Amy Laine - Founder, SandwYch

Amy Laine - Founder, SandwYch

Amy Laine is the co-founder and CEO of SandwYch. She is a gerontologist, an entrepreneur, daughter, wife, stepmom, and dog mom. In addition to co-founding SandwYch. As a business owner, she understands what it takes to move mountains and how to get things done. 


Troy: Good afternoon, Austin. This is Troy Sch Slicker with the Austin Spotlight Podcast, and today I am joined by Amy Lane of Sandwich. How's it going today, Amy?

Amy: Hi Troy.

Troy: Good to see you. , glad you could join. Appreciate you taking the time outta your day. For a lot of people, I generally, kinda, the way I like to start most of the podcast is just getting a little bit of an origin story.

And so maybe you can give us a quick, brief rundown of what sandwich is, cuz you know, right now it's around lunchtime, so it makes me a little hungry personally, but I know that's not really what your guys' forte is. So maybe give us a little. Brief rundown of the company that you have founded.

Amy: Sure. My name is Amy Lane and I'm the founder of Sandwich. I'm originally from Georgetown, which is just 30 miles north of Austin. And I founded Sandwich in 2001. And we have. the company to help families navigate the uncertainty of aging in place for multiple generations.

Troy: Nice. It's interesting, this is becoming a bigger and bigger topic just because we're fortunately living longer and longer, which is a great thing, but it does make it sometimes more challenging to deal with those situations.

Also, the fact that. Family people are moving further further and further away. Like you mentioned, growing up in Georgetown, which is just 30 minutes away from Austin, although it probably depends on where in Austin, it's either 20 minutes away, or seven hours away if you live down in South Austin.

But but fam, with so many people that relocate to Austin and all around the country normally, and especially during the different lockdowns and stuff, a lot of times you're not close to where your family's at sometimes as they're aging in. So that makes it additionally challenging because you can't in a lot of cases where 20, 30, 40 years ago, more than likely, you were living in a much closer proximity to your parents that were Asian.

So you could at least help out a little bit more in those cases.

Amy: Yeah, no, that's exactly right. The National Institute of Health has determined any. any distance longer than 45 minutes is a long distance caregiver. So you're exactly right. I live in downtown Austin. My parents are in Sun City, Georgetown.

That takes me about an hour to get there when traffic is on my side. Which, which doesn't

Troy: happen often in Austin

Amy: Exactly. So I am a long distance caregiver. I couldn't get there in 15 minutes if mom and dad needed. . And so our company does multiple things. We help families one, identify how to age in place.

What are some things that you need to really be thinking when you visit your parents? Not to be overwhelming in any stretch of the imagination, but if I can walk into my parents' house, and do a quick assessment of things that they might need. It really helps me be a better caregiver and a better communicator for when something does come up.

Troy: right? And it's similar to being a first time parent is we're all a first time caregiver in most cases. And so you don't know what you don't know a lot of times, right? So a company like yours that has the experience of doing this hundreds and thousands of times is, has a routine down of, Hey, these are things that you should be prepared for because they're most likely.

The things that are gonna pop up in your parents' life on a day-to-day, week to week basis, where when you are trying to navigate that for the first time and. It's also more challenging in a lot of cases because it's usually, hopefully a slow decline for a lot of people. And so you don't, there isn't the flip of the switch where suddenly it's oh, now I need to figure these things out.

It's like you something you have to be aware of gradually over time. Yeah,

Amy: that's right. It's interesting, so my grandmother. Or lived. She's passed on now in Missouri, and the rules are different in Missouri. Durable power of attorney looks different. Your medical power of attorney looks different than what it does here in Texas, and that is really important when you are asking, if you're asking colleagues and friends that have this lens.

From where they are might not necessarily be true if you move somebody to your area or you're trying to help them long distance. So our company not only identifies what your goals are and what your aging parents' goals are. , but then make sure that the context is correct and we're giving you the right information.

So caregivers will spend anywhere from 10 to 14 hours a week navigating care, as well as researching data. , that is a lot of time. If it is, that's a fourth of our workday or work week, excuse me, on navigating types of care. And if we can minimize that by giving you expert advice that's correct.

You are going to be a much more powerful caregiver. Nice.

Troy: So going back to mentioned originally growing up in the Georgetown area, what's your origin story? I don't think most people, when their kids grow up, anticipating starting a company that takes care of their parents when they're older.

So like what kind of is your your origin story? .

