Following the many Kiwis that came before her, Lisa Stephenson jumped the ditch and moved to Melbourne seven years ago. After many years working in public health, she felt compelled to do more. But does helping people scale? Hear why Lisa left the job she loved to make the leap into entrepreneurship.

I have passion, but what’s my purpose?

Although Lisa has a background in Arts and two postgraduate qualifications in applied linguistics, industrial relations and human resource management, her life and work has always centred around healthcare.

“My mum is a nurse and my sister is a radiographer. I pretty much grew up in hospitals and so from a young age my interests were heavily weighted towards health. Then life happens, and without realising it my first hospital administration job turned into 10 great years working in various non-clinical management roles in hospitals too.”

Lisa never dreamt of being an entrepreneur – she wasn’t even familiar with the concept until twelve months ago – but years of public sector bureaucracy saw her inner change-maker start to surface. She knew her passion, she just needed to find her purpose. “I don’t know what it was but I knew I had to try. It’s like an itch that has to be scratched.”

After making a few attempts at doing things differently from within the system, it was time for Lisa to go out, get some new skills, and then try and come back at it through a new angle.

“I never wanted to be a big disruptor or anything like that. It’s more that there are causes I am really passionate about that I couldn’t fix from the chair I was in. I realised I had to get uncomfortable to truly change the things I care most about.”

Lisa Stephenson 2018 MOE student pitching

Becoming a change-maker means changing everything

For Lisa, getting uncomfortable meant leaving a job and workplace she loved to return to full-time study. As great as Wade Institute and the University of Melbourne’s Master of Entrepreneurship program sounded through her research, she still had her reservations.

“At first I thought, ‘This place is too scary, it’s a world I don’t even know the language of. How would I fit into this space?’ Then I visited Wade and had a chat to Georgia [General Manager of Wade Institute, Georgia McDonald] and was like ‘Oh my gosh, they’re so welcoming. They just get it, and it’s inclusive.’ That meeting changed everything.”

Lisa enrolled and was accepted into the 2018 cohort. While she was thrilled, the news of her major life change didn’t make as much sense to others. “When I first spoke to my family about going to study at my mature age, there were like ‘Are you crazy? You’ve got a great career, why would you disrupt it?’ But since making the move they can see how much happier I am. I have purpose now, and I am so much more connected. Now they say it’s the best thing I could’ve done.”

Lisa Stephenson mentoring 2018 MOE student

Using the entrepreneurial toolkit for good

Despite her doubts, Lisa says taking the risk has been worth every minute. “From the incredibly diverse cohort of students to the amount of connections to industry we’re making… I’ve never experienced such exponential growth in my life. Where my mind was 6 months ago compared to now… it’s amazing.”

Confidence has been a roadblock in the past, but studying entrepreneurship has given Lisa the supportive framework she needed. “Sure, people can hack and hustle and make it happen and I have a lot of respect for that. But for me, having the structure of this program and the support of the mentors has helped me build my confidence, and find a sense of belonging in the broader startup ecosystem too. I know this will be the difference between me giving things a solid crack and just going back to what I know, or a cushy job.”

Lisa’s commitment to her ‘why’ is her greatest strength. She’s found an exciting market opportunity at the intersection of her passion, skills and experience, working with a team of entrepreneurs on a HR platform to support flexible work for nurses. The solution is making exciting inroads, with Lisa’s love for helping people as the driving force.

“I come at it from 50% frustration and 50% inspiration. As much as there are challenges, I can see so much potential in health and the people are some of the most compassionate people you will ever meet. For me, it’s as much about the enormous community service the health sector provides as it is my personal ties and experiences. These people care so much for us, and it feels right for me to be the one using my entrepreneurial skills to return the favour.”