Transforming your Passion into your Profession with Lianna Genovese
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
"It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward." ~ Rocky Balboa
In the August edition of Conversation Series, Lianna Genovese, the CEO & Founder of ImaginAble Solutions, spoke to us about pursuing her passion in an entrepreneurial capacity while still being a full-time student. Lianna is the inventor of the company’s international award-winning product Guided Hands™. ImaginAble Solutions creates assistive devices for people living with impaired motor control to improve their quality of life during everyday activities. The company’s lead product, Guided Hands™ is an assistive device that enables people with limited fine motor skills to write, draw, and paint as well as type and scroll on a tablet or a computer.
Lianna discussed how she transformed her first-year project at McMaster University into her successful startup company. She also shared her experience as a woman in biomedical and mechanical engineering, as well as a young female entrepreneur with us. Here are five takeaways from her talk! You can also view the full talk here.
1. Make the choice to not let the words of others define you.
When Lianna was starting out and presenting her innovation to people, her passion was noticed. However, with that came the notion of being “too young”, which was a comment made by a judge at a competition she attended. This was a barrier she had to overcome to be taken seriously. She talked about working three times as hard to prove to the judges that she could do this. And through this she learned to not let what others words define you. The next time someone tells you that you can’t because you’re too young or too old, show them that you can!
“It truly broke my heart when I found out that there are 58.4 million people in Canada and the US that are affected by limited hand mobility. I knew I found my calling.”
2. Identify your inspiration and get close to it.
People inspired Lianna. Their real stories and struggles are what led to her invention and company. It all started with Alyssa. Alyssa was a talented painter before she was diagnosed with dystonia, a rare form of cerebral palsy. Her condition impacted her ability to function practically but what caught the interest of Lianna and her team was Alyssa’s passion to express herself. This served as inspiration for what would become Guided Hands™. Throughout her journey as an innovator, Lianna has remained close to this inspiration by working with patients with limited hand mobility and first-hand seeing the smiles on their faces when they could draw and write.
3. Know your story and be able to communicate it.
When Lianna was applying for co-op positions, she applied at a mechanical engineering shop at McMaster. The initial reaction to her coming in as a Biomedical Engineering student was full of assumptions and stereotypes of how she would not be interested in the work because she would crave to have a strong biology component to her project. After an interview filled with “bad vibes,” the interviewer asked her to just say something interesting about herself. And this is when Lianna told the story of her work and of building Guided Hands™. What was the outcome? Not only did Lianna secure the co-op position, this very machine shop now manufactures Guided Hands™! Knowing how to best communicate your narrative to others and make them also care about it is a skill that comes with time. The more you put yourself out there and tell your story, the better you get each time at incorporating others’ feedback and polishing the narrative.
4. Pick yourself up and be willing to learn continuously.
Lianna did not have a business background so when people threw around business jargon at her during meetings, she felt lost. She would go home and be full of doubts about whether she was the right person for leading her innovation. But she was willing to search those terms after meetings and learn. In between taking seven courses, working on her company and simultaneously applying for competitions, she picked herself up and took the initiative to sign up for educational business workshops.
“I would go home after the meeting. I would cry. I thought I wasn’t the right person for this. I doubted myself. I felt inferior… But I realized that I needed to pick myself up and to educate myself.”
5. Let those bright pink nails shine through!
During her co-op, Lianna found the workplace to be a very male-dominated environment. She was one of the only women in the space and found herself having to prove that she was just as capable, if not more. She would paint her nails bright pink because that gave her confidence. During her workday, all the dirt and oil would cover her hands, but her bright pink nails would still shine through. This made her feel powerful! She felt that she could do the job as well as any other person there, and this encouraged her to keep going, despite the lack of representation of women like her in her workplace.
“Don’t let anyone dictate who you are and what you’re capable of. Define yourself. If you have a passion or an inspiration, follow it. And drive towards it. But you have to be willing to take the hit”
What’s next for Lianna and her company?
Lianna aims to use Guided Hands™ as a gateway product to her future line of products at ImaginAble Solutions, all solving everyday problems that people around the world deal with. She is competing at the next Lion’s Lair competition, Hamilton's leading pitch competition that brings together innovation and entrepreneurship.
Click here to view the full talk!
Visit www.imaginablesolutions.ca to learn more about how Guided Hands™ gives individuals their freedom of expression back and enables them to live the life they had always imagined!