How an Aboriginal mum became the change she wanted to see
In search of a better service to support her disabled child, Paula Messow built an NDIS business that has helped over 85 participants these past six years.
“I’ve never really thought of myself as a businessperson. There are still new things I’m learning every day,” laughs Paula.
“In 2017, I started out with absolutely no business knowledge. I guess I had to learn quickly.”
Despite her lack of business acumen, Paula drew from her lived experience, supported by 12-years of working across the aged care, Aboriginal health, and disability sectors.
“My business partners and I at the time were going down the path of starting an aged care business, because we were working with My Aged Care,” explains Paula.
However, a suggestion from a friend steered them towards the NDIS.
“Well, we both had children with disabilities, and we wanted to make sure they got the support they needed to maintain independence and live the lifestyle they wanted as they grew up,” says Paula.
“I also wanted a service provider that cared for First Nations disabled people,”
After identifying that the service they were looking for didn’t exist, Paula and her partners started to build Triumph Care with one goal; to be the change they wanted to see.
Today, Triumph Care is a Registered NDIS Provider that operates from South Brisbane to Tweed Heads, and west to Walgett in New South Wales. The organisation offers plan management, support coordination, and a range of disability services including Supported Independent Living (SIL), transport and community access.
The early days
To Paula, the early days of Triumph Care seems like yesterday.
“I remember watching so many YouTube videos on how to run a business, accounting, how to set up a company, how to hire staff and things like that,” explains Paula.
“I did free workshops at TAFE, attended small business training sessions, and went to lots of networking events,”
“The days just flew by. But every day was different and exciting, emotionally fuelled, and challenging.”
Although becoming a Registered NDIS Provider was convoluted and costly, Triumph Care persevered.
“Having worked in the space, we knew how to navigate the system, though it was confusing at times. All I can say to that is make sure you do your research,” advises Paula.
Committed to making the business work, Paula did everything she could, including taking on more responsibility when her business partnerships dissolved.
“I didn’t earn a wage for the first two years. Everything we earnt, we reinvested into the business,” says Paula.
“I had learnt that it takes three years to know if a business is profitable, so I knew I just had to get the business to that stage,”
In a hurry to grow the business, Triumph Care also experimented with a different software and CRMs, until they found programs that worked for them.
“It took us a long time to find what worked for our business model, and it’s really only by trial and error that you gain that type of experience and knowledge,”
Diversifying referral sources
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Triumph Care provided services to NDIS participants in prison.
“Working with participants in prison was completely new to us and we had to familiarise ourselves with yet another form of compliance on both fronts; COVID-19 and prison participants,” explains Paula.
“However, we had the capacity, and we wanted to support people wherever we could, especially during that period of lock down and isolation.”
As a Registered NDIS Provider, Triumph Care receives referrals from a range of sources, including the NDIS portal.
“We’re also broadening our reach and referral sources to service rural communities like Walgett and Glen Innes,” shares Paula.
Triumph Care has a small team of five workers, servicing over 85 participants. Paula is very conscious of staff burnout and ensures her team practice self-care.
“An average day for us starts from 6am, when we get the first message from a client,” says Paula.
“We know that Mondays set the tone for the week. If we have a good Monday, we’ll have a good week,”
Things slow down on Thursdays, so Paula and her team normally finish early. However, no one in Triumph Care works on Saturdays. It is the one day of the weekend for self-care, and to spend time with family.
“If we’re not 100 per cent we can’t give 100 per cent to our participants and they deserve 100 per cent,” explains Paula.
Registered NDIS Providers like Triumph Care have obligations and criteria that they must meet to retain their registration. One of these is the auditing process.
“Preparing for the 18-month audit is time consuming and costly, yet necessary,” says Paula.
“I have found that managing logistics and record keeping are two of the key skills you need to succeed in this industry,”
Now six years along in their business journey, Paula is well versed in audit preparation. However, she is constantly looking for programs and software that can help the team be more efficient.
“The more systems we have in place, the easier it is to stay compliant and meet our obligations,” explains Paula.
Working smarter, not harder
Paula is passionate about providing the NDIS service in rural communities, having already trained her sister-in-law in Walgett, as a Support Coordinator.
“In bigger cities, like Brisbane, there could be hundreds of service providers. From a business perspective, this is a high number of competitors,” says Paula.
“Unfortunately, for NDIS participants in rural communities, they are required to travel for specialist services. More than often, this can take a chunk out of their plan,”
“Instead, we would rather work towards bringing specialists services to rural communities, making it more cost efficient and accessible,”
In everything that Paula and Triumph Care do, they are mindful of their main goal.
“We are participant led. We support our participants to fulfill their wants and needs and achieve their goals, live independently, and live their best lives.”