There are few things harder than watching a loved one succumb to Alzheimer's disease, or dementia. The nonprofit organization Music & Memory is working to make that struggle a little less painful. Founder Dan Cohen said that playing music from Alzheimer's patients' youth helps keep them lucid and able to interact with their families, slowing the advance of the disease. The nonprofit offers training opportunities to nursing homes and hospitals in order to spread its techniques, in hopes that more lives will be touched by the power of music. Cohen went behind the business plan with Business News Daily to discuss Music & Memory's mission and its ambitious goal to bring the soothing sounds of music to the world's 40 million people suffering from dementia.
Business News Daily: In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?
Dan Cohen: [We] promote the use of personalized music to improve the quality of life for the elderly and infirm. It turns out that even if someone with more advanced Alzheimer's disease can no longer recognize their own family or speak, music from their youth that holds personal meaning can help keep them engaged, social and in touch with themselves. Music & Memory provides education and training for nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, hospices, hospitals and home-care programs so that they can integrate delivery of individualized music to all who might benefit.
BND: How long have you been in business?
Cohen: I started as a volunteer in 2006. We became a 501(c)3 in January 2010.
BND: Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?
Cohen: I consulted with SCORE and drafted a business plan, but I updated it often as I encountered dead ends.
BND: How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?
Cohen: For the first 18 months, I did this as a volunteer. Then we secured funding from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation for a four-month pilot, which led to subsequent funding. Now we have a mix of revenue streams, the largest of which is webinar training fees plus foundation grants and donations.
BND: How much did you invest personally?
Cohen: Just time and labor.
BND: Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset, or has it changed significantly over time?
Cohen: It's gone way beyond what I thought possible.
BND: What are some lessons you've learned? Is there anything you would've done differently?
Cohen: You don't necessarily find the support from people in positions with the ability and mission to help this kind of thing, but rather with those who "got it" right away. Often, it was people who had their own experience with family members with dementia.
BND: What were the most important factors that contributed to your success?
Cohen: Persistence and finding like-minded people who were smarter than me.
BND: What are the next steps you want to take as a business owner? How do you see yourself achieving those goals?
Cohen: Global ubiquity — all 40 million people globally with dementia, plus anyone in the health care system should have access to their own music to reduce the perception of pain, improve outcomes from rehabilitation, manage behavioral challenges, and [manage] depression and loneliness of old age or chronic illness.
BND: What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?
Cohen: Get advice from others, be flexible on approach, but stay constant on the outcomes you wish to achieve.