From Fatou, With Love: Cairasu Care, LLC, offers in-home assistance for area seniors
Fatou Ceesay (left) named her business Cairasu, which means “peaceful home” in the Mandingo language. Here she’s shown paying a home visit to one of her clients, Patricia Flanagan.
In 2001, Fatou Ceesay, 39, moved to Madison from The Gambia, West Africa, joining other family members who came before her to attend the University of Wisconsin.
Through the years, she cared for seniors and the emotionally disabled, landing several jobs via temporary agencies around Madison. Divorced and raising two children, now ages 9 and 10, she managed to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and human services from Edgewood College in 2009 before getting a certificate in consumer health advocacy from UW-Madison.
After caring for others for over a decade, Ceesay decided to strike out on her own in January. Cairasu Care, LLC (dba Cairasu Home Care) provides nonmedical, in-home care for the elderly and emotionally disabled, including running errands, handling personal care, providing companionship, and homemaking (e.g., cleaning, meal preparation, laundry services).
“I love the immediate impact that I bring to people,” Ceesay said of her career choice. “People need that help, and I can be there to do what they want and see that they’re more comfortable, that they’re safe. They become my family as well.”
She’s noted a significant difference in how the elderly are cared for in her homeland compared to the United States. “Back home, the elderly are taken care of by their families,” she said. “Here, it’s professionals mostly. That’s a big difference.” While most people in The Gambia don’t have professional jobs and families are often large, “we wouldn’t think of having someone else in to care for our parents.”
The in-home care industry here, Ceesay has observed, often lacks funding and wages can be low, but she’s been undeterred. “In my world, care should be quality, regardless of pay. I’m not in this to make a fortune, but to make a living. It’s about caring for the individual. That’s the key.”
Her business, she said, “is going slow but steady.”
With plenty of competition from much larger firms, Ceesay, who has one part-time employee, said her biggest challenge is marketing both her company and herself. To differentiate its services, Cairasu Care also provides benefit counseling to educate clients about services they might be eligible for but may not know exist or might not know how to access.
She hopes to win clients over with a personal commitment to their care. “This business is all about trust. With my accent, people wonder where I’m from,” she said. “I hope people ask, because then they’ll get to know me, and I hope … they will come to embrace me. I’ll give everything I’ve got. I’m compassionate, and when I care for someone, I’m dedicated.”
Ceesay’s business plan was developed with help from the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., and Cairasu Care, LLC was funded entirely on her own. She works out of her home on the north side of Madison and plans to grow her staff and clientele. With five current clients who pay $25 per hour for her in-home care, she said she’s able to cover her bills and the part-timer’s wages, and any remaining money is quickly reinvested. Her monthly expenses include gas, insurance, website development, marketing materials, and networking events. By this time next year, Ceesay hopes to more than double the number of clients her business serves.
Recently, Ceesay became an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association. Assigned to Congressman Mark Pocan’s office, she works to keep Alzheimer’s-related issues on the legislative agenda.
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