Podcast Transcript – Series TWO, Episode 28
Ashlee Wisdom, health in her hue March 2021
[00:00:00] [00:00:00] I remember Ashlee Wisdom: [00:00:01] after leaving organic chemistry where I called my mom and told her, like, I’m changing my major. I don’t want to go to medical school anymore.
[00:00:08] My first job that actually really opened my eyes to the inequities in the healthcare system.
[00:00:13]A patient drove three hours to come and see her. Because she couldn’t find the black gastroenterologists in her hometown
[00:00:20] Getting that nod from Serena Williams through a grant was just like, The stamp of approval that I needed to, keep on trucking along.
[00:00:27]Within the first two weeks of launching we had 34,000 people log in and that’s when I was like, Oh, there’s clearly your need,
[00:00:33]but then the problem that I’m trying to solve now really burdened me and I started building something and now the rest is kind of, I won’t even say history cause I feel like it’s just getting started.
[00:00:43] Dan: [00:00:43] What’s up Unfound Nation, Dan Kihanya here. Thanks so much for checking out another episode of Founders Unfound. That was Ashlee wisdom, Founder and CEO of Health in Her Hue, a digital platform connecting black women to culturally competent healthcare providers, health content, and [00:01:00] community. I’ve been hoping to get Ashlee on the podcast since last June when she was part of our black women’s founders panel, right after George Floyd.
[00:01:07]Ashlee has Jamaican and Bahamian roots but grew up in New York where she diehard represents her home borough, the Bronx, her career, and startup reflect a deep passion and dedication to tackling healthcare and equity. Her work has been recognized by the Female Founders Alliance, Vital Voices, and the one and only Serena Williams.
[00:01:25] Ashley’s got a great story. You definitely want to hear it.
[00:01:28] Our episode is sponsored by The Plug. Sherrell Dorsey and her team are cranking out some of the most unique, insightful data and stories about black professionals and the black founder ecosystem. They have stuff you won’t find anywhere else, including industry briefs and member access sessions with leading innovators, sign up, look for a link in the show notes.
[00:01:48] Before we continue, please make sure to like, and subscribe to the podcast we are available anywhere. You get your podcasts, even YouTube, and it’s absolutely free. I so appreciate everyone in Unfound Nation who [00:02:00] shows up to listen to the great founders we get on the show. And if you like what you hear, drop us a review on Apple or podchaser.com.
[00:02:07] Now on with the episode,
[00:02:09] stay safe and hope you enjoy.
[00:02:23] Hello and welcome to Founders Unfound spotlighting the best startups you don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented and underestimated backgrounds. This is episode number 28 in our continuing series on founders of African descent. I’m your host Dan Kihanya. Let’s get on it.
[00:02:40]Today, we have Ashlee Wisdom co-founder and CEO of Health in Her Hue, a digital platform connecting black women to culturally competent health care providers, health content, and community. Welcome to the show, Ashlee, we’re super excited to have you. Thanks for making the time.
[00:02:56]Ashlee Wisdom: [00:02:56] Hi Dan. Thanks for having me on.
[00:02:58]Dan: [00:02:58] So let’s just start off, help the [00:03:00] listeners understand what exactly is Health in Her Hue all about?
[00:03:03]Ashlee Wisdom: [00:03:03] Yes a Health in Her Hue um, the company is focused on connecting black women and women of color to providers who can hear and understand their unique lived experiences as they’re providing clinical care and clinical guidance to them.
[00:03:16] So wanting to make sure that black women have easy access to trusted providers. Who are going to take their concerns seriously, and then also making it easier for them to connect with health content that’s culturally relevant so that they’re more empowered to manage their health, as well as navigating the healthcare system that isn’t quite designed for them.
[00:03:35] Dan: [00:03:35] Yes, it is not. So this is a highly needed experience. So I’m super excited to dig in more on the company and the project, but let’s start off with, let’s learn a little bit about you. Where are you from? Where’d you grow up?
[00:03:48]Ashlee Wisdom: [00:03:48] Yeah, so I was actually born random facts. I was born in The Bahamas, but I grew up in New York City.
[00:03:55] Yeah. So, my parents, my family is from the islands. My mom is from Jamaica. My dad is from [00:04:00] The Bahamas. I was born in The Bahamas but moved to the United States when I was eight months old. So I’m pretty much American and grew up in New York, my entire life. I, , grew up in the Bronx.
[00:04:10] Mostly the Bronx is where I went to school, went to church, a lot of families here. So I’m a diehard Bronx representer and I live in the Bronx. Now I lived in DC for a bit, lived upstate New York, but now I literally live two blocks away from my childhood home.
