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USAF Veteran and Medical Specialist Brings her Skills to Create a Home for Aging Families in Need

Sara Berndtson Nadeau grew up in Madbury, NH and graduated high school in 1990.  She attended the University of New Hampshire (UNH) with a dual major in Economics and International Affairs.  While in college, she worked as a student teacher, an intern at a local cable company in the Latin Sales Division, and during her junior year she studied abroad in Sao Paulo, Brazil. After graduating from UNH, she attended Boston University (BU) earning her Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and Masters in Arts (MA) in International Relations.

In 1997, after graduating from Boston University, she was recruited as a Commissioned Officer in the United States Air Force (USAF) Medical Service Corps. Sara entered the Air Force in 1998 as a 1st Lieutenant. She served until 2006 when she separated at the rank of Major.

At the start of Sara’s Air Force career, she was stationed at Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, IL.  Armed with degrees in International Relations, she was able to participate in humanitarian medical mission deployments and trauma training courses in El Salvador and eventually obtained the position of Chief of Medical Readiness Operations. Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, her department deployed almost 80% of the Air Force medical personnel in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  In 2003, Sara was assigned as the Group Practice Manager at Hanscom AFB in Bedford, MA where she managed all clinical operations for the base clinic (medical and dental) earning her two command-level awards in 2004 and 2005.

After separating from the Air Force, she held various operational positions at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, NH, managing both inpatient and outpatient practices. For a brief period, she left the hospital to manage a private medical practice and later returned to Wentworth-Douglas as an Operations Project Lead before leaving the organization to open her own small business.

Her journey as an entrepreneur began in 2015 along with her husband, Al, and her brother, Jason, when they decided to design, construct and open ‘Carriage Hill Assisted Living’, a 24-bed assisted living residence in

Madbury. The opening of the business was a multi-year project that ultimately opened in 2010.  Sara attributes her ability to open her own business to the significant specialized experience and training she received in the Air Force.  Each position she held over the years gave her the insight and training that was invaluable to being able to manage all the facets of business ownership and operations.  Sara’s hard work earned Carriage Hill Assisted Living one of the ‘Best of Assisted Living Awards’ in 2017 and 2019 -- an exclusive award that honors the top one percent of senior care providers across the United States.

According to Sara, being a 51% woman veteran-owned business helped her as she worked with the Small Business Administration (SBA), Optima Bank & Trust (now Cambridge Trust), and the Granite State Development Corporation (GSDC) to obtain the construction loan they needed.  “Without the SBA loan for construction, we would not have been able to start the business.  It was an instrumental part of our funding for the project and during the pandemic, the business received SBA loan forgiveness payments for several months. In addition, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) allowed us to avoid significant layoffs in early 2021, following a COVID outbreak that significantly contributed to our resident population dropping to under 50%.  We were able to sustain operations and maintain staffing through this critical period due to the PPP forgivable loan until our admissions increased by the summer of 2021,” explained Sara.

In 2017, Sara’s family purchased a church building as a second business and with renovations turned it into a venue for weddings and other special functions. ‘The Hall at Great Falls’ in Somersworth, NH opened in late 2018, but due to the pandemic it stayed closed for 15 months until the end of the state of emergency orders in NH.  The business has begun to recover in the second half of 2021.

When asking Sara her advice for those veterans considering opening their own business, she shared the following advice, “Do not underestimate the skills you are learning in every position that you hold Be persistent, reach out to family, friends, and co-workers because you are likely to know someone who has strengths where you have weaknesses. You do not need to be an expert in everything. Acknowledge that there will be setbacks and if you fail, try again.”

Sara is married, has three stepchildren, an 11-year-old son, and two grandchildren.

For more information on Sara and her businesses Our Story | Carriage Hill, Senior Assisted Living Facilities in Portsmouth, Seacoast New Hampshire (NH) | Carriage Hill Assisted Living NH and The Hall at Great Falls.


Company Name: 
Carriage Hill Assisted Living
Portsmouth New Hampshire