Imagine leaving your home of 40 years – the house where you threw down your bags after long days at work, raised your children, held your loved ones and, years later, wept at their passing.
For seniors downsizing to apartments or assisted-living facilities, the act of leaving their home can be a traumatic experience. Fortunately there are people like Lauren Cooke (Business Administration, 2004), owner of Leapfrog Moving Specialists, to make the transition easier.
“When I’ve recreated their living space in a smaller room,” Cooke says, “The look on their face, the happiness at keeping their ‘home’ even though they moved, that’s very rewarding.”
Cooke and her staff of three take care of “the finer things” when helping someone move to a smaller home, consulting with clients and using their own experienced judgements to pack just the essentials while disposing of a life’s worth of flotsam. The job, Cooke says, requires her to balance the roles of mover and counsellor at the same time.
“You have to be understanding and compassionate while still doing your job of getting them moved. I don’t try, I don’t force it, it just kind of happens. I’m attentive and sensitive to what they’re going through.”
When she graduated Kelvin High School in ’98, Cooke wasn’t sure where to direct her self-confessed “Type A, driven, assertive” energy.
“I come from a long line of doctors and there was huge push to go in that direction,” she says. “I wasn’t feeling it. I needed a job interacting with the public… I knew I lead an active lifestyle and couldn’t sit behind a desk all day; I needed to get out and about.”
Cooke spent a year at each of Winnipeg’s universities, then took a year off before enrolling in Business Administration at Red River College. She says she fell in love with the program right away.
“It enabled me to get a full, well-rounded experience. I know there are straight-up programs that focus on specialties, like accounting, but in Business Admin. I picked up a lot of different skills in every area of running a business.”
With her diploma in hand, Cooke moved to Missouri with her husband, successfully marketing and client liaising for his building company. When her marriage ended in 2009, Cooke returned to Winnipeg, unsure once again where her life was headed.
Then she landed a job with a company that helped seniors transition from their homes to assisted-living centres due to health problems or a lifestyle shift. Cooke found an outlet for her physical energy, her passion for interacting with people, and her business acumen. After realizing the job was a perfect fit, Cooke decided to strike out on her own — using her newly-honed people and practical skills to establish Leapfrog in January 2012.
“It was scary starting my own business. I knew I would be successful with my network and my dedication, but I didn’t know when that success would set in.”
It’s paying off now, with Leapfrog doing about 150 to 200 moves a year. Cooke has made a distinct impression on care centre marketing directors, who often use rooms she’s set up if they don’t have a dedicated show suite. In turn, her clients have made a definite impression on her.
“I love working with the elderly; they can be a breath of fresh air compared to our generation, who can get pretty flakey. They’re full of experience, offering bits of wisdom. I used to ask them to write some advice for me on a special sheet, with thoughts of turning that into a book at some point. Maybe I’ll get back on that project someday.”
She’ll be hard pressed to find the time given her six-day work week and her hopes of expanding her business, with the possibility of franchising hanging on the horizon. She’s grateful for the broad education she gained at Red River College and says she eagerly recommends the program to young people searching for direction.
“Not knowing exactly what I wanted to do but having the personality traits I do, it’s an excellent choice,” Cooke says. “You can expand your studies after the fact if you’re drawn to a certain specialty, but lots of business professionals have done well with just the diploma.”
She should know; she’s got the business card to prove it.
Profile by Matt TenBruggencate (second year, Creative Communications)