CLEARWATER — Two and a half years ago, Linda Chamberlain was on the verge of shuttering her Clearwater home health care business, Easy Living Inc.
Then a job candidate she'd had her eye on for years decided to accept her offer: her 22-year-old son, Alex Chamberlain.
"I was at the point that if I didn't get good leadership in there I was going to close the doors," said Linda Chamberlain, a 53-year-old Clearwater resident who is founder and president of the company.
"We were in a challenging position, so I approached him and said, 'Here's the reality of what's happening with Easy Living. Would you be interested?' He said he was interested. I was pretty surprised."
After years of hearing about the business, he decided to get involved as an employee.
"He was doing trade shows and marketing since he was 14," Chamberlain said. "At our dinner table, everybody hears it (about the business) whether they want to or not. We were thrilled when he said he'd give it a shot."
The reason Chamberlain may have been surprised at her son's interest is because he never planned to get into home health care.
After graduating from Palm Harbor University High School in 2004, Alex Chamberlain went to Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale and majored in business. After graduation in 2008, he had a job lined up to sell boats in Fort Lauderdale. But with the economic downturn, the position fell through.
When his mother offered him a job as a staffer with Easy Living, Chamberlain realized he could take his passion for business and apply it to the field of home health. It wasn't long before he was promoted to executive director.
"The person who did the hiring and human resources left and I picked up those things. … The executive director retired … all within my first eight months," he said.
Now with two years at Easy Living under his belt, Chamberlain is paying it forward by reaching out to his former stomping grounds, Palm Harbor University High School. He wants to provide students in the high school's medical magnet program with real-world experience in the home health care field.
"We're quite proud of him. He approached us about joining the advisory board," said Stephen Price, program coordinator for the high school's medical magnet. "Alex provides us with information on what's new in the home health arena and we provide him with potential employees."
Chamberlain plans to offer Palm Harbor students the opportunity to shadow home health aides and observe what goes on in the office. Price said partnering with businesses in the community like Easy Living helps "give the kids a chance to have an industry certification and gives them a foothold in the industry."
Pat Dillon, a certified nursing assistant for Easy Living, said it's a practical choice even for college-bound students planning to be doctors.
"One of my granddaughters was in the medical program at PHU and I think it would give them a little bit of hands-on to see what it actually takes," said Dillon, 66, of Oldsmar. "The students are looking at higher education, but this gives them a better picture of what is dealt with.
"It's a constant learning process. Even on the lower part of the ladder, you're always learning."
Nearly three years after that crucial crossroads, business is booming.
This summer, Easy Living finished fourth in the Tampa Bay Business Journal's list of the region's 50 fastest-growing companies.
"To be honest, I never thought I'd end up in this field," Chamberlain said. "I'm a firm believer in education and I love giving back."