Women Entrepreneur Icons: Lisa Williams
“If you’re not satisfied with your life and you think you can do bigger things, the possibility is—that you can do bigger things.”
In partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation’s 10,000 Women Entrepreneurs Initiative, Startup Canada is celebrating and spotlighting leading Canadian Women Entrepreneurs. Startup Canada was pleased to sit down with Lisa Williams, Owner & CEO of Unicare Home Health Care, Uniclean Solutions, and Unum Health Inc to learn about her journey and the impact of her work.
In 2018, Lisa’s flagship company, Unicare celebrated a decade since she first started the business as a single mother in her living room. Now she employs over 200 people in five locations across New Brunswick with plans to continue expanding. Since starting Unicare, Lisa has helped to change the home health care industry.
Educating caregivers and improving their quality of life is her passion. Lisa also operates Uniclean, a sister company to Unicare and social enterprise that trains people to work in both residential and commercial cleaning. In 2016, she embarked on a new endeavour to make a bigger impact within the Home Health Care industry with Unum Health Inc. Unum Health is a software designed as a one-stop enterprise solution for home care that streamlines productivity and communication.
SC: In one sentence, what does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
LW: One sentence?
SC: It’s a tall order—
LW: I think it means taking risks when you don’t know what the outcome will be.
SC: Tell us about your entrepreneurial ventures and what role they play and have played in your life.
LW: About 12 years ago, I started a home care agency here in Miramichi, providing care in-home for seniors and those with disabilities. About six years ago, I started a cleaning business—commercial and residential cleaning to add value to the first business that I started.
And then four years ago, I started developing a software solution for the home support industry. It fixes a lot of the gaps and inefficiencies within the system. There are all kinds of issues with communication and remote workforce and productivity. I’m just trying to fix the problems. I guess that’s what I do—I fix problems.
SC: What motivated or propelled you to become an entrepreneur?
LW: I had jobs, but they just didn’t seem to be satisfying. I was a teacher for a couple of years—and yes, teaching children was probably the best part of my day—but I just felt like I wanted to make a big change in something else that was important.
I felt that working in a job just wasn’t doing that for me. I couldn’t make the impact I felt like I could make elsewhere. Through in-home support, I’m changing lives every day in people’s homes and making things better for them. Now with the tech solution part, we’re actually solving an even bigger challenge.
SC: What are you most proud of related to your ventures?
LW: I’m most proud that I have the opportunity to do this work because I don’t think everybody else does. I’m also proud of the people that work for me because really, they’re the key to helping this be a success. It’s not just me doing this all myself.
SC: What inspires you to keep going?
LW: The problems aren’t solved yet.
SC: What’s the next mountain you’re climbing and what’s still left undone?
LW: The tech solution—it’s a different type of industry. I’m used to brick and mortar and the tech solution is opposite to that. It’s new everything! There are a lot of challenges and a lot that keeps me stimulated; keeps me interested; keeps me going. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something.
SC: What has been your biggest learning along the way?
LW: I think it’s that as an entrepreneur, you’re isolated and you do a lot of stuff on your own. You think big and you have the vision.
Sometimes you feel you don’t have support. But I think that if you just ask and put yourself out there that you have access to so much. It comes back to you tenfold—so ask!
SC: Have you identified or confronted any systemic barriers through your journey? If so, how have you persevered through them?
LW: Funding is always an obstacle. Everybody knows there are programs out there, but how to easily access them can be difficult.
Ageism? Sexism?—No, not so much. Even if there was, I probably wouldn’t have noticed because I don’t see myself as just a woman doing something. I don’t consider myself—I shouldn’t say I don’t consider myself a woman, I’m a woman—but I don’t look at it as anything special.
I didn’t get into this because I’m a woman. I got into this because I wanted to help other people and fix problems. So the fact that a woman really doesn’t mean anything. Whatever my age is, I’m still able to do everything that I could do 12 years ago, so it doesn’t really come into play for me—I don’t think about it.
SC: What advice do you have for those just beginning to embark on their entrepreneurial journey?
LW: If you have a drive—if you have an idea—I think you’ve got to make yourself reach out for it. I guess it’s how you decide what you want out of life. You know, if you’re a problem solver like I am and working a job doesn’t satisfy you, take that chance!
If you’re not satisfied with your life and you think you can do bigger things, the possibility is—that you can do bigger things. I always say dream big, start small—but just start, you know?
SC: Where can people go to learn more about your journey and organization?
My journey? I won the 2018 Startup Canada Award for Entrepreneur of the Year for Atlantic Canada and I went on to win the National Award that year. So there’s information there as well.
SC: And right here in this article! What’s your big vision for Canada and the World over the next 20 years?
LW: The big vision I have for Canada is to solve the problems within the healthcare system—and I think it can be done if the government and private enterprises work together. Less waste, more efficiencies, and get people the care can have in our system—that’s what I want to see for Canada. It may not be easy, but we can certainly fix it in the next 20 years!
Are you a problem-solver like Lisa? Join the Startup Canada Women Entrepreneurs Network to gain access to resources, community events, and more!