Business of caring: Maryville man opens state's first Synergy HomeCare

Thanks to his grandfather, Kyle Hooker is convinced he has linked up with a new business model that -- as baby boomers morph into the senior generation -- provides a needed service at the right time.

He is so convinced that he has opened the first Synergy HomeCare in Tennessee. 

The company is a franchise business that provides in-home, nonmedical care to individuals requiring daily living assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

His family owns the property leased by Cherokee Athletic Facility at 1410 Old Sevierville Road in Maryville. In June, Hooker opened Synergy HomeCare in the second story office space above Cherokee Athletic's retail sporting goods store. 

It might seem to be an unusual professional fit for Hooker to be overseeing a homecare business, but the location above an athletic store is a natural. 

He had a scholarship to play baseball at the University of Kentucky, transferred to Tennessee to play for Vols coach Ron Delmonico, ended up with injuries to his back wrist and ankle and never got to play ball at UT. 

"During that fall season I said, 'You know, I've been playing baseball for 15 years, I want to do something else.'" 

So he did. Hooker enrolled at Maryville College, earned a degree in business and developed a new interest. One of his grandfathers was from the Cayman Islands, and Hooker would frequently fly there to visit. 

"Every time we'd go down there, they'd fly little puddle hoppers, and I'd fly in the front seat." 

Eventually he acted on his fascination with flying, receiving a private pilot's license after six weeks of lessons at McGhee Tyson Airport. He parlayed that into a pilot's job flying in the islands. Then he changed course. 

"I realized that, after 9-11, the airlines were laying off tons of pilots." 

He went to work in Florida for his grandfather who owned lumber stores. 

"Just kind of worked myself up the ranks. Literally started out sweeping the door-shop floor for 10 bucks an hour. Got into sales and became sales manager. Then we sold the company to Home Depot in 2006, the rest is kind of history." 

A new direction

He still oversees the company's export business in the Caymans, but moved to Maryville and found a new interest inspired by his Loudon County grandfather, whose wife died a year ago. 

Without his life companion of over 50 years, Hooker's granddad had challenges. 

"My dad's dad has macular degeneration. He has 5 percent of his vision," Hooker said. 

"For him to live by himself and be blind -- how do you get around? How do you get someone to take care of your basic needs? It's been a struggle. And we've seen people come in who've lied to him, tried to steal from him, anything you can think of." 

But his granddad was determined to stay home. 

"Our bloodline is stubborn. He's stubborn, I'm stubborn, and his father's the most stubborn." 

Hooker started trying to find a way to help. In the process he discovered his new career path. 

"As I was going through airports traveling, I'd pick up a magazine that says this is one of the top 15 industries in the United States right now. Come to find out Synergy Homecare was one of the top 10 businesses listed within that article. So I called them plus about five other companies just to start an interview process, not thinking anything of it, and it materialized into what it is today." 

He plans to open a second Synergy HomeCare location in Loudon County, West Knoxville or Oak Ridge. 

Levels of care

The service is designed to serve people with a variety of needs including seniors; individuals afflicted with multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other mobility-affecting diseases; individuals convalescing from strokes, injuries and surgeries; disabled children and adults; and individuals undergoing chemotherapy or battling other diseases that sap their strength. 

Services are divided into three categories:

  • Daily living companions -- They provide independent clients social companionship and mental stimulation through such activities as playing games, going for walks or working on crafts. They also assist with letter writing, help with reading, organizing mail and more.
  • Homemakers -- They provide the same services as companions plus such things as meal preparation and cleanup, light housekeeping, laundry washing and ironing, grocery shopping and errand services.
  • Personal care assistants -- The additional services they do include limited physical assistance, help with wheelchairs, walkers and canes; feeding assistance; transferring to and from bed or shower; toilet use; hair combing and setting; dressing and undressing; accompaniment on doctor visits; hospital pickup and more.