Cara Lunsford is a nurse and a creator of HOLLIBLU, a social networking app made exclusively for nurses to connect the nursing community. The app launched in 2008.
Q: How did you become an entrepreneur?
Originally I had the idea back when I was working on the floor, and then me and my colleague started the supportive care committee where we were helping nurses to sustain the profession.
After that, I went to work as a director of nursing. I was looking for nurses, but I couldn’t find them. When I realized I couldn’t find nurses, I decided that I really wanted to create an app for nurses. At that time, apps were not as popular as today but I started thinking about an app for nurses to bring everyone together.
Q: What is the goal of HOLLIBLU? Why is it important?
The goal was to bring everyone together and to bring opportunity to them and resources. It was tough because I had to raise a lot of money and I had to raise $1.2 million over the course of four years.
Q: What obstacles have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Sometimes there are obstacles when it comes to being a female entrepreneur. It was harder for me to raise money than it was for my male counterparts. I would watch some of the people around me in the tech industry. Sometimes I felt like people were throwing money at people, like some of the male colleagues. For me, I felt like I had to sell my soul to get money sometimes.
As I was growing the business and partnering with other companies, I was at the table with people and other large corporations. [Sometimes it was hard to feel] heard and respected and people [had to realize] I can be a nurse, and I can be an entrepreneur, and I can be a kickass CEO.
There are a lot of obstacles you hit when you’re trying to grow a business, but for each of the obstacles you learn and grow from them and they make you stronger. I’m grateful to every person that told me no.
Q: Share some highlights from your journey.
Some of my highlights were meeting people that were out there growing communities and putting their faces out there. One of the biggest highlights is being acquired — having a large company coming along and saying, ‘We like what you’re doing and we want to buy what you have created and we want you and your team to come along.’ That is a dream come true.
I started something I worked really hard on — lots of sleepless nights and lots of just trying to keep the lights on. Being willing to make pivots and changes is what got us here and helps to create the product that some eventually wanted to buy.
Q: Share a rewarding moment from your time as a nurse.
I was a nurse for a year. I had a patient who was being transferred to an outside hospital who had a massive infection and the patient was not being taken care of properly. I advocated for the patient against a lot of obstacles.I had doctors that weren’t listening and people making really poor decisions. I ended up calling another department — I called ICU and I spoke to the manager because nobody was listening to me. I and that nurse were able to make something happen that helped the child survive. That is because I didn’t give up, did not let people walk all over me and did not let people tell me no. I followed my gut instincts. Even though people weren’t listening to me, I kept at it.
Q: What are your future plans?
In the short term, I see the vision that I have for the app to take on this new life at Nurse.com, and watching nurses thrive and being able to do something to change the industry in a positive way so that it’s safe, supportive and sustainable.
Q: What advice would you give other women based on your experiences?
Just go for it. If you have an idea, you’re going to have more regret if you look back and think, “I had that idea and I thought about doing that and I didn’t do it.”
I love to create communities for myself. I connect with people all the time, and when you grow a community for yourself and you have these connections, it allows you to take risks that you would normally not take. If you live in a lonely place — like if you live in a world where you have no one — it is very, very hard to take risks. It’s hard to try new things because if I fail, I don’t have anyone to lean on or to give advice. Grow your community, lean on your community and support your community, and allow your community to support you so that you can do great things.
Q: How can nurses learn to better take care of themselves?
It’s something we all have to learn how to do. We must learn how to prioritize ourselves. Self-love starts with very small things. I try to remind myself to feed myself, water myself and walk by myself. Like the things I would do for my dog, I better be doing it for myself.
Q: What affirmation do you use daily?
“I’m good enough.”
Especially when I’m working with people. When my company was acquired, I came in and the people I was working with had their master’s degrees in business or marketing or communications. And at the beginning, I felt like I had imposter syndrome. People are going to think that I don’t know what I am talking about. I had to keep reminding myself that I am a resource, I have a lot to offer and I have a lot of information to share and it’s valuable.
Q: Where can we find you?
People can find me on the app and I’ll be their first friend. I get connected to people automatically.