Amy: Yeah. So Georgetown, I grew up in Georgetown when it was 16,000 people. I was asking somebody recently what's its size now, and I've heard different things. Maybe 80,000, but I don't know if that annex is Sun City or not, I'm not sure.

But when I. Be out riding my bike, it was nothing for me to go to the neighbor's house Mr. And Mrs. Lansky's house and help them garden rather than playing down the street with my friends. And just having those types of relationships really nurtured my interest in older.

Troy: Interesting. Yeah. You mentioned the growth of Georgetown, obviously the growth of all of Austin. Not only in population size though, but even when I first moved here, less than 20 years ago, it felt like you left Austin and left Round Rock to get to Georgetown, and that's not really the case anymore.

It's definitely just one continuous Part of the Austin Metroplex, for lack of a better word. I know Dallas. Don't be upset. I stole your word for your city. But but you're right, it's just it's all feels much more like one city nowadays. Whereas before it used to feel like that city outside of Austin.


Amy: that is so true. I can remember being in the back of mom and dad's car and from Westinghouse Road to mom and dad's house, it was pitch black and you got maybe five minutes of sleep in between those two places. And you're right, that's not the case anymore, .

Troy: So obviously as a young kid, you were still interested in in older people and understand, in doing stuff with adults or that way.

What kind of was the career path going from there like with college, with early jobs as well? .

Amy: Yeah. I went to a and m and so as an undergrad I did some research with Dr. Smith in the psychology department. And I was interviewing retiring or retired execs. And when I was trying to figure out exactly what my path was he said, gerontology is an, a growing field.

You should consider that. And , in my research I decided to go ahead and start the pathway to get my nursing home administrator's license and then enroll in a grad school in University of North Texas. And you have to take a thousand hours to get your license. And so I did that and really fell in love with different aspects of the nursing home and then some that I realized.

which is what made me decide that I really wanted to be more in the community and not in a nursing home as an administrator. So that was the path. And then shortly after that, I decided to actually get a job. My parents were quite happy, and then went back to school for technology commercialization.

And the vision has always been one day I will bring those two together. So you've got gerontology and then you have technology commercialization. And here we are with Sam. . There you go.

Troy: Yeah. Was it something you had always planned to eventually start your own thing? Was that, like for a lot of entrepreneurs they were, young, the younger kids with the lemonade stands or, doing different things that were, that kind of built those entrepreneurial muscles.

 For people who don't have that can sometimes make it challenging to want to go start your own business or want to go and realize, hey, I'm just gonna try to start something from scratch that may not succeed, but I'm okay with that. And unfortunately, a lot of times our school system and education system doesn't necessarily reward students.

Coloring outside the box and failing tends to hold people back from that. And so was that something that you got just innately or, had some of those traits growing up? Where did that come

Amy: from? . Yeah. I'll contribute all of that to mom and dad. And so mom and dad have been and still are today, amazingly instrumental and supportive of everything that I do, as well as my sister.

And if I'm looking for that place, the lemonade stand was actually the Snoopy snow cone machine for me, and I was sure that I was going to make a. On my kitchen table making snow cones for all of my friends. And that's not exactly how that turned out. We evolve and we pick up other things as we get older and that spirit of creating something for myself has always been there and mom and dad did everything they could to nurture it.

And when they didn't know, they always connected us with resources that did know. And I think, when parents are not entrepreneurs themselves and they are able. to see those. Okay, I don't have those, that network, but let me go find it for you. That's powerful to watch and it's powerful to be able to emulate that for my nieces.

Troy: Yeah, no, it's right again, the same way that the school system does it, a lot of times parents don't necessarily foster that, not because they. Really discourage it, but Right. Like you've mentioned, your parents were pretty happy when you got a job. Like your parents tend to worry for you, even if the, even if they're not generally the worrying type by nature, all parents tend to have that worrying stress for their kids.

And a lot of times they prefer their kids go the safe route because it's the least downside kind of thing versus the most upside side of things. So that's pretty awesome that they didn't necessarily have. That growing up in them, but it was still something that they were happy to to push and foster in you.

Because in my experience, a lot of the entrepreneurs that I tend to interview, it feels like their parents had at least some DNA in that regard as well too. They had their own small business or had. Had fostered some of that, which again, a lot of kids tend to go into fields somewhat similar to their parents because that's, when you're young, a lot of times you're pretending to be mom or pretending to be dad.

