Working for the American Dream in Hocking County, Ohio

We enjoyed this profile from USA Today of a businesswoman from the Appalachian area of Ohio who was recently honored by the state as one of its most successful new female business owners. Below are some excerpts.

Toiling and tears, then success: Ohio woman struggles to make her business work

By Dennis Cauchon

Ruby Hartley had a dream — the American Dream.

She was going to buy her late mother’s real estate office in the heart of her hometown of Logan, Ohio. In that building, she was going to invent a new business, serve her community and carry on her family’s small-business tradition…

Meet Ruby Hartley, 56, registered nurse, proud owner of Southeastern Ohio Home Health and Staffing Solutions. She named the company in May 2008, saw its first patient 18 months later and today employs 40 workers caring for the elderly and sick in their homes.

The American Dream has been dented but is far from dead. A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds that most Americans say they believe the next generation will have it better than this one, although that optimism has shrunk in these economic hard times.

In Ohio, hundreds of thousands of well-paid industrial jobs have vanished. Rotary Clubs have shrunk or folded. Some downtown blocks feel like ghost towns.

Yet, in nearly every town, a small group is trying to reinvent its community with a new idea that works in a new economy…

“If you look back at history, the American Dream has always been about opportunity and challenge,” says Brad Whitehead, who serves on the Ohio Venture Capital Authority, a state investment arm that promotes start-up companies.

The magnitude of the past problems — Reconstruction, the Great Depression, wars — was far greater than what we face today, Whitehead says. Entrepreneurs are trying to reinvent Ohio with a wide range of start-ups — from medical technology to selling pet health insurance.

“The American Dream is still there. It just can be a little harder to see,” Whitehead says.

“I probably picked the hardest business in the world to get started in,” Hartley says. The paperwork required to win approval to care for people in their homes is more complicated than she ever imagined. This hurdle generally leaves the home health care business in her area to larger corporations.

On the surface, Hartley was well-suited to run a home health care company in her hometown.

The registered nurse had management experience as director of nursing and long-term care at a large Columbus hospital. She’s a Realtor, so she’s had small-business experience. Her husband, who works at an accounting firm, has provided endless bookkeeping help and emotional support.

Most of all, she knew people, hometown people, who needed care…
Hartley has gotten the thumbs-up to provide home health care for some private insurance companies, and her firm subcontracts for other companies. What her business needs is approval to be reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid, which pays for nearly all home health care in her area.

She thinks accreditation is just a few months away. Then, three years after conception, Southeastern Ohio Home Health and Staffing Solutions will be able to provide service to the whole market.

“Once I get accreditation, the business will really roll,” she says.

Last week, the state of Ohio honored Hartley as one of the state’s most successful new woman business owners.

She gets choked up when thinking of her patients and employees. “It’s very rewarding to hire people, and it means so much when families tell me how good the care was,” Hartley says.

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.