Published By the Sharon Herald:
Hermitage company's apps keep people connected
Normally, a company gives birth to a new product. But for OhanaLink Technologies, a birth gave rise to a product and business.
Hermitage resident Kara Wasser founded OhanaLink Technologies after a frustrating experience when her sister developed labor and gave birth to a child in an Erie hospital. Wasser found herself cut off from any information. It was Feb. 22, 2016 – she remembers the exact date.
“I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get information when she was in the hospital,’’ Wasser said.
When Wasser looked more deeply into the matter, she found that most communication takes place in the waiting room. Hospitals often use electronic boards in waiting rooms to tell friends and family when a loved one enters surgery or a procedure. From there, the board displays treatment information — from the patient’s exit from surgery, entry into recovery and transfer to a bed or for discharge.
She then realized that family members need a virtual waiting room, where relatives and friends outside the hospital are kept updated of ongoing medical procedures.
In May of 2016, Wasser kicked into gear by creating a product and launching a business. After a 13-year career as a lending officer with Huntington Bank, she had a solid background in business planning.
“What I wanted is to have a mobile waiting room,’’ Wasser said. “But I didn’t know a lot about computers.’’
Wasser hired an app developer to create the software technology and began the journey in creating a software system that could thrive as a business.
Her first product, “Baby Arrival Monitor,’’ was a test program where expectant moms used the software with 100 or so guests for 30 virtual waiting rooms. Wasser learned much from the experience, but she needed guidance in scaling it up into a viable business.
Fortunately, she found local help.
Ohanalink’s smartphone apps are available in Apple’s App Store as well as Google Play.
Wasser finished second in a business pitch contest hosted by the eCenter@LindenPointe in Hermitage. The center lends a hand to start-up businesses by offering space in the building and providing experts in a number of fields from marketing to technology.
At the same time, OhanaLink attracted financial backing. It landed more than $222,000 from Ben Franklin Technology Partners. The organization is an on-going initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and receives funding from the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority.
More recently, Wasser got a $100,000 loan from the Shenango Valley Enterprise Zone. The non-profit organization provides loans to create or expand local businesses.
Along the way, Wasser — an Erie native who has lived in the Shenango Valley for 16 years — left her banking career to focus entirely on the company business.
The enterprise zone board unanimously approved a loan for the OhanaLink, said Jim Cardamon, the enterprise zone coordinator.
“We see the growth potential of what they are building and we are happy to support them and other businesses, especially technology businesses, who are committed to the Shenango Valley,” he said.
Wasser also began adding to her team, which now includes 10 people with extensive resumes in such areas as technology and marketing.
In March 2020 the company rebranded the business to its present name, OhanaLink. The word “Ohana” is Hawaiian for immediate or extended family, or a community.
All of the apps include security measures to ensure security and privacy. The app purchaser determines who can see information, which can include photos.
“And the person who invited you will know when you are entering the waiting room,’’ Wasser said.
The company now offers a variety of apps:
• OhanaLink Baby – The virtual waiting room allowing for childbirth allowing friends and family to learn of mom and baby.
• OhanaLink Health – Connects patients and families for those in a health-related or other event.
• OhanaLink Health Kids – Allows family members to share the most current information on their child’s health status.
• OhanaLink at Work – An annual subscription for a company’s employees giving access to OhanaLink’s apps to keep patients and families connected in major events like health-related situations like a birth of a baby, surgery or long-term illness or injury.
Last month the company landed a deal with Reynolds Services, a tin mill service center in Greenville-Reynolds Development, to provide “OhanaLink at Work” service.
“We are happy to offer OhanaLink at Work as an added benefit for our employees,’’ John Frangakis, chairman and CEO of Reynolds Services. “We look forward to introducing the program in the new year and believe that this will help many of our employees who may have family members dealing with healthcare issues to have a real time communication about what is going on with their loved ones.’’
OhanaLink will provide employees with informational material and customer support.
In addition to app purchases, OhanaLink will generate revenue by selling online greeting cards and advertising, Wasser said.
“No information on our clients will be sold,’’ she said. “There is no data sharing.’’
If all goes well, the company’s employee numbers could swell to 30 by the end of next year, Wasser said.
OhanaLink is available for download on the Apple Store or Google Play and offers the OhanaLink Baby, Health and Kids virtual waiting rooms. Users pay a monthly subscription fee.
“We believe our suite of solutions is especially relevant today with the many ways in which we are all currently disconnected and isolated from each other,’’ she said.