And so that's a very cool thing that they were able to do for you guys.

Amy: Yeah. Yeah. My parents are betting a thousand. My sister is an entrepreneur and I am too, and they have two daughters. So they've done great and.

Troy: Cool. When you mentioned going back to getting the technology portion of your degree, when did you feel like technology would be, start to become a big part of the process?

Because we say early on when you talked about when you 10, even 10, but especially 20 plus years ago, when you start talking about educa or people getting older, it generally was either, long-term care policies or nursing homes and that kind of felt like it. And so there's not a lot of technology happening in nursing homes.

What made you see or believe that was going to be a big component moving forward? Other than it just being a big thing in general, going. .

Amy: Yeah. I think Austin fosters that, right? We're in one of the most dynamic tech hubs in the country. And so just being around el other entrepreneurs I started my first company, venture Alliance group in 2004.

And so that fostered a lot of of networking with. Organizations that are service plus tech. And I think all of healthcare is very similar. It's I think it's impossible, me personally, to do all of healthcare with technology, you have to have that personal connection. And starting out with Venture Alliance Group helped fostered that kind of growth.

Troy: Nice. Yeah, no, I think it's interesting in general, but say in healthcare specifically too, like technology has been an amazing advantage in so many different industries, but it does feel like. we, not that we're going to ever revert back from the technology piece, but that we're finally in a lot of different cases, bringing the human piece back into it as well.

Like early on, technology could do so much more than just a single person could do, which was amazing from a productivity standpoint. And obviously for businesses, if you're a founder, in most cases, there's a business success in being able to accomplish more than you can on your own, but, to truly harness that technology and really make it truly worthwhile, especially in a in a field like healthcare, you can't hopefully forget the human side of it because that's really what it comes down to.

Amy: Exactly. Our relationships with our parents are very personal, and while email and Zoom are helpful, , they don't replace the hug, they don't replace holding their hands when it's needed.

Troy: Yeah, no, I say it's one of the things that I feel, very fortunate, obviously the last couple of years with lockdowns and Covid and all that stuff has been challenging even more so for.

older Americans because they've been hit harder with it, both physically and I think emotionally as well too. If you're retired and don't have work and some other things to keep you busy and now you're required to be, stay at home that's a tough situation that way as well. But to think that with this had happened 20 years earlier and that we wouldn't have had, barely had cell phones at that point in time, let alone video conferencing and being able to, some interactions where we can see each other's faces and do those kind of things was a blessing in a unfortunate time and circumstance for sure.

Amy: Yeah. They said what the first flu was in 1919, right after World War I, and it's amazing. to understand the information or the stories that came out of that, right? There wasn't that type of technology to stay connected, but people live closer too. And so it, that could completely wipe out a family, but it could also keep that family close and not have the isolation that we might feel.


Troy: What, how? And so how long ago did you start Sandwich again?

Amy: Yeah, sandwich started November of 2021. And so we spent

Troy: What, so right during the middle, basically. Obviously not maybe the middle as we started to push out of it. But was it something that was started. You'd had the plans, but did Covid in the Pan Pandemic kind of accelerate your need?

Desire to wanna start the company? ,

Amy: the pandemic gave me more time to focus on it. Nice. By moving all events online, the type of planning that you did for our existing clients was completely different. So I was able to hone in on some of the needs to keep it more of a hybrid type of experience, but yet still keep the things that are important.

To the surface. So making sure that you are really, the types of communication that you have to do online is a little bit different. You can't read body language the same. And so we have to hone in on those skills that we think we, we have adjusted when we see each other over time, but that we need to redefine what that means when they're.

And I talk to mom and dad still by FaceTime a lot, just because that's just one of their easiest ways to, to communicate and it's instant. Isn't that nice?

Troy: Yes. No, again, right? There's so much obviously, you grew up that 90% of, communication is non-verbal. And so the fact that we can actually get that these days through a video call a FaceTime instead of.

a, a phone call, which again even the phone call back in the 1918 for the 1918 Spanish flu was about something that you were able to do with family back then. Yeah, for sure. Started in November 21st, 2021. . A year and a half old now, at this point in time, what has, what things, what has gone according to plan and what has needed to change in that short period?

Amy: Yeah. So we took the initial concepts of understanding what people needed and we ran those through a series of. Of tests. And so we spent the majority of 22 doing research. We worked with 816 something caregivers, really understanding their needs, their wants, their desires, how they want to communicate, and understanding some of the fears, which is really the crux.

