IDEA Center hosts webinar with Fortune ‘40 Under 40’ entrepreneur
Maggie Eastland | Monday, September 21, 2020
Helen Adeosun ’07, CEO and founder of CareAcademy, a digital training platform that trains thousands of caregivers, shared her entrepreneurship journey and tips for success via a Zoom webinar Friday.
Following a brief introduction from vice president and associate provost for innovation Bryan Ritchie, Adeosun took the virtual stage to share her experiences as an entrepreneur.
After immigrating from Nigeria as a child, attending Notre Dame for her undergraduate degree, working at a public school in Atlanta, fighting for education accessibility in Washington D.C. and earning a master’s in education from Harvard University, Adeosun now owns and operates her own company at the age of 35.
Adeosun recently secured $13 million in funding for CareAcademy and was named one of Fortune Magazine’s top ‘40 Under 40’ entrepreneurs in healthcare.
Despite this success, Adeosun emphasized the importance of grace and providence throughout her journey and gives two main pieces of advice to current and future entrepreneurs – ask questions and cultivate a narrative.
“A lot of what I have done is by grace,” Adeosun said in the webinar, “I try not to sugarcoat.”
Reflecting on her childhood and journey to success, Adeosun mentioned the important role her family and her culture played in shaping her perspective on education.
Adeosun said Nigerian culture places a strong emphasis on the importance of education. She also described how her father would constantly encourage her to be curious and ask questions about the world.
“My parents raised a nerd, but I think that’s a key pillar of entrepreneurship,” she noted.
During her years working as a teacher in the Atlanta public-school system, Adeosun gained an even greater appreciation for education.
“I think I learned more from my kids than I taught my kids,” Adeosun said in reference to her students in Atlanta.
Teaching students in the Atlanta public schools gave her a new appreciation for how her family guided her down the right path of education and instilled a love of curiosity within her.
“By grace,” Adeosun said, “people in my life encouraged education in the important years between fourteen and eighteen.”
Adeosun’s family also influenced her interest in the healthcare sector. Both of her parents worked in healthcare, and many of her other family members are doctors or nurses. Adeosun herself has some experience as a caregiver. Through CareAcademy, she hopes to increase access to care that is cost-effective, compassionate and personal.
Her vision of healthcare leaves flexibility for caregivers who provide more holistic care, in some ways mirroring the town doctor model when village physicians would make house calls to provide care.
She believes this aspect of her mission aligns with the current shift in healthcare away from hospital-only care toward more flexible options.
“Direct care workers are becoming part of healthcare ecosystem,” Adeosun said.
When the coronavirus forced many in-person businesses to shut down, the importance of online healthcare education options grew even more pronounced.
Accordingly, another facet of Adeosun’s vision involves bridging the gap between human resources and technology.
Adeosun credits these two recent developments for their contributions to CareAcademy’s success.
Regardless of these happenstance trends, Adeosun’s constant efforts to network and build her company have paid off in the long run.
“My MBAs come in real time through CareAcademy,” Adeosun said.
Whether it’s a chit-chat over coffee or her weekly Saturday networking with one entrepreneur who’s just starting and one who’s further along, Adeosun said she puts in the hard work to build relationships and find the right people for her team.
She has also devoted a lot of time to building her narrative, or business pitch, in order to secure investments.
In her own words, “narrative is the first currency of entrepreneurship.”
Adeosun believes entrepreneurs need to show stakeholders, investors, advisors, mentors and employees why they should be a part of the entrepreneur’s vision for the company.
Scrapping together the capital to get a business idea off the ground is always difficult, which is why a strong narrative is vital, especially for entrepreneurs who are often underestimated or those who face discrimination.
“Enterprising is hard to begin with,” Adeosun said, “and almost zero percent of funding is provided to black and brown women.”
Adeosun also emphasizes the immense amount of work inherent in entrepreneurship. She says that there’s no overnight miracles and credits her own success to constant efforts to network and grow her company.
“There’s a lot of excitement around entrepreneurship,” Adeosun said, “but l try to keep what I say have to say very practical.”
There’s no easy path to building a company from scratch. Instead, Adeosun identifies the willingness to do what others won’t as exactly what sets an entrepreneur apart.
Even Adeosun’s own family members casted doubts on her vision for CareAcademy in its early stages.
“My family would ask me, ’Why are you expending so much energy in creating something that doesn’t exist?’” Adeosun said.
With hard work to cultivate her narrative, commitment to expanding her network, and a little bit of grace, Adeosun managed to overcome many obstacles and find investors willing to place their bets on CareAcademy.
To those who want to follow in her footsteps, and especially to entrepreneurs underestimate themselves, Adeosun said, “build communities, build relationships and be intentional about that.”