Member Spotlight: Lissa Appiah

Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Lisa Appiah, I’m the founder of WeApply Canada. 

We provide career and leadership development services. We work with individuals, mostly mid-level to executive-level professionals, who are looking to make career changes or to advance in their career. 

We also support organizations with their career development programming.

What made you decide to pursue your business?

I’ve always had an interest in career development, though I didn’t necessarily realize in times past that it was a field or how it works, that you can get certified. But I was always that person that people came to for help to prepare for an interview or to help them update their resume. 

I decided over time to pursue it as an industry, as a field, as my own career. I had a career in public service. Having gone through that process also opened my eyes to some of the opportunities that were there to better support professionals. 

There’s often support for people starting their careers, there’s often support when people are executives – executive coaching is very popular – but there isn’t that much support for people who are ‘in between[. So that’s why I decided to focus on that.

Is there a particular accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Recently I was recognized as one of Canada’s 100 Black Women to Watch for 2022. So that was a pretty huge achievement. 

And also – after spending two years or more online during the pandemic, building my brand online – to start again to go to live events, and have the people that I’ve been interacting with online recognize me. It felt good to just be recognized for the efforts that I’ve been putting in over the years.

What has kept you really driven and motivated, particularly during the harder parts of entrepreneurship?

What keeps me motivated is my son. I have a four year old, and he’s part of the reason why I started the business. He definitely keeps me motivated and encourages me in his own way without knowing it. 

Also: being able to see the transformation in my clients. Sometimes, as you know, entrepreneurship can be challenging. But when you’re able to see your clients achieve their goals, it just makes everything really worth it.

What are the challenges that you faced, in terms of building your business?

Yeah, one of the biggest challenges for me has just been where to find information and resources, I feel like there is a lot of stuff out there, but if there isn’t like a centralized repository where you can just find it organized in a good way. So I think that’s one of the main challenges that I experienced. 

And also, in terms of the information sometimes being available, it’s different for product-based business versus a service-based business and a lot of the resources out there that I’ve been able to find is often towards product-based businesses. So that’s another challenge that I’ve seen along the way. 

I think also just…expectations. I feel like there’s a picture of entrepreneurship that’s often sold to us, but I really bought into thinking that oh, it’s just gonna all work out. But then once I started, I realized that I’m the person doing literally everything. 

It’s been an awesome learning curve, to learn so many things from designing my website to email marketing. I can do it all now, although I have people who do support me, at this point. But that first year setting the right expectations was really important.

And that term ‘entrepreneur’, what does that term mean to you?

I think being an entrepreneur is really someone who’s made a decision that they are going to pursue a goal. They have a passion, or they’ve identified a need, and they have a solution to address that need. 

I really think that’s what entrepreneurship really is. It’s just being able to look at our society, look at what is missing, and being willing to fill that gap or fill that void.

Is there a message you would like to share with other women entrepreneurs?

I would say keep going. I attended – just this week – an amazing event here in Ottawa with women entrepreneurs related to international women’s month. But just being able to come together with different women who are at different stages of their business, it’s extremely inspiring to be able to see the path that they’ve taken. 

Even though there are challenges about funding and about biases, and all that is real, being able to still take a stance and say, I’m going to move forward, not just for me, but for those who are coming after me. I’ve seen a lot of that, and I find that extremely inspiring. 

So I would just say keep going. Because sometimes the work that you’re putting in may not be just for you, but you’re actually impacting other people while you’re doing it.

And what made you sign up with the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce?

When I heard about it and saw some posts on social media, I decided to sign up just to get more information. 

Especially when it comes to funding and and when it comes to events that are happening, it’s really helpful to just have it straight in my inbox. And I can just go through it, you know, every couple of days to see what’s happening. 

So as I was talking about earlier – just being able to find those resources in one place – I think that’s what the Chamber of Commerce has really helped me with: accessing the information all in one place.

So thank you to your organization for the work that you’re doing at the Chamber of Commerce. You’re making a difference in the path of many, many women and people who self-identify as women, so thanks for the work you do.

What were the benefits of joining the chamber for you?

Number one would be ability to access resources. I’ve attended a couple of the networking events, it’s been nice meeting new people, then connecting with them on LinkedIn. 

And I would say another one is that the people you meet are from all across Canada. So it’s also an opportunity for you to just widen your scope and meet new people.

If you were to go back in time, and maybe five years ago, what advice would you give yourself?

Five years ago, the advice I would give myself is to not be afraid. Five years ago was the time where I was debating whether or not to start the business and I had a lot of hesitation around it. So I would say to myself: there are a lot of things you just will not know until you actually start it. 

And once you take that first step, then the rest will come not all at once. But it’s a journey, really – it’s a journey of learning. It’s been a journey of improving myself. 

I think one of the best things that I’ve received since I’ve been an entrepreneur is just improving myself and becoming confident, being more assertive, and really taking ownership of the value that I have to provide, and not settling for less. 

All that wouldn’t have come if I didn’t take that first step. So, I would say the advice I would give myself is not to be afraid.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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