Of growing older, right? What are my fears? And then how do I communicate those things with my family in such a way that is, that honors my wishes, and then they can use that in turn to advocate for me and. . The basics of that is asking for help, which I don't know very many people that are good at it. I do know that entrepreneurs are better at it than I think most people.

And that's because we have to look around and say, I don't have Resource X. How do I find it? When our parents need help they don't often go to their employers if they're still employed to ask for help. They try to do it themselves. They also listen to their physicians and more so than a younger generation does.

We might get two or three opinions while they don't. And Being able to really get the, that good foundation and understanding was fantastic. Now we have all of that done. We've lost our, launched our first course called Guided Group, and that is to lay the foundation, develop the communication that I was mentioning earlier.

And then our technology piece is in development, right? . And that is super exciting because it follows the social determinants of health, which are really important. And, I don't know, another way healthcare seems scary and frustrating, but you've often heard of the last mile of food delivery, the last mile of any of technology.

The last mile of how do you get it into the people's hands. , that is the problems that we are sensing right now with healthcare. What does that last mile look like? And that last mile is really at home and 90% of Americans wanna live at home. . And so we want to empower what does that house look like or that home or home sharing has become, a new thing for older adults.

And one of your questions was how has it changed? It's changed because, finances have changed and that sense of isolation that we had in 2019 has changed to 2022. So we need to work on that. And so we've built in some structures that help identify what isolation might look like for them to raise awareness so that they know how to ask for.

Troy: yeah. You mentioned with that, so with that last point and then also that last mile component of it. Un unfortunately it feels like too often the last mile happens a mile too late in a lot of cases, right? If in, in living healthier, living longer, there's a lot of things that we should be.

at our age, at a lot younger ages that are gonna help with a lot of that stuff as well too. But unfortunately, a lot of times because life gets busy or for our parents' generation, it wasn't as common maybe to think about your health in your forties when you were gonna for, when you were gonna become 80 and stuff.

But I'm assuming there's that, you're talking about the education component, a component of trying to. , those talks, those conversations get things in people's hands earlier because the early, generally, the earlier you can start to have an impact, the greater impact you can have.

Amy: Yeah that's exactly right.

And if you're approaching the topic for the first time in a moment of crisis, , you are more unraveled than if you had it, even if you had it for 30 minutes. You can always bring the conversa, you can start the conversation back to the very first time you had the conversation versus starting at the, when there's crisis 68% of our aging adults have some sense of depression.

That's a lot. It when they're caregiving. I do have to say when they're caregiving and if you are in that situation and you're already stressed and then somebody brings up something for the very first time, how you hear it and how you interpret it doesn't always go the way that the. cinder intended for it to happen.

And so bringing it up gradually and revisiting that conversation is really important. It's not, I don't think, very different from buying a house, right? You think that you want to buy it in a certain area and then low and behold you're exposed to a different area later, , and then you go maybe I wasn't right.

Let me start bouncing this around a little. No,

Troy: it's, I try to talk about it in post I on social and stuff all the time. Like the earlier I can start having conversations with people, the. more, I can impact you, right? So if in my case maybe it's, oh, hey, if we had been able to take a look at your credit and see, hey, we can do these things to your credit, but it's gonna take four to six months for it to really play out well now you can afford the home that you wouldn't be able to afford now.

Or a big one too. You mentioned finances. Maybe. Once your taxes are done for this year, because 2023 might not be as good a year as 2022, it might be worth buying a house shortly after your taxes are done, because that's what the mortgage company's gonna look at. Versus at the end of 2023, they're gonna wanna see everything that's happened this year.

But your business has declined in its si in its revenue. So your income declined, so you can't afford the same house. But too often I think, and part of it's part of it's due to. Like a lot of us will wanna be self-reliant, especially as for older people. People wanna be self-reliant, but also a component of it comes to the information and Amazon age of being able to get things on demand and not understanding that, yeah, you can get some information on demand, but to be able to interact on that information.

often helps to have more time to do it right, to eat, to start eating healthier at age 40 is gonna do a lot more benefit than starting to eat healthy at age 70. And so there's, it's definitely one of those things that I try to talk to people like, you don't have to just call me only when you're ready to immediately buy or sell home.

Let's talk ahead of time. So that way when you are ready, you're better prepared in a better spot and the conversations are better. So I'm a very. a different conversation, but a lot of similarities.

