Some of the best business ideas begin with family, and 25-year-old Ming Yang’s Orchard Tech, a business that helps Baby Boomers cross the digital divide, is one of them.
Yang’s mother was trying to sign up for health insurance a few years ago by filling out an application online, but couldn’t quite get the hang of it. Naturally she asked her daughter for help.
“She didn’t know how to use her computer and emails and upload documents and that’s when I realized that in this day and age, not knowing how to use computers in whatever capacities means not really experiencing and moving forward in life,” Yang said.
So Yang reasoned that if her mother needed help, there were probably plenty of others among her mother’s chronological peers who might be in the same situation and benefit from the assistance that a digital-savvy millennial might provide.
And so Yang, who has a degree in computer engineering from the University of Florida, founded Orchard Tech in 2018.
She got backing from the Engineering Innovation Institute at UF, also winning second place in its “Big Idea” competition, which gave her $10,000 in seed money.
Yang said the company started out offering one-on-one in-person help, but when COVID began in early 2020, things changed and the startup transitioned to offering virtual help.
Much of Orchard’s client base now comes from people who are traditional retirement age, but not yet retired, Yang said, because they prefer to stay active and engaged.
“We love working and working is not work anymore. It provides meaning,” she said. “But now in order to really do productive work we have to use technology and there’s so many great tools out there so many new things that are always coming out.
“We thought we could be that coach because we young people were using these things every day, and we could be that coach for people that didn’t grow up with the technology and help them do their best work.”
Orchard Tech does this with individual one-off sessions as well as membership plans that range from a minimal support yearly program to one that offers as many virtual sessions as a member needs. All plans come with unlimited quick support 20-minute phone calls.
“We’re more of kind of like a tech coach insurance that we’re always here, you always have us at your beck and call to ask any questions whenever,” she said.
So now Yang and her team of Orchard “techies” focus on providing “empathetic tech coaching and support” for digital immigrants.
While Yang and Orchard are getting plenty of media coverage, including Yang’s recent appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” it’s word-of-mouth that is really doing the job.
“Finding people in the ‘traditional’ way of going viral on Instagram doesn’t really work because in our group, people might not be on Instagram,” Yang said.
Orchard Tech’s client base has grown from a handful of people to hundreds of clients based not only in Gainesville, but also in North Carolina, Tennessee and other locations throughout the United States.