[00:04:25] Dan: [00:04:25] And so your family coming from Jamaica and Bahamas, did you grow up in a community of folks from that, those areas? Or was it more like we’re just part of America and we’re just part of the Bronx?
[00:04:37]Ashlee Wisdom: [00:04:37] Oh, no, I definitely still very much tied to Caribbean roots. And so I grew up in the church I grew up in is largely West Indian. So very much connected more so to my Jamaican roots, but my family assimilated somewhat, but they’re still diehard Jamaican West Indian folks.
[00:04:54]Dan: [00:04:54] Nice. That must make for a really awesome Sunday, dinners.
[00:04:58] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:04:58] Yes, absolutely. [00:05:00] Absolutely.
[00:05:00]Dan: [00:05:00] Where does your entrepreneurial inclination come from? Did people in your family, your parents, were they entrepreneurs or did they encourage you to be entrepreneurial?
[00:05:08] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:05:08] Not at all Dan.
[00:05:09] So my family, um, you know, being West Indian and coming to the United States, the whole rhyme and reason is to, you know, more opportunities for safety and security. So entrepreneurship was not in the roadmap, but I would say like, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and the women in my family had really inspired me.
[00:05:27] So my grandmother, mostly migrated from Jamaica to The Bahamas first by herself. Um, and then came to the US by herself, and her stories really inspiring and courageous because, you know, she literally moved to two foreign places and, created a life from scratch in both places. And so I’ve been drawing a lot of inspiration from her lately and this is my bloodline courageous woman just building a life from nothing.
[00:05:52] And then even though I wasn’t planning to start my own company, that’s what I’ve been leaning on, um, a lot these days, . So to answer your question, my family was really [00:06:00] expecting me to go to school, get more than one degree, go to medical school, get a safe job, having a nice salary and become the safety net.
[00:06:09] And I did the complete opposite, but I have their support. And that is just for me another data point that I should continue doing the work that I’m doing.
[00:06:18] Dan: [00:06:18] That’s great. So yeah, we hear this story a lot, right. That especially, from immigrant parents, you know, it’s like, you can be anything you want as long as it’s a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer.
[00:06:29] Right. So you pursued that path, I guess for a while.
[00:06:33] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:06:33] Yes, I did. So at Howard, I was pre-med. , I remember the exact spot where I was sitting after leaving organic chemistry where I called my mom and told her, like, I’m changing my major. I don’t want to go to medical school anymore.
[00:06:46] It was not an easy conversation, but she heard. She heard it in my voice and was just like, all right, what’s what are you going to do? So for me, I was like, I really am passionate about public health, but knew after a few internships. And after organic chemistry, that [00:07:00] becoming a doctor was not what I really wanted to do.
[00:07:02] I was only pursuing it to make my parents proud and also to have the title of Doctor Wisdom. I thought that that would be really, really cool, but. That wasn’t for me, that wasn’t enough for me to subject myself to all of that medical school requires of you. So I did a couple of things that exposed me to the world of public health.
[00:07:18] And I was like this very passionate about healthcare. This feels more like my speed. Health policy kind of, you know, addressing things upstream as opposed to like, clinical interactions with patients. And so that was the impetus for me actually going on to get my master’s of public health thought. I was gonna just, you know, stay working within academic medical centers, doing research, but then the problem that I’m trying to solve now really burdened me and I started building something and now the rest is kind of, I won’t even say history cause I feel like it’s just getting started.
[00:07:49] Dan: [00:07:49] Absolutely. I’m really going to peel back that for sure. But let’s go back a little bit. So when you were coming out of high school, why Howard, how did you, how did you decide to go to Howard?
[00:07:59] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:07:59] Honestly, [00:08:00] when people ask me that question, I always am a little embarrassed because I didn’t want to go to an HBCU at first.
[00:08:05] I went to an all-girl Catholic high school and took like all the AP classes and so on and so forth. And when it was time to apply to college, most of my peers were applying to the Ivy Leagues and the John Hopkins. And I applied to all of those schools. I don’t know why I applied to Howard. I think I was like, I’m going to apply to at least one HBCU.
[00:08:24] Howard was like the one that stood out to me. I didn’t want to go to a Spelman cause I just. You know, once in an all-girls school for high school, I applied to Howard and got in. And when I visited the campus, something, I can’t articulate what it was, but like the moment I stepped foot on that campus. I felt like I was at home and I’m so glad that I chose Howard, but it was not, it was not the school that I thought I wanted to go to.
[00:08:49] I thought I wanted to go to an Ivy because of the credibility that those school names have. But I’m glad that my uncle actually took me to visit Howard’s campus because it was exactly where I needed to be.
[00:08:59]Dan: [00:08:59] Did [00:09:00] your uncle go there? Was he an alum or something, or he just said, you got to check this place out?
