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40 Under 40 - Class of 2013
Business Observer Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 6 years ago

Chelsea Chana, 23, and Kris Chana, 25

Chelsea Place Retirement and Assisted Living

A young couple, newly married, is in the business of helping the elderly. It’s a perfect fit.

Kris Chana’s first job, mowing lawns, came with an unusual twist.

It’s a standard 10-year-old entrepreneurial gig, of course. But in Chana’s case his business was backed by a $700 loan underwritten by the Bank of Dad through his father Kurt Chana, a mortgage broker. Kurt Chana even set up a term sheet that required the young Chana to pay back the $700, at 7% interest, within three years. Kris Chana paid the loan back in less than a year.

Now 25, Kris Chana, along with his wife, Chelsea Chana, 23, has undertaken another business challenge with a twist. This time the Chanas are in the senior living industry, a marketplace dominated by big corporations and executives with decades of experience.

The Chanas’s entry into the market is through Chelsea Place Retirement and Assisted Living, a 12-bed facility in Port Charlotte, about halfway between Fort Myers and Sarasota. The Chanas, both Orlando natives, launched the business in summer 2011. They bought the building, an assisted-living facility shut down by state regulators, for $300,000. They spent another $150,000 on renovations and upgrades. “We gutted everything,” says Chelsea Chana.

The result is a bed-and-breakfast-style assisted-living facility, where rooms are named after Florida keys and the atmosphere is relaxed and cozy. “This is something geared toward patients and their families,” says Deborah Turman, a manager at the facility. “This isn’t the kind of place where you drop off your grandmother and never hear or see her again.”

The facility provides laundry, cleaning and three meals a day for residents, in addition to games, entertainment and day trips. It contracts with outside entities for physical therapy and other health care services.

The Chanas themselves live on the property — an unusual move for young newlyweds fresh out of college. Chelsea Chana, in fact, just graduated in May from the University of Florida.

But the couple has bonded with the residents, and considers many of them extra grandparents. One resident even recently taught Chelsea Chana how to crochet.

A big challenge the Chanas faced with Chelsea Place in the early stages was marketing. They literally knocked on dozens of businesses’ doors to get the word out in the community. They also decked out a resident transport van with a surfboard that promoted the facility.

The efforts have begun to pay off: Chelsea Place now has nine residents. Kris Chana declines to disclose revenues, though he says the firm is up 62% this year over 2012. All the residents pay privately, usually with long-term care insurance polices. Medicaid waiver programs and veteran’s assistance programs are also used to cover some costs.

The Chanas passion for the senior living industry stems from both life experience and work experience. In life, Chelsea Chana recalls her grandmother once lived in a facility that felt cold and unwelcoming. That memory drove her to design Chelsea Place with happy beach settings in mind.

The memory for Kris Chana, meanwhile, is from a bad post-college work experience. A UF alum like his wife, Kris Chana moved to Dallas soon after he graduated, in 2011, to work for Allstate. But the job, cold-calling for financial services, was terrible. “I absolutely hated it,” says Chana. “It was one of the worst jobs I ever had in my life.”

— Mark Gordon


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