Quote from the CEO:
“I made Ringette Team Canada when I was 15 years old. I was the youngest on the team, I played goalie and I worked hard. After seeing me play, parents from around the region started contacting me and saying, “Hello, I’d like you to teach my daughter.” And I thought, wow, I can train these young athletes. I could help them based on my own experience through coaching. That is what inspired my first business; that’s when it all started for me.”
We sat down with serial entrepreneur Elizabeth Audette-Bourdeau, Co-Founder and CEO of Welbi, the new standard for retirement communities, to get to know her, the business she’s building and a little bit more about what it’s like scaling a tech venture in Ottawa.
Top 20 Questions
1. Your best/worst subject in school?
Can I say right off the bat, I’m weird about these things; I’m all about the teacher. I think it could be the most challenging subject, arguably the “worst” subject, but if you have the right professor, it could be the best class.
You need to grab my attention. If you’re delivering the content from the book, why bother? I can just read it on my own. What I look for in a professor is someone who uses their own real-life experiences to teach. Everything needs experience.
2. What was your first job?
My first job was as a coach. In 2011 I founded my first business Camp Pulsion, a ringette goaltending camp and training company.
3. Best advice you ever took?
It’s never a good time, just do it!
4. Tip you would share with this year’s graduating class?
Create your own path.
5. What book are you reading?
Right now I’m reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming. But my favourite book – the one I tell everyone to read – is Shoe Dog, a memoir by the creator of Nike Phil Knight.
You’re not judged by what you accomplish, you’re judged by the impact you have on others.
7. One thing that surprises you about business?
How vitally important your network is.
8. What motivates you?
The potential to have an impact.
With my first business, I knew I was having an impact when the athletes were sending me pictures, thanking me, showing off their medals. It was an incredible feeling to know my company, and I played a role in that. And with Welbi, it’s when our clients tell us, “I wouldn’t be able to do my job right without Welbi” or “I’ve been able to provide better service and care because of your company.” One day it will be “Because of Welbi, we’ve been able to help our seniors live longer, happier, and healthier lives.”
9. When was the last time you worked a 40 hour work week?
Never. Ummm, well define work?
10. What is the best (most recent) feedback you received from one of your employees?
The best feedback I’ve gotten is seeing my employees fully dedicated, fully invested in Welbi. There are people out there that believe in our cause, in our company, our vision and our mission.
11. When are you most productive?
When there are no distractions, so, first thing in the morning or at night; I want to be available for my team so when I have focused alone time that’s when I can get the most done.
How do you find balance?
I’m working on it. It’s hard, but I’m working on it with my team. Now, we have weekly goals, quarterly goals and yearly goals. They’re work-related and personal. And they’re displayed so we can hold each other accountable and all help one another stay on track. It’s going very well.
12. The best thing about being a CEO?
I get to build a team, with people who share the same values as Welbi. I work closely with them. I support them in achieving their objectives, and then I celebrate them.
13. The most challenging thing about being a CEO?
You have lots of hats to wear. I cover the finances, marketing, sales, all of the things. It’s a lot of pressure, and it’s all on me. But, personally, I like pressure.
14. What is one word that describes your leadership style?
I don’t know if there’s a single word that describes me but, as a leader, I like to lead by example.
15. You have ___________ in your office?
16. An experience that has influenced you the most as a leader?
Joining Team Canada for ringette is the experience that shaped me most as a leader. I was 15 and the youngest on the team, but as the goalie, people looked to me. I learnt to lead by example, to stay positive, to work hard, and to adapt. Then when I became a coach, I was challenged once again. I learnt to be supportive from the sidelines and to manage all of the various pieces so that they could work together.
17. A CEO that inspires you?
18. If you weren’t a CEO, you would be?
I would do any role, anything that contributes to Welbi’s success.
19. An organization that you always make time for?
The University of Ottawa. Speaking at universities or colleges, I hope to inspire students to start their own businesses.
20. Favourite app?
Waze! I’m on the road all the time and every time I travel I have to have it on.
Q: Where did the idea for Welbi stem from?
A: My family didn’t have what we needed to care for my grandfather when he was here. I want to do something to take care of other people’s families.
My grandfather lived an hour away from my parents. My father would do the drive every day to visit him. He would do his very best to make sure he was okay; that he was taking his medication, healthy and cared for. I saw what this did to my parents, and when my grandpa did pass away, I was like “I’ve got to do something.”
On Startup Weekend I pitched the idea for Welbi everyone was excited and that was the confirmation I needed. Since the product has evolved but the vision is the same: support providers of care to care for loved ones.
Q: How did you meet your co-founder?
A: Well, I met him through a friend of a friend of a friend. I had absolutely no tech background, but I had this idea for a tech company. I was spending all of my free time at tech events, listening to learn more and talking with as many people as I could about my idea and that I was looking for a co-founder. And one day Nick (Nick Petryna, CTO & Co-Founder, Welbi) stopped by my office, and we just had a chat. We played a ping-pong game, he beat me, and I thought, “All right, I can work with him.” Building Welbi, we went out on a whim, and it worked. We both shared the same vision and ambition and wanted to find the solution to something devastating we, like so many others, experienced while trying to care for our loved ones.
Q: As you build your team and you hire new employees what are you looking for?
A: The number one thing I look for is fit within our team. Welbi is a startup; we need teammates that are motivated, can handle the ups and downs, and can work independently. And when it comes to hiring students or new graduates (if you’re reading this take note), I always look for experience outside of school.
Welbi was founded in 2016 in Ottawa, Canada by a team of passionate individuals who have each struggled with providing care to older loved ones.
Welbi is one of the Ottawa-based startups in the IO Accelerator Program. To learn more about the program or how you can apply, visit our website today at www.InvestOttawa.ca/io-accelerator/.