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December 15, 2019 | Tom Ballard

Joy Fisher was a champion of and role model for all entrepreneurs

The news came over the weekend that Joy Fisher had lost her long battle with cancer.

For many of our readers, Joy’s name is new to you, but for those who knew her, Joy was a champion for all entrepreneurs and a true role model for persistence in spite of long odds against success.

The news of her death came in a post from her husband on Caring Bridge. Todd wrote: “Joy went to be with the Lord on Sunday, December 8th. She was at home under hospice care with her sister and me attending to her. She put up an incredible fight to try to beat this cancer and did live twice as long as the average.”

We first met Joy in 2005 or 2006. She and Todd both worked at Motorola and had “retired” early to relocate to the North Carolina Mountains. Retirement was not in Joy’s DNA, so she served as a contractor to Technology 2020, helping with some entrepreneurial initiatives like the “Global Venture Challenge,” an joint project with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“My passion for entrepreneurship started in 1995 with an intrapreneurial start-up at Motorola,” Joy told us some years later when she laughingly said the software start-up failed, but she was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.

After Technology 2020, Joy worked for three different components of the University of Tennessee (UT) that support entrepreneurship – the UT Research Foundation, UT Knoxville’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and, some years later, the UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA).

In mid-2013, Joy switched sides, becoming an entrepreneur as Chief Executive Officer of Clodico. As described in this article, the start-up was focused on a very important challenge – developing and marketing a new line of environmentally-friendly disinfectants that quickly kill the bacteria and viruses plaguing hospitals.

Joy was “all-in” on the new venture, making the finals of competitions like the “Charlotte Venture Challenge” and “Global Action Challenge.” Then, about a year later, she received a diagnosis of cancer in the abdominal region. In characteristic “Fisher Fashion,” she began chronicling her journey and the heavy chemotherapy treatments she received with frequent posts on the CaringBridge site. Joy also scheduled her chemotherapy treatments in November 2014 so she could make her pitch at the “Global Action Challenge.” Few of those in the audience even realized her health issue.

When we posted this article on in April 2015, Joy was in remission, only to have the rug pulled-out from under her when the licensor of the technology behind Clodico terminated the agreement. With the start-up no longer viable,  she found a new way to help with entrepreneurship, this time as a contractor at UTIA.

The cancer subsequently returned and chemotherapy treatments resumed along with more surgeries. On August 28, Joy posted a long message on Caring Bridge, her last that we saw. “The bottom line is that chemo is no longer working and there really isn’t anything they can do for me. Am I happy about this? Not in the least! But my faith is very strong and I know that I know where I’m going when all is said and done. I’m trusting in God’s plan, and I truly have the peace that passes all understanding. I don’t get myself worked up about any of this. I just roll with the punches, get back up and start fighting again. And continue to believe in the miracle, if that is His will.”

For those of us who knew Joy, she was truly an inspiration for all and a role model for entrepreneurs. She was forthright and transparent – you never doubted her opinion or view on any subject. She was a great communicator, even if you did not like the message she delivered. She was tenacious in spite of the challenge at hand, whether personal or professional. She maintained her faith and positive attitude. She fought to the end.

What more can you say? Just this: the Joy Fisher that we had the privilege of knowing the last 13 or 14 years should be an inspiration for everyone. She truly made a difference, and I know those who were touched by Joy will agree.

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