[00:09:03] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:09:03] Encouraged me. So he had me speak to a couple of people who encouraged me to like take HBCs seriously. And Howard was a great school. He went to Hopkins for his masters. And so we took the tour of Hopkins and then in the same breath, he was like, let’s go to go to Howard since we’re in the DMV area. And the experience was like, I just saw a bunch of black educated folks walk on the campus.
[00:09:25]Dan: [00:09:25] Yeah. So, I mean, your story is not unusual. A lot of people make that determination about where they’re going to go to school, like when they get on campus and they feel it. And another aspect of your story, which is all too common is I think professors of organic chemistry take pride in the fact that they forced the calls that you had with your mom, like where we’re the ones that decide who gets to be a doctor who wants to be a doctor. So…
[00:09:48] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:09:48] Yeah, it’s funny. Cause I remember the first day of organic chem, the professor said that this is going to be the class that will determine who’s going to be a doctor and who’s not, and yeah, he wouldn’t be out for [00:10:00] sure.
[00:10:00] Dan: [00:10:00] Yeah. So you came out of, Howard. So you were onto more of the policy side of, healthcare.
[00:10:07], where did you go from there?
[00:10:09]Ashlee Wisdom: [00:10:09] Yeah. So after Howard I, um, works for community health centers? My first job was as a grant writer for a community health center that actually really opened my eyes to the inequities in the healthcare system. And then from there, I got my MPH from NYU, went to work for an academic medical center during that time.
[00:10:27] Then went on to work for New York City health and hospitals. And then my last gig before doing Health in Her Hue full time was working for a boutique consulting firm that was focused on health, the intersection of healthcare, innovation, and venture capital. And I took that job strategically. Because I knew I had begun building Health in Her Hue and I was like, if I’m going to build a start-up, I should probably work for a startup.
[00:10:48] And I should probably start building relationships with the people who I may want to fund my startup or become customers. And so I did that for about a year. It was a great experience and then COVID hit and transitioned out of [00:11:00] that job. And now I’m building my start for real, for real.
[00:11:03]Dan: [00:11:03] That’s great. I mean, that’s, super, instructive, right?
[00:11:06] That we can use this intuition so that there was an entrepreneur inside you yearning to get out for sure. To be strategic, about. Hey, you know, in order for me to sort of like position myself to best ake on something like Health in Her Hue to do what you did. Let’s talk about sort of the core challenge that you, you must have seen in all of the.
[00:11:29] To the policy environments that you were in the advocacy or lack thereof that you saw. So let’s, let’s talk about like Health in Her Hue has a very specific mission. There must’ve been some aha moments through your career early on where you’re like, why is this like this?
[00:11:46] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:11:46] Oh yeah, there definitely is a story behind why like I’m back to working on Health in Her Hue.
[00:11:52] And so. That story is I was working for an academic medical center, and so on top of just knowing that our healthcare [00:12:00] system is inequitable on a baseline, it was working for an academic medical center and worked in a previous department before the one that I’m going to talk about now, and my experience working there was fine, great boss, great people.
[00:12:11] And then I was working in this one department and I was told that it was a revolving door for black women, faculty members, and staff. And then I experienced in real-time the leadership just was not, it was just not, it was a very toxic work environment and it started from the top and the institution was aware of it.
[00:12 30] I was told, but, you know, a tenured faculty member who is bringing in grant funding into the institution, it’s going to be hard to get that person, out of that position. So seeing that it really just opened my eyes to how insidious institutional racism is like when people know that. There’s clearly a problem in this department or in this, you know, this part of our organization, black woman faculty member or aren’t staying there, black staff members, aren’t staying there, they’re reporting things and nothing’s happening.
[00:12:58] And that person’s also a [00:13:00] clinician. So it was like people are actually bringing their children to see her not knowing that there’s pure chaos in this department. So like working within the system, And seeing how it it’s even harmful to the people working within it. That was like data point number two for me, that like, I’m working with within this system, it’s taking a toll on my health.
[00:13:21] I was breaking out in hives because I was working in this extremely toxic environment. And I was very limited in terms of the power that I had in speaking up. But I made sure I actually did speak up on my way out. So that couples with. Me reading paper after paper and just seeing the poor health outcomes for black women across the board that, um, you know, we’re more likely maternal mortality is one that is commonly discussed, but beyond that higher rates of obesity, higher rates of diabetes, less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer were more likely to die from it.
