Childhood Experience Gives Birth To Business
Our story began from the touching personal experiences of our CEO, Brett Warner. Back in his freshman year of high school, Brett found himself involved at the Jewish Community Center as an inclusion counselor to children with developmental disabilities- cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, he dove right into a world he had known nothing about until then.
First, apprehensive to the differences he found in his children, his eyes began to open up to their charming personalities, the funny moments he had with them, but most importantly, their potential. Bonding with their families, Brett began to understand how hard early life for these children and their caretakers really is. A soft spot for developmental disabilities, the children living with them, and the families dealing with them began to build within him.
Later in high school, Brett began marketing himself as a “Companion” to the mentally handicapped- creating personal business cards. He began working for families as a caretaker while parents were finishing work and spent a lot of time with both children and adults with autism and mental retardation. Coming from a family full of psychologists, Brett decided he would say goodbye to the world of disabilities and go to college for business… for the time being, at least.
A Reality Check
A few years later, Brett found himself in business school at the University of Miami. Accounting, marketing, statistics, and niche markets all began to crowd his mind. Then, he began to put his past personal experiences and business knowledge together.
In an entrepreneurship class, Brett met a very influential professor, Marc Junkunc (Professor J), who assigned him and his group a business plan project. Using his terminology from high school, Brett coined the business name “The ACAdvantage”, which stood for the Autism Companionship Advantage.
As Brett and his team began to write the business plan and perform intensive market research, they had a reality check- 1 in 110 children (now estimated at 1 in 48) are being diagnosed with autism and many have nowhere to go when they receive their diagnosis. Intensive ABA therapy at an early age can make a lifetime of difference for the children diagnosed. Those who do receive therapy tend to find themselves unsure of the treatment or its effectiveness. Some over pay, and receive outdated treatment techniques, rarely supervised by anyone doing on-going research in the field. The worst part about it was that those receiving these ineffective treatments at an early age were essentially diminishing their chances of overcoming their maladaptive behaviors and increasing their ability to learn with each passing day, since early intervention is so crucial to long-term success- Something had to be done.
The Business Plan Competition
Professor J told Brett and his team that they would have a great shot at winning UM’s Business Plan Competition. The entrepreneurial spirit began to rise, and Brett invited a few colleagues, one of which was Taylor Holcomb, a finance major, into his competitive team with one goal: to come up with a business model that would eliminate all of the current issues with ABA therapy providers, provide a fresh approach to a scary, intimidating industry, and do so with an eclectic mix of therapists from different backgrounds, levels of experience and areas of expertise to eliminate ineffectiveness.
The competition arrived, and our business plan for “The ACAdvantage” took home first place, raising awareness of autism, ABA therapy and the need for reliable programs in our community. Click here to learn more about the competition and the winning team.
Following the victory, the University provided the team with an advisory board to take the dream to the next level.
From A Dream To A Reality
The competition gave us a lot of attention, and investment offers came. Upon graduation, we began getting ready to launch what would soon become FreshStart(s)- we began designing software to help facilitate following therapy programs, enabling caretakers to take part in the therapy with generalization tips through videos and daily logs, even if they are not around. We began designing a business model that would eliminate unnecessary programming and allow for collaboration among different levels of professionals, providing synergy in the treatment. Most importantly, we began our search for talented BCBAs, BCaBAs, and behavior techs.
After meeting a creative intelligence company in an elevator while looking for office space, new branding ideas began to take shape. We changed our name from The ACAdvantage to FreshStart(s). BCBAs became Breakthrough Leaders; the behavior plan became a Breakthrough Journal. The emphasis on consumer friendly, effective programming and parental involvement became key aspects of FreshStart(s), and so did giving back to the community- giving birth to Making Hope Happen. We began to open up our network of community partners which came to include UM-CARD, Autism Speaks, and other private practice neurologists in the Miami area.
Suddenly, our dream had become a reality, and we began hiring our first Breakthrough Team and bringing in our first clients. The rest is history.
Continue on to Team FreshStart(s) to learn all about our Team, their qualifications, and how they use collaboration to provide the most effective treatment possible.
FreshStart(s) Almost A Decade Later
Today, FreshStart(s) operates in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties and has plans for national expansion. We have touched the lives of hundreds of families and grown an incredibly talented team with compassion and an incredible company culture. We now offer ABA, social skills groups, individual counseling, parent training programs, and marriage/ family counseling. We plan to continue on this trend into the future and we continue to improve our processes every day and work together as a team to ensure our clients get the best treatment available in South Florida!