Providing a home for adults with neurodegenerative conditions and an underlying mental health diagnosis is a specialist niche sector that business partners Johann van Zyl and Dara Ni Ghadhra identified a number of years ago as hugely underserved.
They had earmarked two specialist services in Hampshire – South Africa Lodge and Kitnocks House – as the ideal care facilities and 12 months on from signing the deal in September 2018 they have a service that has won a national care award and been a finalist in three others.
It took two years for the pair to find the right equity partner willing to support a ‘Management Buy In’ worth over £20 million and to invest in a further five year ‘buy and build’ strategy.
“But we were extremely determined because we believed in our strategy,” Johann said.
“Forbes Stuart and Andrew Leek from Ignite-Growth believed in us as a management team and trusted our judgement on the sector we’d identified.”
The first priority was to appointment a Finance Director with knowledge of the industry. Jens Kleyenstuber joined the company as the third member of the management team.
Dara Ni Ghadhra said: “Jens gave us that third dimension we needed. He is energetic and has tenacity. He never gives up and that quality suited us well, as we never wavered to make this project a reality.”
South Africa Lodge and Kitnocks House offer a total of 154 beds and are the only care homes in the south east of England whose sole focus is care for people with challenging behaviours associated with complex neurological, physical and mental health needs.
Cornerstone’s first year running the homes has seen 0% placement breakdowns meaning residents, many of whom have had to move homes several times, have continuity of care and a stable environment.
Johann said: “The quality of our care is non-negotiable and Dara as our COO is the best money can buy and the industry recognises it.
“In our first year we were finalists in the Specialist Care category at the Health Investors Awards and our maintenance team won the Team of the Year award at the Care Home Awards, where both our homes were finalists in the Specialist Care category.
“We are also finalists in the Management Excellence and Specialist Care category in the LaingBuisson 2019 Awards that are coming up in October.”
Strengthening the business and making it future proof for further development is Cornerstone’s current focus. The group is investing heavily in human capital and has created a full-time training department, a quality and compliance team, and has appointed a clinical auditor reporting to the COO.
“There is growing demand for this kind of specialist care and our first year has shown us that we have a good model on which to build,” said Johann. “Over the next five years our aim is to open further homes to offer the same excellent levels of care and give those with the most complex needs the best quality of life.”