s worked in banking, real estate and market research. She’s also been doing the entrepreneur thing since she was in her late teens and combined that drive with a duty to help others. But to get to where she is now, she had to learn from her setbacks and reshape her thinking. Part of that transformation came through ScaleUP! Kansas City, an intensive four-month program that teaches small-business owners in the KC metro how to grow and scale their ventures.
Patricia says it’s taught her how to think like a CEO and make decisions based on her business and not just with her heart. And she says she uncovered “unsettling things” in her operation that she didn’t know about because she was working IN her business instead of ON it.
“I realized I never would have made it without ScaleUP! KC because I never would have looked at my financials that way, I never would have looked at my operating agreement that way and I never would have looked at things like I do now,” she says. “… I know I’m on the right track now because of my coaches and my team.”
On top of those changes, she says she’s learned to delegate and build a strong team that can handle a lot of what was on her daily to-do list, which freed her up to focus on other aspects of her business.
And she says the team aspect of the ScaleUP! KC program itself was a big benefit; cohorts comprise about 15 entrepreneurs who come from all sorts of industries: landscape, distribution, wellness, software, construction, food … you name it. And she says it’s those connections she’s developed with the expert coaches and her fellow entrepreneurs that are going to last, long after graduation day.
“My one regret is that I didn’t go to a university because I missed out on that experience in my early 20s,” she says. “I feel like ScaleUP! KC has been my little university. In college, you get sorority sisters and fraternity brothers for life. … I feel like I have that because of ScaleUP! KC.”
And Patricia will tell you that KC offers a ton for entrepreneurs. She first tapped into KCSourceLink, which helped develop a personal action plan and linked her with 1 Million Cups, which, every Wednesday morning, lets entrepreneurs present their businesses to expert panelists and those in the community to get feedback.
“KCSourceLink, which is really big on entrepreneurship in KC, has been the start line for me to get to the finish,” she says. “There’s so much here in Kansas City. This is the best place I could think of right now to start a business and really strive with all the support and all the networking we have.”
And those seeds of entrepreneurship that she’s sown in Kansas City have passed on to a younger generation: her kids. When you enter the violet single-story building at 7217 Troost Ave., you’ll see items for sale from those in the community, including some from her children, like her 8-year-old who makes jewelry. Her 12-year-old already has his food-handler license and wants to open his own restaurant. She says her two oldest have learned how to buy items at a discount, refurbish them and sell for a profit. And she’s getting a hot dog stand for the 5-year-old cook in her family.
“Being an entrepreneur has changed my life, all the way around: the type of mother I am, the type of wife I am, type of leader I am,” she says.
And Patricia will tell you that’s a long way from where she saw her life trajectory, as a child. But it’s that path looking forward that keeps her motivated as her business helps people in Kansas City, and perhaps someday, others across the world.
“The direction I was headed from my childhood, I was never going to be anything, so being an entrepreneur has given me confidence,” she says. “It’s given me purpose because other people look to me for needs they have when they want to start a business. I feel good supporting other people. I can look in the mirror and be proud because I’ve built something that people say is impossible.
“I have armor now, and I’m ready to take on the world.”