Amy: Oh yeah. Completely relatable. For. .

Troy: The the other thing with that too, like you go back to the difficult decisions, right?

The same way, if I'm having a tough conversation with someone about their credit, right? When they're trying to buy a house, that doesn't usually go over well. The, that you were mentioning, if someone has to go to the hospital for something and then suddenly trying to talk to them about power of attorney or all those things, or hey, maybe when should we start giving a home giver?

The first time that they. Fall some somewhere and injure themselves like they're fighting to wanna keep their independence. That's probably also at a really challenging time. Are there any times other than saying as early as possible in the present that tend to be good times or good openings perhaps, in which to try to bring up those kind of topics?

Amy: Yeah, so using your friends and your network as example. Is oftentimes a great way to begin a conversation that hasn't been approached before or or invite them in to have a conversation about yourself and what you want. In my family I have very. I know exactly what I want. And I do know that my husband will not be able to be my person.

He probably won't like that I'm saying this, but it's true. He wants me to live forever. Yeah. And that's not really what my vision is or my journey. . And so I know that he would honor it, but I also have a great network that I think that they would actually listen to what I say and what I want and help.

if I'm unable to. So having these types of conversations my husband and I have talked about it like three or four times and he is Nope nope. But if push comes to shove, I know that he would do something that would honor my wishes. I know that sounds silly, but if we don't have these conversations, how are we ever gonna know?


Troy: No, a hundred percent. I, so I actually have those rights over someone that's outside, like I'm not related to them at all whatsoever. Be because we've been good enough friends that they know that I'll be able to carry out what they want and with their family, like they say, they, again, that's, it's hard to be able to say what needs to be done.

And , it's, again, it's, it can be a tough conversation to have when, regardless of how you're having it, but it's something that when he and I, he's been sick and stuff before, so that it's not been like an imminent thing, but he's unfortunately been had in instances where it's like, Hey, we, are able to talk about that because we know.

Life's short, right? You just don't know when stuff's gonna happen. And so if you are waiting till when you think it's gonna happen and then have the conversation, you're probably gonna miss the opportunity. .

Amy: Yeah. Yeah. The one caveat that I would mention that I think our program guided group does really support is asking the why.

So why is your, why are you your friends? Durable power of attorney or medical power of attorney? And if they write that down and explain it, that is really helpful. People that have to interpret what you mean later on. And using my husband as an example and saying he just wants me to live forever and he doesn't care how, and I feel like this person will will really listen to what I want.

In spelling that out will help others that are in my network and my close support team really advocate on my behalf and work together instead of being adversarial.

Troy: Sure. And I said then if you can hopefully have those tough conversations and appropriate time, it can then let you get past those to doing the rest of, rest of life a little.

Easier and smoother. You're not having to worry, you're not worried about, usually they're conversations that to some degree people are worried about a little bit, but just don't wanna broach. Where if you just have them, they're tough to have, but now you have them figured out and now you can move past that to figuring out the more fun stuff about, Hey, we, we need a caregiver to come in once a week to help with some stuff here or there instead of instead of just trying to put our heads in the sand and hope it won't be a.

Amy: Yeah. That burden of picking up that care without having conversations can be overwhelming. If you haven't had the conversations before. You've got it exactly right.

Troy: Yeah. So for people that are, want more information or trying to learn more about you guys, what are some of the best ways to get connected and be in.


Amy: The best way to do it is to get on our [email protected]. You can follow us on any social media outlet at Hello Sandwich and it's Instagram and I Facebook. Facebook. Yeah. And so those two, it's impossible to remember

Troy: all the different It's platform people are Am I on that one?

Am I not? I don.

Amy: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And I think we're linked into and get connected. If you're not quite comfortable yet with the conversation, you can at least join in and listen and then know that it's going to happen. It's just a win. And know that we are a resource our guided group. Starts at any time that somebody is ready.

The beautiful thing about guided Group is we meet the person or family exactly where they are. So you have the opportunity to watch videos, do the worksheets read the materials, and then meet with a social worker that is from the community that can help you answer any questions that you still might have, and that one-on-one.

Or in that group setting, if you will, really ties that nice bow around things and allows you to go, okay, I got this.

Troy: Nice. Sounds good. Again, I appreciate taking the time to, to join me today and look forward to you having a lot of suc continued success here in the Austin community and nationwide.

Amy: Thank you so much. Enjoyed the time together.

Troy: Hope everyone has a wonderful.

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