How a Nashville entrepreneur turned personal heartbreak into a successful startup
Taking on tasks for grieving families, Sunny Care Services founder Mollie Lacher focuses on community and the power of authenticity.
Mollie Lacher is no stranger to grief. Her brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly during minimally invasive heart surgery, leaving behind a bereaved family and a list of unanticipated complications. It’s why Lacher became the founder of Sunny Care Services, a Nashville startup dedicated to helping clients navigate administrative challenges after the loss of a loved one.
For this episode of “Disrupt the Continuum,” we sat down with Lacher at last year’s 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival to learn about Sunny Care Services, the importance of community for successful startups, and the power of authenticity to build trust.
Tragedy brings unexpected burdens
In addition to the pain of losing a loved one, Lacher’s own heartbreaking tragedy left her family facing a chaotic financial situation.
“Not only were they just in shock that their brother and son and husband had passed away really suddenly,” Lacher recalled, “but … they also had to deal with a lot of administrative things that came with that.”
A self-described “taskmaster,” Lacher helped her family sort through the disarray. “The list was overwhelming,” she said. “We found credit cards in his name that had debt on them. We had student loans. How do you get his name off of accounts? How do we set up his daughter for success? Because she was 4 years old — and that’s just a long amount of life to live, so there’s Social Security benefits.”
Sunny Care Services grew out of her experience managing the administrative burdens that accompanied bereavement. “I think that I’ve had enough loss in my family to know this needs to be better,” she said, “because it’s just too much on top of the grief that you’re feeling.”
When life is messy, community is crucial
As a first-time entrepreneur, Lacher worked hard to translate her experience as a project manager with Bridgestone to the startup landscape. “I knew it would be difficult and lonely, and there would be a lot to just figure out and trust your gut on,” she said. “But it’s another thing to be experiencing that, coming from a really corporate structure where I always had someone to bounce an idea off of.”
As the founder of her own startup, that wasn’t an option. “It is all on you,” she emphasized, “and that is awesome and awful a lot of times — because I’ve realized where I really shine, where I really get my best ideas, is collaboration.”
The need to brainstorm and share knowledge is one of the reasons a supportive community is essential to entrepreneurs. Lacher found that kind of community through Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s industry-leading PreFlight and InFlight education programs.
“Just having the EC and going through PreFlight, you’re already involved in a cohort,” she said. “I actually made some good friends out of that program, which is great because you’re in similar stages and you can talk. It really has helped narrow the focus of my strategy and connect me with great resources.”
Lacher also noted the sense of connection she’s found in podcasts. NPR’s “How I Built This with Guy Raz,” in particular, has been a positive force. “It helps to hear how messy it can be sometimes,” she said, “because I think that that is sometimes something you skip over — just how zig-zagged the path can look like.”
Building trust through authenticity
Authenticity is, perhaps, the most deeply rooted theme in Lacher’s work. “We meet people in their grief,” she said. “Having that authentic experience of actually knowing what it’s like to lose somebody very close to you and having to still figure out how to move forward … establishes a lot of trust.”
Trust also can help build a supportive community among entrepreneurs. Lacher currently leads a women’s entrepreneur group that meets weekly to share their challenges and success stories. “We’re really honest with each other,” she said. “We just come to each meeting talking about ‘What are the things that are going on with us? What do you think we should do? Why or why not?’ and just help us talk it through.”
The community has been essential to Sunny Care Service’s growth and continues to be a key support in Nashville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “I have learned so much from these women founders,” Lacher shared, “and would be lost without them.”