Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Austin Cooper, Founder and CEO of Delores Digital, located in Colorado Springs, CO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Delores Digital, colloquially called Delores, provides digital health and telemedicine services to BIPOC youth, families, and underserved communities. At Delores Digital, we find doctors, therapists, coaches, counselors, and other health experts with ethnic and diverse backgrounds, so underprivileged peoples have seamless access to engage health & wellness experts who relate to their unique experience as a minority in America.
Delores is a digital platform available on the web and in app stores. Designed for people of color but open for all to benefit from, individuals are able to use Delores to find, connect and engage with the health and wellness expert they feel is best suited to support them. We also work with schools and non-profit organizations to develop long-term support programs for students, families, and faculty.
Tell us about yourself
I founded Delores Digital to help fellow black and BIPOC people like myself be better willing and able to find and engage in support for their physical and mental well-being. I started working on using technology in healthcare as a student at the University of Pennsylvania. I was a part of an organ transplant research study with The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. Speaking with doctors and patients, I learned that wait times were predominant factors leading to poor outcomes and death. So, with the support of doctors, I created a platform that let patients rank transplant centers across the country by the respective position they would be placed on their waitlist. Helping them register at the center that would get them to surgery the quickest and then let them communicate with the doctors there.
That was my first experience building a system for people in need, and it showed me the power that information and professional advice play in health outcomes. After I graduated from Penn, I began working on Wall Street. One of a few people of color, we often talked about the poor mental and physical health our family & friends struggled with, and we were aware that our job came with a higher risk of experiencing similar struggles. Unfortunately for some of my friends, and to a degree, I found ourselves in those moments of struggle. But when those situations arose majority of us struggled to find and/or take steps to find support, primarily because of difficulties finding a time that fit our schedules and challenges finding an expert who understood our experiences as minorities in America.
Learning that this wasn’t isolated to those close to me, I revitalized my experience building a patient-to-expert engagement platform to support people of color looking to find care. To be candid, what keeps me motivated to do what I do every day is frustration. Frustration that people are unnecessarily struggling with problems and cycles of pain when there exists support for them. Within my community, the African American community, generational trauma and pain have been passed down from parent to child for years. It thrills me that I am a part of the generation working to break that cycle, but I am someone discontent with waiting for change. I believe the only way breakthroughs truly happen is through direct and focused action. Every day I am blessed with the choice to help drive action that will benefit my community and communities across the country or choose to sit idle and hope. Every day I opt to choose action.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
At the risk of sounding indecisive, everything we have done to date is a proud accomplishment to me. Developing our platform and successfully recruiting health and wellness experts from across the country was no small feat, and it fills me with immense pride. I considered Delores Digital a success when we were able to help our first customer connect with an expert for care. A singular person being able to find us and receive the support they needed was a victory for the business, but what excited me most was knowing that we were achieving our mission and helping someone through a challenging moment in their life.
At times we gain new customers who come to us from a different business or system because they did not receive adequate support for their situation there. Often, they were going through something very serious, and it crushes me to hear that what they thought would be life-improving support ultimately let them down, but I am able to smile at the end of the day because we were able to make a difference and give them the assistance they needed. That's where my joy comes from. Knowing that we are able to put people in touch with the assistance they need, instead of them having to struggle to carry a burden any longer.
As incredible as some of our achievements, such as being accepted into and being a current cohort member of the minority entrepreneur accelerator/access program of The Latino Leadership Institute, are the proudest accomplishment of my business Delores Digital is actively completing our mission. Every day we are operating, we are giving someone the ability to improve their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Nothing makes me prouder than that.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Being a business owner requires sacrifices. With any job, goal, or work, you must be willing to do things that you don't necessarily "want" to do but you know you must do. As a business owner, that sensation is heightened. It's not just yourself that is at risk, not just your personal goals at risk, but your entire operation, your staff, and everyone who relies on the work you do. I find that being a business owner requires more than just being unselfish and hard-working; it requires you to be willing to sacrifice.
You must be able to put aside your own desires and preferences to make decisions that are ultimately in the best interest of your entire organization. Handling financials growing partnerships, and operational procedures are all challenges that business owners must address appropriately, but the hardest part is not the "work" itself. It's holding yourself to a higher standard than anyone else would ever place on you, holding yourself accountable, and being brutally honest with yourself. Being the person that the business needs you to be and not just being the person that you want to see yourself as.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Before you begin, make sure you're ready. Not just in a financial position to support yourself but ready for the emotional and mental ups and downs. Ask yourself if this is a business, concept, or path you are committed to enough to go through even the direst of circumstances. Are you ready to sacrifice for it?
- Put all advice in perspective and silence outside noise and expectations. The first thing you need to do is remember people are quick to share their successes but often hide their struggles. You can't compare yourself against headlines or boastful words of others. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday and who you want to be today.
- Laugh now, cry later. There are going to be great times, and there are going to be painful moments. Enjoy the process and think of pains as the development of battle scars - stories that you're going to tell around the table years from now.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.