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Founder Focus

Peter Emigh

Founder and President, Savoy Life

With 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every day, the long-anticipated “Silver Tsunami” is finally here, placing unprecedented demands on a healthcare system already reeling from provider shortages and out-of-control costs. As today’s seniors – who have a 70% chance of needing long-term care at some point in their lifetime – continue to get older, owners and operators of senior living communities are increasingly pressured to meet the healthcare needs of their residents while also improving occupancy and length-of-stay rates, retaining staff, and ensuring compliance with state laws.

We sat down with Peter Emigh, Founder and President of Red Cell incubation Savoy Life, to discuss the bold steps his company is taking to address this problem, and how Red Cell is helping him to realize his vision of empowering senior living communities nationwide. 

What is Savoy Life?

Peter: Savoy Life is a first-of-its-kind healthcare solutions platform that is taking on the aging problem in the United States through services aimed at addressing the disconnect between senior living communities and healthcare. With a team of specialized clinical experts, including nurses and geriatricians, we are pioneering a virtual-first approach that allows senior living operators and caregivers to order services to move residents into their new communities faster and to keep them healthier for longer. 

You spent many years working in healthcare as an administrator before founding Savoy Life. What first called you to this field?

Peter: Growing up, I had a younger brother who was very sick and from an early age I wanted to be somehow involved and engaged in helping him. After graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in biology, I was fearful of the debt associated with going to medical school and so I decided to get a job first. I fell in love with the work I was doing in the health-plan, care-delivery space and never looked back.

What inspired you to found Savoy Life?

Peter: The impetus for Savoy Life was my recognizing that there’s a ton of unmet needs in the senior living space. I’ve had the privilege of serving seniors as a health plan executive going back 10 years now, specializing primarily in the Medicare space. In a previous role, I was tapped to buy a health plan to serve seniors with special needs – specifically those with cognitive decline, chronic diseases, or who were impaired in some way.

Health plans are increasingly more interested in attracting risk and serving populations in a way that’s different from what health plans did 10 or even 15 years ago. Previously, the mandate was to go out and get as many healthy people as you could. If you had more healthy people than your competitors, then you won. But now, with everyone getting into the Medicare space – because it is the only growing market in the health plan world – plans have flipped, realizing they can be really successful managing sicker patients if they learn how to actually deliver care models specially tailored for that population. 

Even with this paradigm shift, I found that health plans were still forcing seniors to fit into an antiquated framework that favored large assisted living facilities over smaller ones and that required seniors to travel to clinics for 20-minute visits with their primary care providers. As a result, I saw that certain people weren’t receiving care simply because they did not fit a certain business model. I knew then that our approach needed to change to meet  senior healthcare consumers where they are, versus the other way around.

Why did you choose to build Savoy Life with Red Cell Partners?

Peter: As a first-time founder, having someone to partner with on this journey was critically important for me. Truthfully, going out and creating something new is daunting. I’m not sure I would have made the leap if I didn’t have the support of a partnership model like Red Cell’s. 

There are good ideas everywhere, but they are valueless unless you’re able to execute. And to execute, you need unique networks that give you advantaged access to the right people. This is where Red Cell is particularly strong. It’s trite to say, but it’s true: It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know. Red Cell is good at making sure that we get plugged in with those folks who can ensure we’re well-positioned to execute on our ideas.  

Did you shop your idea for Savoy Life with other incubators?

Peter: I did talk to another incubator, but I realized that they wanted to hire me as Employee Number One as opposed to bringing me on as a founder. Red Cell, on the other hand, was open to learning my story and willing to give me a lot of  freedom to pursue my vision for Savoy Life. That was refreshing.

As a first-time founder, how has the journey been for you so far? 

Peter: Anytime you start a company, you’re going to encounter speed bumps that you don’t anticipate. For example, there were insurance barriers that we had to overcome. We also had to refine our solutions and zero in on the ones that would be the most compelling for our customers, many of whom are not experienced healthcare purchasers. Honestly, for operators of senior living facilities, every day is a sprint from sunup to sundown as they work to address the needs of their communities, so we had to make certain that our initial offerings resonated with them and clearly conveyed what they’re getting, what they’re investing in, and how their lives improve after buying our product. When we started, we didn’t have crisp answers to these questions. Our interactions early on were invaluable in helping us to hone our messaging and our value proposition to clearly convey what doing business with Savoy Life would mean for our customers in terms of ROI.

Red Cell has been a committed partner on this journey, providing the advice and resources necessary to resolve issues and ensure that Savoy Life doesn’t fail. I tell my team all the time that this process is akin to chopping your way through a jungle with a machete. Oftentimes, you put your head down and press forward, utterly overwhelmed by all that has to be done to make it to the other side. But when you take a moment to look back, you can see the path that you’ve already navigated and cleared, and are extremely proud of what you’ve accomplished. It’s been tough at times, for sure, but I think, with the help of Red Cell, we are well-positioned for the months and years ahead.  

What does Savoy Life’s presence in the market mean for seniors?

Peter: Ultimately, we want to make it possible for seniors and their families to age where and how they want to, unencumbered by the question of access to the healthcare services they need. By removing barriers and simplifying health care for seniors and their caregivers, Savoy Life makes it easier for them to focus on what’s important to them. 

What does the future hold for Savoy Life?

Peter: The first chapter of our story focuses on being the move-in partner for senior living and placement agency markets. Owners and operators of long-term care communities are under pressure every day to keep occupancy rates high. Which means they either need to move residents in quickly to replace those who move out or to improve the length of time that residents stay with their facilities. Through our On Demand services, which helps to move senior living residents in faster and increase occupancy rates, we’re helping to drive real ROI for these communities. We’ll also improve satisfaction for the residents and their families as they go through the life-changing process of moving from their homes to settling in a new community with “roommates.” As a healthcare partner, we can help both seniors and their families navigate that transition. We believe that’s a powerful page turner as we begin to write the next chapter which will see us expand our relationship with our customers and provide on-site, longitudinal care that’s predictive, smarter, and more readily available through our Savoy Care service offering.

Ultimately, we see ourselves entering into value-based agreements with entities like health plans. For the senior who wants more support at home – wherever that might be – we can begin to engage them in a virtual-first capacity.  

We know that 50 million baby boomers are projected to need long-term care in their lifetime. Many of them will choose to live at home and, as such, will need caregiving delivered to them there. That’s the beauty of a virtual-first platform. We can meet the needs of these seniors, wherever they choose to live.  

What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of becoming an entrepreneur?  

Peter: Just jump in and do it. You’ll be surprised at how much people want to help and support you. Also, stay focused on why you wanted to start your own company in the first place and let that be your guide.

What would you tell a prospective founder considering building a company with Red Cell? 

Peter: For me, it comes down to two big reasons.

One, with Red Cell, you have a true partner. That’s really encouraging.

Two, you are given an advantaged access to success because you’re going to get better visibility. It’s not enough to just have a good idea. It’s not even enough to just execute. Sometimes you could be executing reasonably well, but there are other macro factors that you can’t control that inhibit your success. We’re not always going to bat a thousand, but with Red Cell, you’ll get those at-bats that other early-stage entrepreneurs might not otherwise get.

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