Successful business ideas can pop into your head at the strangest of times and for Marci Lobel-Esrig, a graduate of the first cohort of the County’s Element 46 incubator program, her inspiration stemmed from seeing the challenges her elderly aunt faced trying to pay bills on time and correctly.
“I was visiting my elderly aunt and she told me that she had to drive to the car dealer to drop off her monthly car payment. This conversation led me to start SilverBills,” Lobel-Esrig recalls.
SilverBills is a financial service that harnesses the power of technology to benefit clients who may be inundated by paper bills, struggle to keep up with the details of managing finances, or have trouble remembering deadlines and writing checks. The company receives, scrutinizes, and stores clients’ bills and ensures that they are paid correctly. Clients don’t have to open envelopes, write checks, or remember due dates, ridding them of unnecessary paper, stress, and risk of financial fraud.
It’s not an app, which can come with its own learning curve and limitations for seniors. Each individual SilverBills customer is assigned an account manager who they can form a relationship with. Everything is done virtually for the client through the phone, mail, email, text, or fax, which adds to the client safety — especially during COVID-19 — but is conducted with a live person. Based in New Rochelle, the company already has clients throughout the New York Metro Area and nationally, as well as established partnerships with AARP and Benchmark Living Society.
Lobel-Esrig witnessed first-hand the destruction caused by financial mismanagement as a lawyer for Sterling Equites, the parent company of the New York Mets.
“I was there when the Bernie Madoff scandal occurred and the company lost millions of dollars,” says Lobel-Esrig. “As you can imagine, I had a very unique insight and window into this whole area of financial exploitation and how this could happen to such sophisticated, high-net- worth individuals. At the same time, my elderly aunt was aging in her home and she was really struggling with the issue of managing her household bills,” she says.
“I realized that a lot of older adults struggle with [the same issue]. It’s often an impediment to aging in place successfully. And when they turn to individuals to help them with this, it’s often an informal arrangement and, unfortunately, older adults are often financially exploited when they look for help with this problem. Elder financial exploitation is an approximately $37 billion a year problem in this country. Clearly, not enough people are paying attention to it,” she comments.
When asked why she chose to enroll in the Element 46 program, Lobel-Esrig replies “I’m an attorney by training. I don’t profess to have an MBA or any other formalized business education — I took a class in business planning at the Women’s Enterprise Development Center — so, I’m always looking for ways to improve my business operations knowledge and to get exposure. I just thought Element 46 would be a great way to do that, and it was.”
Element 46 incubator provides programming, mentoring and free workspace, to enable startups to develop their businesses within a network of peers. Entrepreneurs are embedded in an existing start-up community in one of a number of thriving co-working spaces in urban centers or communities within Westchester. For more information about the Element 46 Incubator visit www.element46.org.