By Clive Mantle
2022 is a special year for us at SeniorService!
The year marks our 20th anniversary! YES, correct, SeniorService started in 2002 and we have been running our internet business since.
For all of you who have only got to know us recently, here is the short story of our humble but very powerful website!
THE funny STORY OF SENIOR SERVICE!
Back in 2002, I was running 2 luxury retirement homes in the Sandton area. I was finding the marketing to be quite difficult and laborious.
We were distributing brochures at doctors rooms, sports clubs, clinics, churches and other retirement facilities and hoping that our brochures were still there when people enquired about retirement facilities!
We would need to make regular visits as staff would change and brochures would indeed disappear…
We advertised in school newsletters, local papers and on radio and this proved to be tedious and expensive
The only source of information on villages and homes, at the time, was a list compiled by JAFTA(Johannesburg Association for the Aged) of retirement villages and one of old age homes. In order to obtain one of the two lists, you would have to send a self-addressed envelope to JAFTA along with R10 and they would post you the list, which you could then use to contact each facility individually! Funny now, but then, it was quite a challenge to get any information.
I thought,“there must be a better way to make this information available to the public”!
And so I decided to put all the info I had on a website. In those days, the internet was at its infancy and what I knew about it was dangerous!😃
With the help of my first(of many) web developers we created a basic internet directory.
The name SeniorService was “stolen” from a famous brand of tobacco products with the same name. My thought was that the name would stick in the mind of Seniors, given that the brand was so well known.
In hind sight, associating yourself with a brand of tobacco products was not the greatest of ideas!😃
As you can see from the registry of domains, our website was registered in 2001 but we only went live in 2002
And here is the very first design of our website back in 2002! 😃
It was rudimentary to say the least but it started providing the info so desperately needed in the sector!
One day, back in 2003, I got a call from Trevor Joseph, the then CEO of the Methodist Homes for the Aged who asked me if he could put some pics of his villages next to the names of his villages. In all honesty I had not thought of that nor was I sure that it was possible due to my total lack of knowledge!
I enquired and discovered that it was possible, charged the Methodist Homes for the Aged a small fee for doing the work and from that point a new business was born! 😃
I approached the folks at Flower Foundation and Rand Aid, the other major players in Gauteng, and started growing the business. These were our very first clients!
Selling the idea of the need to list on SeniorService back in 2002 wasNOT easy!
At the time, there was no wi-fi or Ethernet or any fancy connections; especially in retirement villages and homes!
Sooo, what did I have to do?
Most meetings were held next to the Fax machine! Remember those? 😃 I would need to ask the manager if I could disconnect their fax machine so I could dial up onto the internet. And do you remember how slow that was?!!
In many cases, the managers themselves did not know what the internet was, so I would have to explain to them how fantastic this was and even show them that they could book plane tickets and check out the news!!
Business took off very slowly at first but, little by little, people started seeing the advantages of a central repository of retirement villages and old age homes, as a reference point; and so more companies joined.
The time had come to expand and provide information on retirement places in other cities, so I started travelling to Cape Town, Durban and other retirement hot spots to introduce Senior Service to owners and developers.
Our very first client in Cape Town was the CPOA; with their mighty presence and solid reputation, they gave our Cape Town directory a big boost.
In 2008 we bought the RetirementPlaces website and in 2010 we created FrailCare which are still part of our property websites.
So, to all of you who first believed in SeniorService and to all of you who joined us later, I want to express my immense gratitude in entrusting us with providing this much needed service in South Africa.