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The path to CEO is often filled with many defining moments, but few are as impactful as the seven minutes that led Lisa S. Jones to her role as the founder and CEO of EyeMail Inc. The technology leader and entrepreneur began her career at NASA as a Logistics Specialist, but even as she moved through the ranks, taking executive roles in corporate America, she longed to start her own business.
“I always knew that there was something in me, that there was an entrepreneur seeking to get out,” says Lisa, “I was working as an executive, and everything was fine, but I wasn’t fulfilled, and my fear, of course, was that I wouldn’t ever be able to reach my potential.”
Lisa’s journey to CEO took hold one fateful morning as she was driving into the office. At 8:24 a.m., she received a harrowing phone call from her sister. Lisa’s mother had died unexpectedly at the age of 61.
“I remember pulling the car over and thinking how life can change at any moment,” says Lisa.
It was during the funeral service that the course of her life would take a dramatic turn. Lisa had planned to speak on her mother’s behalf, but when the time came, she was overcome with grief. She couldn’t do it.
“The services lasted for seven minutes – this is my experience of how long it lasted. I remember thinking that I was going to get up and speak on my mom’s behalf,” says Lisa, “I’m a good speaker in front of crowds, but I couldn’t do it on this day. As everybody walked back to their cars, I remained at my mother’s graveside.”
During these moments, immediately following her mother’s funeral service, Lisa made a promise that she was going to make up for those seven minutes – that she was going to go back to Atlanta and focus on creating a company, a global company, to honor her mother’s legacy.
“That has been my driver of everything that is happening now – to make up for those seven minutes.”
When Lisa returned to Atlanta, she dove headfirst into building a business that mattered. She thought about all the ways people communicate – and how that one call from her sister had changed her life. She decided she wanted to focus on email communications and signed up for hundreds of different marketing email newsletters to find out what brands like Walmart, Home Depot and the NBA were doing with their email programs.
“What I found was that every single last one of the emails had one thing in common: I did not feel special after reading them. I did not feel inspired to click anything or take an action.”
This was Lisa’s “aha” moment – she wanted to bring email to life.
“I asked myself, what if email could be brought to life? What if I could create an engaging experience that captures attention and drives calls to action – and it would happen directly in the email inbox? And so, with that, I started the journey of EyeMail.”
The first thing Lisa did was write down “bring email to life” – and now it’s her company’s tagline. Since its inception, EyeMail – a multi-patent pending email technology platform that enables instant-play video and audio across all email, webmail and mobile platforms – has become the global company Lisa first imagined it to be, currently used by clients in the U.S., Canada, Pakistan, Africa, the UK and India.
“I remember a time when I was still working my corporate role attempting to build my brand – working until 3:00 a.m. for years on my brand. I would sleep for approximately three to four hours, repeat the cycle of working from nine to five and then would begin work on my company.”
But it all paid off, and Lisa has time and again been rewarded for her efforts. One accomplishment that has had significant meaning for Lisa: Being recognized as Delta Airlines’ Catalyst of the Year for Innovation in 2018.
“Every time I think about the fact that Delta recognized EyeMail at a celebration of over 300 stakeholders, partners and employees at a corporate event – including recognition on their in-air flight studio and their SkyMall magazine globally – it has been the most humbling and rewarding experience of my journey,” says Lisa, “I am a diverse female CEO. This measure of acknowledgement extends beyond diversity and inclusion. It also impacts Delta’s social responsibility to pay it forward and continuously drive for innovation and increasing customer engagement.”
EyeMail continues to partner with the airline and has been able to increase Delta’s email response rates by more than 58%. Lisa says the recognition she received from Delta has provided her entire team with ongoing confidence and relentless determination, knowing their work and innovation makes a difference.
Lisa’s journey hasn’t been without hardships. Early on in the development of EyeMail’s platform, when Lisa was still working full time in a corporate role, after signing an NDA, a multimillion dollar company attempted to use her intellectual property, concepts and technology as their own.
“I learned how to gain my voice early in my CEO days and how to stand up for what I had worked so hard to accomplish,” says Lisa about the court battle to win back her intellectual property.
The entire process took up a year and half of Lisa’s life. It was a long drawn out struggle and, at times, left her feeling like giving up.
“I always think about the reason I started the business – that’s what keeps me on track,” says Lisa. “When the company came and tried to rip off and duplicate my technology, that’s when I told myself, ‘Lisa, you have something great – why would they try to take it before I even launched the brand?’”
Lisa remains grateful that the incident happened so early in her journey, because it taught her how to deal with challenges going forward – what to avoid and how to maintain her voice as CEO.
“Once I focused on my commitment, my passion and my belief in my direction, I was fueled to overcome any challenge,” says Lisa. “All we need is authentic motivation to live our dreams to bring them to life. With this fire lit from within, I was able to stand my ground to face the opposition.”
Lisa did more than face the opposition – she expanded her vision for her company, broadening marketing efforts and building a relationship with Microsoft to advance EyeMail’s technology and grow the brand globally.
“Stay true to your vision and yourself, even if it doesn't make sense to anyone else,” says Lisa. “Remember to stay the course in your journey forward because greatness readily awaits your arrival.”
Lisa’s inspiring words do not stop there. Her advice to women in the industry: Always know that you deserve all the great things you are working towards.
“Sometimes we all struggle, questioning ‘am I worthy?’ Or, am I being a perfectionist – not launching or pursuing something unless it is 100% correct. I have learned over the years that you must embrace your journey every step of the way and realize every step forward, big or small, all count toward the greater good of the journey.”
Lisa says women should continue to seek and gain knowledge – advice that applies not only to entrepreneurs but anyone who has a dream.
“We all have our paths to follow, but the principles still apply: Know that it is within you to succeed. You can do it!”
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