Founder of Shorecare of Delaware finds passion in home health care

Jackie Lieske has overcome many obstacles as she founded Shorecare of Delaware. Now she is an award-winning business owner. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Jackie Lieske has overcome many obstacles as she founded Shorecare of Delaware. Now she is an award-winning business owner. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — Jackie Lieske couldn’t have chosen to start a business any closer to her heart than home health care.

After all, Lieske remembers vividly when she was a child in the 1960s and her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. A coma left her mom unable to care for herself and Lieske and her family spent almost 30 years trying to find quality home care for her.

Ms. Lieske said that all the years of her family trying to find caring and compassionate home care for her mother made the issue became personal. So she decided to do something about it.

Hence, Shorecare of Delaware was born in May 2009.

Despite some rocky times in her businesses’ infancy, Ms. Lieske has pushed on and was honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Delaware District Office with the Woman Owned Business of the Year award at the SBA’s annual Delaware Small Business Awards Dinner on May 5.

“You can’t go to school and learn a personal experience,” Ms. Lieske said. “You have to actually experience it and I think that makes a difference where [my business is] much more involved — the compassion’s there, it’s not about the bottom dollar, it’s about providing the services that a family needs.

“I think one of the main differences is I that lived through having home health care for my mother. Having to experience the need of it and expectations surrounding it I think that we’re more able to deliver it. I have a professional, as well as a personal, background.”

Ms. Lieske said that Shorecare of Delaware’s goal is to help the chronically ill and elderly stay in their own homes and allow them to keep as much independence as possible.

Christina Mosley, an administrative assistant with Shorecare of Delaware, said that Ms. Lieske was a great choice to receive the SBA honor.

“I’ve been with the company since October,” Ms. Mosley said. “I took a leap because I had been with Bayhealth for 10 years so coming into a small, family-oriented business, I was kind of nervous at first.

“But I am so glad that I took that leap. [Lieske] has been very inspirational with just learning about her journeys through all of this. I keep learning more because I am fairly new. But it’s very comforting to know that.”

Finding success in the business world didn’t come easy for Ms. Lieske. She decided to pursue her business in the home health care industry in 2009 after she found out she had been laid off from her banking job.

She then bought into a home health care agency but found out later that the previous owner was being investigated for embezzlement and the company was under investigation.

Ms. Lieske took the previous owner to court and eventually won her case but ended up nearly $100,000 in debt and missed out on around eight months of getting her business up and running.

“I guess being a new entrepreneur in the business world there were unexpected hurdles that I had in being naive and not knowing what to expect when making business deals and what to look for,” Ms. Lieske said. “Unfortunately, I learned a valuable lesson.”

She also pressed on, vowing not to quit. The experiences she went through with her mother involving the complexities of health care provided her with inspiration.

Shorecare of Delaware now provides round-the-clock home care for patients in all three counties in the state. Ms. Lieske now has around 60 employees, including many registered nurses and other health care professionals.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do ever since my mom was sick and I never once had a second thought,” Ms. Lieske said. “It even drove me more. It just gave me that extra push and made me feel like, ‘I’m going to come back 10-fold and do better than what any expectations were that anybody could have had.’”

Ms. Lieske certainly has accomplished that. She now owns the building at 874 Walker Road in Dover that she moved Shorecare of Delaware to almost two years ago.

Ms. Lieske thinks back to when she started her business seven years ago and would hardly change a thing — well, maybe that difficult start.

“It’s all or nothing. It’s not something you do at a whim,” she said. “When you decide to do it you have to stick with it and you have to understand that you have to take the good with the bad.”

Ms. Lieske also noted that home healthcare is a business that many people will need. She said that of those individuals 65-years-old and older at least 70 percent of them will need some form of long-term care.

As for that Woman Owned Business of the Year award, that just kind of helped bring it all full circle for Ms. Lieske.

“It was surreal,” she said. “I really never expected to be at this level to be recognized for a statewide award but it really was heartwarming and it’s something that will stay with me forever.

“The [business] world is starting to balance out [between men and women] but it’s still a struggle. To do this as a woman and to do it 100 percent with my family and the staff that I have here, it’s just a matter of everybody coming together but yeah, it felt great.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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