After her own hospitalization with COVID-19, Shapree’ Marshall set out to make sure local hospitals have adequate staffing to care for the community, she shared.
In February 2022, Marshall — now a 2023 Pipeline Pathfinder cohort member — founded A Traveled Path Homes, which she describes as Airbnb for the medical industry. She plans to launch the platform in March 2024, connecting individual traveling medical professionals with local property owners, as well as connecting staffing agencies to property owners.
“We don’t have enough medical staff and we don’t have enough housing,” she said. “So we need to fix both of those issues for them. People have a right to an access to health care. That’s what it boils down to today. We’re fixing a problem for the community.”
“Right now, I am in contact with a local developer and several hospitals and medical staffing agencies here and in my hometown of Columbia,” she added.
During Marshall’s time in the hospital with COVID, she noted, most of the team taking care of her — nurses, doctors, lab technicians, and respiratory therapists — were traveling medical professionals.
“For morale purposes, we would talk and all of them — being from various places — had the same issue,” Marshall explained. “They were struggling to find units to accommodate their stay while on these emergency contracts.”
“I witnessed firsthand the importance of a hospital being properly staffed,” she continued. “I witnessed the havoc the pandemic wreaked on our healthcare system. I have seen the frustration. I’ve seen the devastation and I’ve seen people who didn’t make it out. I was very fortunate to be one who was able to return home to her children.”
Once she recovered, Marshall started talking to her family members in the medical field and doing industry research, she said, noting she ultimately became a 2022 Comeback KC Venture fellow. She found that traditional options like hotels and vacation rentals are too expensive or don’t have the necessary amenities for a long-term stay for the medical professionals.
“It’s an actual industry problem that no one has found a viable solution on a mass scale to solve,” she added. “These traveling medical professionals need safe, affordable, and convenient housing within a certain amount of distance from their contracted hospital or facility.”
A student at Columbia College at the time, she decided to — at the last minute — enter a pitch competition with her idea. She ended up winning the top prize: $5,000.
“It just validated the fact that I was needed in this industry,” she said.
Hospitals have further validated her idea, she noted, and are eager to jump on board because of the need.
“All of the feedback that I get is, ‘How soon can we get this launched?’” she continued. “The shortage is not going away and — per statistics — is actually getting worse and won’t even begin to diminish for another 20 years. So hospitals, knowing that they have the shortage, they’re being proactive. They have presented options where they would like to bring in medical professionals from other countries.”
Her platform — developed by students at Prime Digital Academy — is currently undergoing beta testing, according to Marshall, and has received positive feedback from both medical professionals and property managers.
Among competitors in the niche market, the biggest user complaint is a poor interface, she said.
“Our interface is amazing,” Marshall continued. “The dashboards — from the property owner side — have all the functions that they need, including charging rent and changing anything that they need like uploading pictures. And then from the nurses perspective, they like the fact that they can search by proximity and then also by amenities.”
After expanding into additional markets, her long-term goal is to acquire real estate and then contract the units out to the hospitals and staffing agencies, mentioned Marshall, who has mainly bootstrapped the venture. She’d even like to explore the possibility of renovating local vacant school buildings to use for housing international medical professionals.
“Kansas City is closing down schools and that doesn’t really sit right with me,” she said. “I don’t want these buildings to become blighted.”
After 13 years in the insurance industry, Marshall — who will be starting her master’s degree program for entrepreneurship and real estate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in January — never thought she would be the founder of a tech startup, she shared. But she’s learned not to put limits on herself.
“The strides that I’ve made have literally been tremendous,” she said. “I’m a non-tech founder. I’m not a technical person. It’s not my background. So that experience in itself was challenging — but rewarding — because I’m growing into the space.”
“It’s also exciting working with developers to build out my site and app and seeing the progress,” she continued. “I’m really making a product that these traveling medical professionals can trust and building a brand with it.”