Prairie Portraits: Christie Stukenholtz

The Prairie Portraits series features founders, funders and community builders from Nebraska’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Meet Co-founder & CEO Christie Stukenholtz, Co-founder & CEO @ Senior Care Finder

How would you describe the startup culture in Nebraska?

The startup culture in Nebraska has big city energy with a small town feel. People in Nebraska are some of the smartest, most talented, hardest-working, caring and generous individuals I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Nebraskans are passionate about our state and seem genuinely supportive of others trying to do something new and innovative. With just one or maybe two warm introductions, our close-knit community makes it relatively easy to get connected with almost anyone. 

How do you balance taking risks and making calculated decisions in pursuit of innovation?

Starting a company is definitely not for those who are risk averse. I’m naturally more conservative, so I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me 10 years ago this is what I’d be doing. It wasn’t until I personally experienced just how difficult it was to find care for my grandma, that I had a real desire to get out of my comfort zone and create Senior Care Finder. I’m lucky to be surrounded by a team of people who think differently than I do. Individuals like my co-founder and husband, Heath, help me make sure we are constantly moving forward and taking risks in a thoughtful way.

How do you define success and what metrics do you pay the most attention to?

At Senior Care Finder, we are transforming an industry and challenging the way things have always been done. As a fast-paced first mover, we have grown our network to over 100,000 senior living and care providers across the nation. We reach millions of consumers searching on a monthly basis and have partnerships with some of the largest and highest quality senior living and care providers in the United States. These are some of the metrics we pay attention to. While our progress will never stop, we try to be intentional about celebrating wins both big and small.

The stories that really make us cheer are when we hear from consumers that we’ve made this difficult time in their life much simpler. I was recently chatting with a friend who shared that she used our platform to research options for her mother-in-law in Missouri. Using SeniorCareFinder.com she was quickly able to get the information needed to start the process. Hearing the impact our platform has on families is why we do what we do. We’ve built a company full of talented people and created a platform right here in Nebraska that is helping people in every city and state across the nation. We are extremely proud of that success.

What are the top one or two challenges / opportunities Nebraska startups face?

Most founders are trying to develop something new, drive revenue, build a team, and use their remaining energy to connect with investors and raise capital. I’m not sure I know any one person who has all these talents. A real challenge for founders is to surround themselves with trusted advisors and others who have the talents they lack to ensure they don’t run thin, or worse, get taken advantage of. 

Selecting the right partners is instrumental. I would tell any founder to be strategic about who you partner with – from accounting and legal services to marketing and investors in your business. Interview each potential partner as if you were interviewing them for a full-time role on your team. Are your values aligned? Do they believe in your vision, and can they work at the pace needed to be successful? What are their intentions for wanting to be a part of your company? This can be particularly challenging from an investment perspective. Access to capital is crucial for a high-growth startup, but not all funding is created equal. Be strategic and selective about who you have on your team.

What is one emerging industry or technology that you believe will have a significant impact on the Nebraska startup ecosystem in the next few years?

Today and every day for the next 10 years, 7,000 individuals will reach retirement age. It’s estimated that 70% of those individuals will need senior care services of some kind. When I think about a technology that will have a significant impact on not only Nebraska’s ecosystem, but the nation’s – I think of those related to senior care. There is no doubt that our platform will continue to be a resource for this aging population and their loved ones – helping them navigate the complex landscape of senior living and care with confidence.

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