Carlson School of Management News

Connecting Loved Ones Through Technology

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Julie Gilbert Newrai knew that her tech business, PreciouStatus, was a promising venture - the extra smiles it adds on people's faces is an added benefit. Her mobile-friendly application provides families piece-of-mind as it offers real-time glimpses into the lives of their loved ones, whether they are in day cares, hospitals, nursing homes, or even pet facilities.

Gilbert Newrai is overjoyed to see that her business has such a positive effect on people. With the added boost of confidence she received by recently winning the 2012 Minnesota Cup, the Carlson School BSB and Part-Time MBA alum is eager to help even more families stay current on their loved one's day through the use of PreciouStatus technology.

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PreciouStatus is a mobile-compatible interface where care providers can give instant status updates - via text or email, including photos - to the family members of those in their care. Each patient's, child's, or pet's needs and their family's communication preferences are pre-loaded into the system so that the care provider knows what kind of care to give and how to communicate with the family. Family members can also send messages to the care provider as well.

At Rayito de Sol daycare in Minneapolis, where PreciouStatus was piloted, the technology has greatly enhanced the way the staff communicates with the parents.
 
"For us, PreciouStatus is a great way to connect parents with children," says Luisa Fuentes, founder and executive director of Rayito de Sol. "Throughout the day we update parents on their child's activities. For instance, if Barney (the children's character) was here, the parent will know that and when they pick their child up they can ask, 'How was Barney today?'"

Sandra Bradel, director of the daycare's Richfield location, adds, "It's just amazing how we can connect with parents now. Instead of them calling us, they just receive updates or photos showing that their child is happy. It gives us more time with the kids."

PreciouStatus emerged from personal hardship
In early 2011, Gilbert Newrai's husband was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage which required surgery and extensive rehabilitation. A new mom at the time, she says she often struggled to obtain updates on both her child's day at daycare and her husband's day in rehabilitation. The daily frustration ultimately peaked one day while she was driving.
 
"I tried calling each [care] facility, only to be put on extended hold, only to be disconnected. And that happened not once, twice, but four times," says Gilbert Newrai. "I just pulled the car over and said, 'There just has to be a better way.'"
 
She immediately drove to a coffee shop and mapped out her vision for what would become PreciouStatus.

A business where 'everyone wins'
A former executive at Best Buy and founder of WolfMeansBusiness,Gilbert Newrai gained feedback on her idea from Wolf contacts world-wide. To learn more about the end user, she frequently met with care provider employees to discuss how her business idea could improve both their work and the lives of those they touch every day.

While based on a personal experience, more than 2,000 people helped create PreciouStatus so that, as Gilbert Newrai says, "everyone wins."

That winning formula, says Rick Serkin, principal of PreciouStatus, certainly makes an impression on the care providers.

"They pick that up. That we're doing it for the right reasons. And so many times in business, if you do things for the right reasons, then the numbers part - the profit, the gross margins, the bottom line - they follow those things. In my opinion, a lot of businesses that fail put the numbers first, and hope that the right reasons follow."

The Minnesota Cup
Gilbert Newrai says that the Minnesota Cup competition has been the best thing she's ever been a part of in her career. She says she immediately felt a part of a community of entrepreneurs going through the same challenges that she faced.

"A hundred people a day will tell you in many different ways: Why are you focusing on this? This isn't going to work. If this was such a great idea, someone would have done it already," she says. "Competing in the Minnesota Cup just gives you unlimited energy to just wake up and say, 'I'm going to make this happen!'"

And make it happen she did.

"From being at one of the lowest points of my life, and having that winning day not too far away from that, I just felt validated," she says. "Winning was like a rope being thrown to you in the middle of the ocean, and the rope is being pulled by some really smart people saying, 'We not only believe in you, we're going to be here to help you.'"

PreciouStatus is currently being used by various care providers across the country.

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