As an Occupational Therapist, Rebeca Sternbach, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, helped patients with their immediate recovery from serious medical issues and chronic conditions. Yet, though she was making a difference while patients were in her care, she’d see families struggling with how to coordinate and set up their after-patient care. So, when Rebeca was pregnant with her second child, she set out to help overwhelmed families coordinate how their loved ones could live independently, regardless of their ability. With Ability Home Solutions, Rebeca offers services utilizing her skillset, resources, and experience to help those living with a cognitive, physical disability, or age-related concern stay in their homes for as long as possible. We caught up with this Cherry Hill-based mom of two to find out why she decided to break out on her own, how her business has changed over the years and the Voorhees spot for authentic water ices.
Please tell us a little bit about your family. My husband, Adam, and I have been married for almost eight years, and we have two children. Our daughter, Loey, is 4, and our son Mason is 2. Adam and I grew up in Marlboro, and we lived in Manhattan and Jersey City before moving to Cherry Hill. One of the main reasons we moved here is so that I could live near my sister and our children could grow up living close to their cousins, but there’s so much to love about this town–it has excellent schools, lots of classes and activities for the kids, and it’s only 25 minutes or so to Philly.
What were you doing before you started Ability Home Solutions? I was working full-time at Columbia University in New York in Acute Care, but we moved to Cherry Hill when my daughter was six weeks old, and I worked at Penn Medicine there in Acute Care. I’d always wanted to do something on my own because I saw family after family trying to figure out the after-care situation once they or their person left the hospital. Then, when I was pregnant with my son, I set about learning the business aspect of things since you don’t learn that in OT school. I also took a 5-month course to get an executive certification in-home modifications, worked on my website, and began networking.
Did you go through something personal or witness something that led you to understand the importance of what you do? Working in acute care in the hospital, I’d see patients getting all this care, but once they were released, they or their families would be faced with aftercare decisions and coordinating everything. It’s a lot for someone to wrap their head around, especially since they’re probably taking care of children or parents while they’re working. I saw a need in the market and knew that I could make a difference.
What do you hope your children learn by seeing you as an entrepreneur in this particular business? I want them to know that I’m helping people, and I hope they understand the importance of that. I also hope they pick up on the fact that I’m independent and doing something that fulfills me.
What do you wish you had known before launching your business? It would have been helpful to know that there will be a learning curve and some changes from what you initially thought. People put so much pressure on themselves to be an overnight success–a successful business takes time.
How has your business changed over the years? When I first launched Ability Home Solutions, I worked with those that specifically needed the help on a case-by-case basis, whether it was for their parent or themselves. But now, more often than not, I work with other groups as part of the whole picture. Also, I’m less hands-on with my Occupational Therapy now than initially, but I’m still using my OT skills. I’ve added a virtual Parkinson’s class helping with home modifications so that the clients can be a bit more independent without relying on the caregivers to do it all.
Please share something that not many people know about you. When I was 26, I went to Chengdu, China, in the county’s Szechuan region, with a team of doctors for a medical mission. We were working there to teach caregivers in an orphanage how to hold and take care of children with cerebral palsy properly. I wanted to make a difference, and it was such a fantastic opportunity and experience. I know I got as much out of it as they did!
Loey and Mason enjoying their treats from Diane’s Italian Water Ices.
What are some of your favorite places to visit in NJ with your family? We love going to the beach, especially on the beautiful Cape May. And, besides the beach, we love their cool farm-to-table restaurants there. We also love taking the kids to the playground in Evesham because there’s a dinosaur and a treasure chest that the kids love, and the bonus is that they always make some nice new friends.
What are some of your favorite NJ businesses? I’m crazy about Eastside Bagel Spot at the J. Their bagels and iced coffee are perfection. And Diane’s Italian Water Ices is our go-to for ice and ice cream and is known for having the classic Italian ices in interesting flavors like blueberry and watermelon. We also love Cafe Flora, a European-style café known for specialty drinks and crepes.
What is your best piece of advice for an NJMOMpreneur just starting? Be brave, and don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Be aware there will be setbacks and bumps in the road, but don’t let these ups and downs stop you.