Jackie Lieske of Shorecare of Delaware has been honored by the Small Business Administration with the Woman-Owned Business of the Year award.
Few businesses today have at their roots a story of personal struggle and heartache.
Shorecare of Delaware grew from one of those stories, but it has a much more pleasant denouement.
Although started in 2009, Shorecare’s story harkens back to founder Jackie Lieske’s 1960s childhood, when her mother was stricken with multiple sclerosis. A coma left the once-vibrant woman unable to care for herself, and Lieske and her family spent almost three decades dealing with various home care agencies to provide proper care.
Her experiences made her to want to provide something better for patients like her mother, something that allows the elderly or the chronically ill to stay in familiar surroundings, she said.
“In today’s world, everyone is working,” she said. “Kids all have their own lives; they can’t take off work to care for you. They need to work more. You can’t move in with your family so you’re left on your own.
“We’re about giving people the ability to maintain as much of their independence as possible by staying in their own homes,” Lieske said. “It gives people dignity and pride. It’s heartbreaking when someone has to be put into a senior facility.”
But the road to a successful company was rocky. Lieske entered the home health care field in 2009 after being laid off from a banking job. She bought into a Delaware home care agency but found out afterward the previous owner was being investigated for embezzlement and that the company itself was under investigation. She took the prior owner to court and won her case, but ended up thousands of dollars in debt.
Lieske and her husband took what little resources they had remaining and founded Shorecare of Delaware in May 2009.
They started out small, but today have 61 employees, including registered nurses and other home care professionals. Headquartered in Dover, the business provides up to 24-hour-a-day care for patients in all three Delaware counties.
It is a business many people will need, Lieske said: at least 70 percent of those who are 65 years of age or older will need some form of long term care.
Lieske herself was recognized in March by the Small Business Administration with the Woman-Owned Business of the Year award.
What’s the most notable impact your business has had?
We don’t do a lot of advertising, but we get a lot of phone calls. We have grown every year, taking off like wildfire and maintaining it. For us, it’s about putting our clients first and doing the right thing. It’s not about the money, that’s for sure.
When you were going through all your troubles, did you think about abandoning your dream? Why did you stick with it?
I never thought about giving up, I can say that 100 percent. When I decided to make this journey, there was no stopping me. When I got a taste of what I could do as an individual, when I hit an obstacle, it drove me harder. I knew I could do it on my own. I never once was discouraged from doing it because this is the work that I was driven to do.
What are your thoughts on winning the SBA award?
I think it’s just solidifying what hard work and living the dream can do. You can accomplish whatever you want to accomplish.
Is an award recognizing successful women still necessary?
I think it is. Being a CEO of a company is still, unfortunately, a male-dominated position. But times have certainly changed. That’s where awards like this recognize people. They show opportunity is still out there, that it’s not something like a closed book, so it provides encouragement for people.
What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
Never be complacent, because no one is ever perfect. There is always room for growth and improvement.
What advice would you offer to someone starting out?
Once you determine your path of what you want to do, you have to realize there will be bumps in the road and obstacles to overcome, but to never give up. Nothing in this world goes smoothly or the way you think it will.