Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Katherine Grill, CEO of Neolth, located in Walnut Creek, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Despite rises in teen stress, anxiety, and depression, teens are 1.8x less likely to seek care from clinicians, with the majority preferring self-guided interventions and seeking advice online (McKinsey). Certain populations, like Asian and African American teens, are even less likely to seek traditional mental health treatment (NIMH). To be responsive to these cultural and generational preferences for care, we built Neolth. Our goal is to expand access to preventative mental health support for teens and young adults.
Neolth is a self-guided platform and mobile app built in partnership with 300+ teens and young adults, 88% of whom identify as BIPOC and 17% as LGBTQ+. This scalable solution provides support in building resilience, learning life skills, and managing emotions. Neolth offers a range of activities available via mobile app and browser to help teens build coping skills and learn about mental health. Upon sign-up, a proprietary algorithm matches teens with content personalized for their health needs. Throughout the month, teens engage in relaxation practices, attend live stream events, and explore Neolth's video library, which features educational videos by clinicians and stigma-reducing content about lived experiences by teens. Teens have on-demand access to this self-guided content for use in and out of the classroom.
Teachers help facilitate the program using Neolth's educator platform. Teachers utilize Neolth's premade lesson plans or create their own, to help students build social-emotional competencies and learn about mental health. Neolth's guided activities can be completed in the classroom and assigned to students for homework. Students' activity completion is tracked and shared with teachers. Utilizing self-report check-ins, Neolth helps teens track their stress and health over time. Updates can be shared with school counselors. Neolth's Natural Language Processing system monitors teens 24/7 for signs of depression, suicidality, and self-harm and makes real-time referrals to crisis counselors within the school or community.
Within education, our clients use Neolth as a self-guided wellness tool or as a program integrated into their curriculum. We currently serve students and educators across 250+ K12 and Higher Ed schools. Within healthcare, our clients prescribe Neolth to teens for use between appointments. Remote patient monitoring or EMR integration is possible. We work with health insurance (payors) and school-based and youth-oriented health clinics.
Within the corporate sector, we work with financial organizations and academic companies like textbook and student service providers. They use Neolth as a self-guided wellness tool as part of their member benefits.
Tell us about yourself
From a young age, mental health was a big part of my life. I had family members and friends who struggled with mental health, particularly being unable to access care due to stigma and cost. I saw the devastating impact this had on them and their families and wanted to make a change. I studied Art Therapy in college, interested in the expressive arts as a healing modality. I enjoyed patient care but was frustrated by the inequities in the health system. I returned to school to complete my MA in Psychology and Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience. I wanted to learn how to create and validate health programs that could increase access to and engagement in mental health services. I worked at Children's National pediatric hospital conducting NIH research focused on teens and young adults. I also co-founded a community health program for young adults and was a university professor teaching courses in psychology and neuroscience at undergraduate and graduate levels. I built a well-rounded background in patient care, clinical research, public health, and education. I leveraged this experience to put my passion into action - ultimately founding Neolth as a way to create impact at scale for millions of people.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Neolth has received venture funding and many awards, including being selected as a top global solution for youth mental health by the World Economic Forum and being featured on the Nasdaq Tower in Times Square. We are most proud of the impact we are having on young people. Neolth has provided support to thousands of students across 33 states throughout the US. Students who used the app reported an average of 48% reduction in stress after 12 weeks. 64.5% reported mental health stigma reduced 'a lot' or 'significantly' after 3 weeks, and 87% of students would opt-in to Neolth if their school provided it as a mental health resource. Neolth is truly combating the youth mental health crisis, and this impact is critical to our success as a business.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
There's being a business owner and all of the normal challenges that come with that. Then there's being a business owner as a woman. Dealing with sexism - especially subtle sexism - is exhausting. People tell you to dress a certain way, smile more, and even act surprised when it turns out I'm the CEO and not a male counterpart in a meeting. Part of my personal growth has been to learn when sexism happens; it's not about anything I've done wrong or could have changed. It's that people need more education about how sexism shows up in the workplace. There was an article in the Harvard Business Review that I recommend called 'Stop Telling Women they have Imposter Syndrome.' The article discusses fixing the biased system instead of telling women to change, which I appreciated.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Assess your support systems - starting a company can strain you emotionally and financially. Do you have a partner or family members who will support you in getting your business off the ground, whether emotionally or financially? Both of these are crucial to think about before getting started.
- Be willing to sacrifice - if you enjoy a clean-cut 9-5 job, having clear work-life boundaries, or being able to take regular vacations - starting a business probably isn't for you. In the early days, you have to sacrifice a lot. I'm not saying you never get to spend time with family or relax on the weekends, but you have way more responsibility as a business owner than an employee. Make sure you are ready for that. Talking to other business owners will help you learn what their experiences are like and if it's a fit for you.
- Assess your values - why are you starting the business in the first place? Many young people tell me they want to found a startup. If it's just about being able to say you started a company, it's not a good idea. What will keep you going is passion. Find something you're passionate about, spend time learning about that field, and then start your business.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
In 2021, a joint statement was issued calling the pandemic-related decline in adolescent mental health a national emergency. 32% of US teens are diagnosed with anxiety and 12% with depression (NIMH). Even more striking, over 90% report feeling an overwhelming pressure to succeed (APA). The Surgeon General testified that solutions emphasizing prevention are needed to support teens before the point of crisis proactively. This includes teaching coping skills for dealing with life's stressors so teens are equipped with tools to avoid burnout and overwhelm. To date, there are limited preventative interventions that champion this skill-based approach to care.
Beyond prevention, we must increase health equity by combating barriers to care. Teens, especially teens of color, are disproportionately affected by stigma. Additionally, teens are 1.8x less likely to seek mental health care from clinicians and more likely to use social media for health advice. There is an urgent need for digital media interventions to provide accurate and accessible health education, facilitate stigma reduction, and social-emotional skill-building.
Neolth's vision is to champion a preventative model of care within schools, where every child has access to the quality educational, stigma-reducing, and stress-alleviating resources they need to thrive. Students can download Neolth on the App Store, and educators can get started for free at cloud.neolth.com.
Where can people find you and your business?
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