Every year, we scope out 18 women who are driven by a desire to bring positive change and have achieved success in their chosen field as part of the Great Women Of Our Time awards. Meet 2019’s Health, Sports & Wellness nominee, Gillian Tee, Co-Founder & CEO, Homage:
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Meet Gillian Tee – Great Women Of Our Time 2019 Sports, Health & Wellness Nominee
When the Singaporean Prime Minister gives you a shout-out at the National Day Rally in 2017, you have make sure you can live up to the hype. Gillian Tee does.
The 37-year-old co-founded Homage, an digital platform that matches available caregivers like students and trained nurses with seniors, just a year earlier.
“As Singapore ages, we’re realising how much of a need there is for personalised one-on-one care,” explains the start-up founder.
“A lot of what we do is actually non-medical, and it’s even clearer that we need to help people be mobile, be functional and have the choice to live with dignity as they age.”
Besides non-medical home care, where Gillian says they see a huge need for our elderly population, Homage also provides a full suite of medical and rehabilitative care to enable recovery to many adults and seniors alike.
To date, the company has raised more than $4 million and is eyeing an overseas expansion. They’ve already entered Malaysia but says the focus will very much be in the Asia Pacific.
“With Homage, I hope to build an enterprise that counts and materially improves lives,” says Gillian.
“Every hour of care delivered by each care professional to each care recipient and their loved ones is one more hour of impact and that’s the legacy I want to leave behind.”
Gillian points to her own childhood experience under the supervision of a caregiver that prompted her to explore the beginnings of what would become Homage in 2016.
“I admire my childhood caregiver, whom I spent a lot of time with growing up. It was her actions — how she always looked out for me and all the care she consistently showered on me — that had the largest personal impact on me and I will always carry that with me,” she shares.
“Beyond that, Audrey Evans’ story really inspires me too. An oncologist who was the only female student going through medical school, she co-founded the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia and is known for developing a system that helped saved millions from cancer. She’s a great role model and like her, I simply want to be remembered as someone who cared enough to play a part and act on a solution.”
Still, Gillian emphasizes that it’s not all roses and butterflies when dealing with managing your own start-up.
“Being an entrepreneur means your life will revolve around your business or startup and that has to be a very intentional choice. At your core, when no one is watching, you’ve got to really care about and believe in the ‘why’ behind what you’re doing to get you through the challenging moments,” she explains.
“Because working on a startup can be all consuming, I’ve learnt to be very intentional about carving out time for rest, meditation as well as eating right in order to sustain myself and the focus I have to maintain. Each week I also dedicate time out for yoga, dance and strength training without fail. The exercise has been an important part of helping me deal with the stress that comes with running your own business.”
Back on the business side of things, Homage’s entry into the healthcare industry is not only disruptive because it comes at a time when the medical world is increasingly reliant on technology; it’s also timely as Singapore and many other Asian countries grapple with an increasingly aged society.
In fact, based on projections from the United Nations (UN), 47 per cent of Singapore’s total population will be aged 65 years or older in 2050, making caregiving and the role of caregivers more important than ever.
“Caregiving is not an obscure, niche skill but is a life skill everyone can become great with the right motivation and heart behind it,” says Gillian.
“It’s a common perception that you need to be professionally trained in order to be a good caregiver and what I learnt over the past few years building Homage is that while technical training and caregiving experience is important, the motivation and resilience behind caregiving is what separates perfunctory carers from those who truly make a difference.”
Photos: Vee Chin & Tan Wei Te
Fashion Direction: Aaron Kok
Styling Assistants: Juliet Suen & An Lyn Chee
Hair: Jason Wong/Salon Nu, Grego & Ash Loi/Sonder Salon
Makeup: Keith Bryant Lee, Hongling Lim, Rina Sim, Wee Ming & Jyue Huey (for Shann Sok)
Location: 89NR, The Working Capitol, Botanico at The Garage & The Summerhouse
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