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Co-founders and sisters Melissa Danielsen and Melanie Fountaine (Image: Joshin)
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An Uber-like disability care service has launched in Seattle

Minneapolis-based twin sisters and Joshin co-founders Melissa Danielsen (CEO) and Melanie Fountaine (COO) are thrilled to see their product enter the Seattle market.

The duo has created a digital care platform that connects care providers to families with specialized care needs — because they understand this struggle firsthand.

Joshin is clearly filling a need currently felt by many other families, as the company has experienced a 200% increase in its community base in the past year (including care providers and members). The need for the type of support offered has become particularly acute during the pandemic, and has been a major factor in mothers leaving the workforce.

“We’ve been everything from sisters to direct-care providers to working moms," said Danielson, explaining the company's origin. "Growing up, our big brother Josh had developmental disabilities and epilepsy. Like the 1-in-5 families across the country with complex needs, we continuously struggled to find reliable care.”

Although they often jumped in and cared for Josh with pride, the sisters knew a better solution had to exist. When Josh died 12 years ago, they decided that the lessons their brother taught them and the advocacy they had built could be used to solve problems faced daily by families with complex health needs.

“Inspired by our brother's one-of-a-kind sense of humor and love for ‘joshin around,’ we created Joshin to make specialized care easy," said Danielson.

Fountaine says there's a "major gap in the care economy." When people talk about care, they often speak only of childcare and elder care.

"Care benefits end at the age of 12 and elder care begins at the age of 65," she said. "What about the years in between? We believe quality caregivers should be accessible to everyone. The disability community is often overlooked and underrepresented, and we are committed to changing that. Joshin is for all ages and needs, and we will not stop until all families have access to equitable care for their loved ones."

The sisters have worked hard to ensure the Joshin dashboard is flexible and self-manageable; participants sign up by answering a few questions and getting connected immediately to care providers, post-care jobs, unlimited messaging and so on.

"Every care provider in the Joshin network is background-checked and has at least six months of disability experience," Danielsen said. "If hands-on support is preferred, our dedicated Care Coordinators are standing by to find care providers and build schedules for your employees."

She said the COVID-19 crisis has been a major factor in parents leaving the workforce. When the world essentially shut down, families were left without the services they depended on for their loved ones, like schools and daycares.

“Without access to a network of pre-screened and experienced caregivers who could provide in-home care, families were left to balance full-time jobs and full-time care responsibilities,” said Danielson. “Because of this, over three million women left the workforce to become primary caregivers.”

"Joshin flexes to meet each family’s unique needs," Fountaine adds. "Throughout the pandemic, our care providers have supported members of all ages and needs through virtual hangouts, in-home care, groceries and errands, transportation and more."

According to Danielsen, the hardest part of getting Joshin off the ground has been building awareness of disability care in tech and investing spaces.

“It’s not often a topic like this is discussed,” she said. “We needed to bring proof points for how relevant complex care needs are in America, but also the financial opportunity in supporting this underrepresented population.”

Yet every day working at Joshin has been fulfilling — from the amazing team who’s “passionate to their core about providing equitable, accessible care to the community,” to hearing positive stories from families impacted by Joshin.

“We are continually honored to be a solution for the 112 million Americans who need access to care,” said Danielsen.

Currently, Joshin is building a network of disability resources, specialists, doctors, therapists and schools.

“Families who care for loved ones spend 13 hours per month just to research services, information, physicians and financial matters,” Fountaine said. “They’re often given binders of papers from different therapists, doctors and providers.”

Over the next year, the Joshin team plans to take all of this fragmented information and create a digital hub for disability resources and documentation. Families and their team of providers will then have access to everything needed to support their loved ones.

“The entire team that cares for an individual will work together through the Joshin platform to support and reach goals, all while decreasing the stress put on families while managing care,” Fountaine said.

Anyone can get started by creating an account.

“Answer a few questions about your loved one and start matching with care providers that meet your needs,” she said. “It’s that easy!"

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