Lisa Morris parlayed her acting career on Broadway into a business career.Now, the “accidental entrepreneur” wears several hats at multiple companies. Her latest investment is in SociAvi, a product to help the elderly use technology safely.
As a theater kid, Lisa Morris didn’t anticipate a business career. In fact, she would call herself an “accidental entrepreneur.”
“While I was touring, I felt that our travel was handled poorly. So I started what I thought at the time was going to be a little side hustle, just a little extra money while I was touring, booking the travel not only for my own tour, but for other people’s touring companies,” Morris told Business Insider.
She said she got a call from “Jersey Boys,” then “Spamalot,” and realized she had found an underserved niche market.
“I got a call from ‘Hairspray,’ and that’s when I was like, ‘This is a real company.’ So I quit acting, which I had not planned on. And I set about becoming an entrepreneur,” Morris said.
She said she had to get creative to make things work initially. She made a deal with a Wall Street hedge fund: She’d be their receptionist for minimum wage if she could run her travel business from their offices.
Eventually, she scaled that business and sold it to a global travel agency in 2012. She still runs that company as a division of the larger company, but the acquisition allowed her to pursue other ventures.
“I then started investing. My focus as an investor was, and is, early-stage social impact businesses, particularly those with a diverse founder,” Morris said. “That got me into a lot of angel groups, women investor groups, women entrepreneur groups, and I started funding a lot of different companies helping to grow other businesses.”
Courtesy of Lisa Morris.
At the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization’s summit held at the United Nations in November, Morris highlighted her latest investment project: A company called SociAvi. It’s a product that helps the elderly use technology to connect with their loved ones without becoming vulnerable to scams and online threats.
“It’s a game changer for the older person. No passwords, no logins, no links, nothing to frustrate and upset them,” Morris said at the WEDO summit.
The device — which is encrypted and about the size of a laptop — also comes with speech therapy and music therapy modules for the older person to work through, as well as puzzles to asses their memory. The data from those exercises can be used by the caregiver or shared with a doctor if needed, said Morris, who also serves on SociAvi’s advisory board.
“These are people that don’t necessarily have enough advocacy, have enough people speaking for them, have enough visibility, because the world has gone so far into social media and these types of platforms, and they’re not part of it,” Morris told Business Insider.
As an entrepreneur, Morris wears many hats, she said. In addition to her travel company and work with SociAvi, Morris works as a managing director for a Single Family Office, which caters to ultra-high net worth families and their investments.
She also works in philanthropy as Director of Philanthropic services for FORCE Family office, senior consultant to the Mary Tyler Moore Foundation, and Vice President of AKS Family Foundation. She is also a pitch coach at the New York State Research and Development Authority, where she works with entrepreneurs to help them hone their presentation skills.
“If I ever had a title, I would be like the accidental entrepreneur. Because I truly fell into entrepreneurship, fell into selling the company, fell into the family office space,” Morris said. “My interest is to use the entrepreneurial talent and the network to push great things forward that change the world, whether it’s philanthropic or through investment.”
But entrepreneurs have to be ready to fight to be successful, Morris said.
“If I had a tip for entrepreneurs, it would very much be you have to be prepared to pivot at any time,” Morris said. “I don’t know anyone that’s built a business that hasn’t taken a lot of punches.”