2015 IW Winners

Thunder Bay | Entrepreneur of the Year

Suzanne Tighe

Suzanne Tighe

The strain on the public healthcare system to adequately care for the elderly made Suzanne Tighe contemplate her future golden years.

Before she became owner of a Nurse Next Door franchise in Thunder Bay, she saw a system that was overburdened, ill-equipped, inefficient and unresponsive to the needs of seniors.

“I knew there was a substantial gap in this community,” said Tighe, where almost 18 per cent of Thunder Bay’s population is over the age of 65.

“There are big problems in home care.

“You can’t guarantee the same caregiver. They’re not reliable, not on time, and the scheduling is done through an outof- town call centre. It’s really stressful on seniors to know that people aren’t going to show up on time.”

Nurse Next Door is a health care company that provides in-home care for seniors who need everything from a few hours of companionship to endof- life care. Caregivers help with bathing, dressing, cooking, feeding and other daily activities.

In the three years Tighe has held the franchise, she’s won a company award and recognition from the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and from her former employer, the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise.

Some questioned why Tighe was changing careers; only five years from retirement and stable position at a not-for-profit with a good benefits package.

“Something was just tugging at me. I just couldn’t let it go.”

Encouragement came from her former employer and mentor, Rosalind Lockyer, PARO’s executive director.

“She’s probably the smartest woman I’ve ever met.”

Tighe spent six years as a counsellor with PARO, providing small business training and coaching to women across the North.

“I just loved working there because it gave me a real understanding of Northern Ontario and what services were lacking and what people needed. So this business was a perfect fit for me.”

Tighe was attracted by Nurse Next Door’s code of ethics of building a trusting relationship between client and caregiver.

“What makes us very different is that we’re like a concierge service.”

Her caregivers spend a minimum of three hours with each client.

“You cannot safely go in and give a senior a bath and prepare lunch in a half hour. We treat our clients like family,” said Tighe.

She advertised for “fabulous” caregivers that would be there for their clients in a blizzard.

Tighe’s compassion extends to her staff of more than 30, with whom she confers with on an almost-daily basis. “Ask any staff,” wrote one nominator of Tighe, “and they will tell you how compassionate, supportive and fun she is to work with. Her tireless work ethic is contagious and she is able to find the positive in any situation.”

Nurse Next Door also funds a non-profit entity, the Dream on Seniors Wish Foundation, where employees volunteer to improve the quality of life of senior with a bucket list item, a special event or a trip to reconnect with family.

Expansion of her business beyond Thunder Bay and across northwestern Ontario is definitely in the cards to reach clients in smaller communities over the next three years. IW

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