The WE-CAN Project at Queen’s University receives support from the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. The mission for WE-CAN (Women Entrepreneurs Can) is to inspire and empower existing and aspiring women-identifying entrepreneurs by providing them with tools, resources, expert mentors, networks and community-building to expand existing businesses and launch new ventures.
WE-CAN client Lisa Henderson M.A.A.T.O., CBCO is the President and Lead Designer at House of Three in Inverary, Ontario. With over 20 years of design experience, she has worked as a building inspector, designer for a home builder, kitchen designer, flipped houses, and taught architecture as a college professor – before following her dream of owning her own business.
Lisa graduated from the Architectural Technician program at Loyalist College, is a certified architectural technologist with the AATO, and has completed all BCIN qualifications. Born and raised in Roslin, Ontario, she moved to the Kingston area 20 years ago where she now lives with her partner Trevor, son Bentley, and bullmastiff Magnus, in Inverary.
Over the past two years, Lisa has participated in a number of WE-CAN programs, including Compass North, the Rural Mentorship Program, LEAD, LEAD+, the WE-CAN Social Media Boot Camp as well as multiple WE-CAN workshops.
WE-CAN Project Manager, Kerry Ramsay, recently caught up with Lisa to learn about the progress she’s made since being a part of the WE-CAN Project.
Q - What prompted you to get involved with the WE-CAN Project at the beginning?
A - Not that long ago, I met Kerry while teaching at Loyalist College. When she made the move to Queen’s University to lead the implementation of the WE-CAN Project, she reached out to see if they could help, and the rest is history!
Q - What were some of your big challenges when you first began working with WE-CAN?
A - I had bootstrapped the business and was in serious debt. I’ve worked hard to get to the point that I am almost debt-free, have an emergency fund and a plan for moving forward!
Q - What are some of the highlights of your experience with WE-CAN?
A - The Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship Program helped pave the way for planning—I got better control of my finances, incorporated the business, and built some amazing friendships with other women business owners! Claire recently bailed me out when I needed a photographer for our website headshots at the last possible second when our original photographer had a family emergency—four days before her wedding!
LEAD helped educate me on many other different aspects, and I particularly liked the 12-week work year. I recently signed up for LEAD+ and can’t wait to learn and grow even more!
I thought I generally had social media under control, and then I met Jennifer of Jennifer Baker Social Media Consulting. I have taken a TON of Jennifer’s courses/workshops, and I always learn something new in the ever-changing world of social media. I know if I run into a problem, I can always reach out, but the bootcamp was invaluable. It helped me realize my target audience, and where I reach them.
Jim Banting from the Queen’s Partnership and Innovation team was also a great sounding board for talking about different possible solutions he might be able to help with, particularly with tech solutions.
And finally, Compass North has pushed me farther than I ever imagined possible. Mike is always in the back of my mind saying: “Is that the safe goal? Push farther!” Pat helps put things in perspective and will reach out to any contact he has ever made. And then there’s my mentor Jane, who is amazing, and helps me plan and implement it all—and is there whenever I need her!
Q - Can you update us on some of the progress you’ve made during your WE-CAN experience?
A - A lot! We’ve experienced a nearly 365% growth in sales since 2019 and built our team; we are now a team of three full-time designers, a full-time office manager, and two interns.
Q - What would you tell a female entrepreneur who is considering getting involved with the WE-CAN Project?
A - Do it—as long as you’re willing to do the work, you will succeed. The social network is incredible, and when you need help, reach out. Your mentor may not be able to help personally, but likely she knows someone who does.
Q - Do you have any advice for a woman in tech who may be looking to grow her business in the current climate?
A - Get involved, speak with your mentor, take the suggestions and run with it. It works!
Q – We have to ask: what’s your favourite style of architecture?
A – It’s currently a mix of traditional and contemporary residential homes; it changes constantly!
Q – Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t already talked about?
A - The team at WE-CAN has become invaluable to my business and its continued growth. We have achieved so much and I can’t wait to see what else we can do, and to give back at some point. If you’ve been on the fence about getting involved, just jump in!
To learn more about House of Three, visit www.houseofthree.ca.
The WE-CAN Project is led by Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI) and includes the following partners: the City of Kingston, the Kingston Economic Development Corporation, St. Lawrence College, the KEYS Job Centre, L-SPARK, the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre, Okwaho Equal Source, and the Queen’s Business Law Clinic. This WE-CAN Project team designs and delivers targeted programs and services to support women-identifying entrepreneurs in the greater Kingston region who consider themselves to be a part of one or more of the following underrepresented groups: women who have founded or who lead technology companies, women who identify as Indigenous, women from racialized communities, newcomer women to Canada, women with a disability, women from rural areas, women under 40, and females who self-identify as a part of the LGBTQ2S community.