Anslee Wilson admits that she was surprised to be sitting alongside some of Gainesville’s most prominent business leaders and philanthropists on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
The panel of guests at the Entrepreneurs: Masters of Innovation awards held by the Featherbone Communiversity inside the Business Incubator at Brenau University was indeed distinguished.
It included Jim Walters, founder of Walters Management Co., who received the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award; Mike McGraw of Ranger Manufacturing; Bill Hall of Murray Plastics; Norma Hernandez of Accounting & Business Services; Bob Swoszowski, co-founder of Northeast Georgia Inc. who is a McDonald’s franchisee with more than 20 locations; and Carlos Dominguez of Dominguez & Jones Wealth Management.
“I had no idea that it existed,” Wilson, 47, said afterward. “I was honored to be selected with that group of people.”
Her surprise is notable because of her own success as an entrepreneur. Wilson started an in-home caregiving business in Gainesville in 2011.
For more than a decade the Gainesville High and University of Georgia graduate had worked in real estate, but when the housing bubble burst about 10 years ago, Wilson began taking stock.
“The whole feel of real estate was changing,” she said.
Wilson began thinking about what she loved and what she would love doing instead.
“I love my grandparents more than anything,” she told an audience of students, business professionals and community residents at the awards ceremony. “I just adored my grandparents. And I’ve always been a caregiver at heart.”
Wilson recalled taking her grandmother weekly to get her hair done, eat at Red Lobster and shop at Belk. And she was always calling her grandparents as they aged, checking in with them every chance she got.
So, Wilson researched the home care industry, got licensed by the state, and opened A Helping Hand Home Care, which provides medication reminders, meal preparation, light housekeeping and laundry, daily hygiene assistance, transportation to doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping for clients, among other things.
“Most people aren’t receptive to help in their home,” Wilson said. “But then once they have the help, they’re happy.”
Wilson said she has about 50 caregivers on staff currently serving between 35 to 40 clients.
Some clients request a visit and support just once a week for six hours, for example, while others require around-the-clock support.
“I wanted to be able to serve people that actually needed me,” Wilson said. “I basically changed my life around and did something totally different, which was really scary.”
Taking risks is, perhaps, what entrepreneurship is all about. It was a common theme among the awardees. But the honorees also had learned the traits of patience, persistence, hard work, and a value for continuing education, they said.
And, like Wilson, mentors, family and friends played a huge role in their successes.
Wilson said she had support from her husband and two children, and learned from her father and stepfather, who were both entrepreneurs.
And Wilson’s mother-in-law founded the first woman-owned, licensed real estate company in Hall County, she said.
“Seeing where she had come from … gave me the strength and the power to think I could do it,” Wilson said.
Relationship-building is another key area the awardees highlighted as a trait successful entrepreneurs need to develop.
And it’s a trait that Wilson said she carried over from her days in real estate. The sense of work, service, companionship and support are qualities that seem to come naturally to her.
“I feel like home care is a relationship-building business,” Wilson said.
But being your own boss has its own costs.
Wilson has also learned along the way that taking care of herself is critical to the health of her company, her employees and her clients.
“I need to probably practice that more than I preach it,” she said.
But she’s working on finding a better “work-life balance” and making sure family comes first.
“It took awhile for me to get to this point,” Wilson said.