Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jane Sagui, co-founder of Pollie, located in Denver, CO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We're building digital programs for complex chronic conditions at Pollie, starting with the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS impacts at least 10% of people that menstruate and causes symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, acne, hair loss, hirsutism (irregular hair growth), mood issues, and more.
However, it is also the #1 cause of infertility, gives people a 50% chance risk of developing diabetes by the time they're 40, and triples risk for endometrial cancer, mental health issues, and miscarriage. It is a whole-body chronic condition, but our healthcare system often brushes symptoms aside as "just part of being a woman" and only takes more serious intervention at the point of infertility, which is costly and preventable for many women (as are PCOS' other health risks) if the condition is caught and managed early.
Tell us about yourself
I was diagnosed with PCOS myself when I was a freshman in college. It took me a year to get diagnosed after going to countless doctors complaining of acne and hair loss and then another year to figure out how to properly manage my symptoms. I learned that I had high-stress hormones and food sensitivities that were catalyzing my PCOS symptoms.
Over the years, I was able to remove myself from the PCOS "spectrum" (for the majority of the time, at least). This experience had a large impact on me and catalyzed a passion for hormone imbalances at a young age. Professionally my background is in management consulting and venture capital. I focused on digital health in both roles. I wanted to take my professional experience and apply it to a problem I care deeply about.
My co-founder Sabrina is a friend from college who also has a healthcare background, but from a different perspective than me. She has a public health background and, after working at several health systems, pivoted into health tech. She worked in various ops roles for several years before joining me in 2020 to build Pollie.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Getting to help women learn how to manage their PCOS symptoms better. We are still early and in pilot mode, but it's incredibly rewarding to make an impact on the lives of others.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
As an early-stage startup, there is a fine line between knowing it is time to pivot and haphazardly making changes to your business just because something is not working quickly.
We had a rather significant pivot at the beginning of 2021 that we put much thought into. We are much more confident about where the business is headed today, but this decision was a hard one: my co-founder and I were also excited about the vision of our first product, and we knew we had to be very thorough when it came to interviewing customers and other experts before we committed to a change.
Being flexible is a must, but so is commitment, and sometimes those two things can butt heads with one another.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
First, know whether security or lack of security motivates you, and make a plan accordingly! If you need security, don't quit your day job until you have a clear path to being able to support yourself with your own business.
If you perform best under pressure, maybe quitting your job and putting (truly) all of your skin in the game is what you need. The latter path gets glorified a lot in the startup world. While I think it works for some people, there should be no shame in needing more stability if that is ultimately needed for you to shine.
Second, find something you're passionate about and be clear on what that is internally. For me, I'm passionate about the problem Pollie is solving for. I could see myself being happy in many different roles that are within the world of women's health. For some people, the process of building, or selling, or growing a team maybe what they're passionate about. Those can be applied to a wider variety of businesses.
Lastly, take time to think! Rest is important, and it is impossible to be creative if you are always doing. And being creative - even if you don't identify as someone that is "creative" in the traditional sense - is so important when you're building a company.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Don't raise money unless you have a clear plan for what you want to do with it. A bootstrapped business gives you more control over your destiny. I think that's really exciting!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.