[00:13:51] I just got tired of seeing this data and this research. And not hearing any ones talk about it from like a solution-oriented [00:14:00] standpoint and specifically targeting the needs of black women. So for me, I was just like, I came from a place of frustration that the system is designed not to do right by us. There’s all this data that’s showing that the system is failing us and then no, one’s really doing anything. Meaningful to, to address this problem specifically for black women, um, and other women of color. And so all of that anger, I wanted to use it constructively. Toni Morrison is one of my favorite writers and she says, you know, I get angry about things and I get to work.
[00:14:29] And that’s what I did. I was like, I don’t, I, I don’t know what to do with this anger. So I’m going to channel it into something that’s constructive and Allah Health in Her Hue.
[00:14:37] Dan: [00:14:37] I love that. And usually, I ask people who don’t have the obvious entrepreneurial experience. Like why did you decide to take this on as a separate entity and why didn’t you try and do it as a project in your current job, but it’s pretty clear from what you just said, that, that wasn’t an option.
[00:14:56] Yeah. It’s like, you’re trying to build something with the wrong tools. [00:15:00] And I’m interested, one thing you mentioned was this idea that when you entered this environment or this particular environment where they kind of gave you the foreshadowing about how difficult it is and how it’s a revolving door, how did you think about that?
[00:15:13] Did you think? Oh, well that’s everybody else. I’m sure I’ll be fine. Or did you think I’ll just? Go as long as I can and see how it goes or I’ll have my radar on, like, how did you process that information going into that situation?
[00:15:27]Ashlee Wisdom: [00:15:27] Well, I was on a mission, Dan. So I was working full time and also doing grad school full time.
[00:15:33] And I needed to satisfy an internship requirement for my graduate program, between a full-time job and grad school. There was no time for me to find an additional internship. So I was like, I’m working within healthcare. I’m going to make my job count towards these internship requirements. So it was a strategic move for me, even going to that department.
[00:15:51] And then I was just like, it’s a, it’s a temporary situation and I’m doing it strategically. So I don’t have to like, quit working and deal with school. Full-time I, [00:16:00] you know, I wanted to keep my salary and that was like the mental mindset that I took on that it’s a, it’s a strategic decision.
[00:16:07] For a period of time just going and get out and get what you need from this institution. There was also tuition reimbursement. So I needed to, make use of that. But that was how I went in. So I was like, I’m going in here for a period of time. I’m not trying to make a home out of this department, but it still took a toll on me for that full year.
[00:16:24] It was one of the worst work experiences that I’ve had in my entire life. I know I’m not that old, but it was really, really that bad. Um, but that was, yeah, that was a mindset that I took.
[00:16:34] Dan: [00:16:34] And this idea that you have this physical manifestation of hives, was it a situation where it’s like before this environment no hives, in the environment hives, and after the environment no hives?
[00:16:46] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:16:46] Literally. So I started breaking out in hives, like every single and it was really bad to the point that sometimes I would have to go home from work and I was seeing an allergist. I would go and see an allergist trying to figure out like, am I allergic to something?
[00:16:58] I just moved to a new apartment. Maybe [00:17:00] that’s what it is. And I would just run a bunch of tests on me. I wasn’t allergic to anything that, you know, that severely for me to be breaking out in hives. And once I left the job. Graduated from grad school. I stopped breaking out in hives every day and I realized that they were stress-induced.
[00:17:16] And so that experience actually, um, illuminated something else for me. So my, my allergist was a white doctor and she was, you know, she was great, but I didn’t feel comfortable telling her about my work environment and how stressful and toxic it was. And I have another, uh, doctor who’s a black woman and I share so much with her.
[00:17:35] And so I remember reflecting on that experience and thinking if I felt comfortable with this white woman doctor, I might’ve shared with her, or she was a black woman. I might’ve been more likely to share with her that I was dealing with racism and microaggressions in my work environment. And she probably would have gotten to the root of the issues with the hives.
[00:17:53] You’re stressed with grad school, you’re working in this toxic environment, but that never came up in my conversation because I just didn’t think [00:18:00] that a white woman doctor would even understand that experience. And so that is also why I think, you know, why I’m building Health in Her Hue, that if you are seeing a doctor who looks like you, who you assume may have had some similar lived experiences and understand your cultural and social context.
[00:18:16] There’s more that you’re willing to communicate with them that will then inform the way that they can provide care to you. And so I experienced that in real-time with that experience.
[00:18:24] Dan: [00:18:24] Wow. I mean, this is, like the, perfect storm of how startups start, like experiencing the problem yourself, seeing it from different perspectives of like different constituents or participants in the ecosystem.
[00:18:38] And so I want to hear this story for sure, but we’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back with Ashlee Wisdom from Health in Her Hue.
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[00:19:40] Dan: [00:19:42] We’re back with Ashlee. So Ashlee, you know, we got this courageous woman all full of rage, ready to go, ready to take on the world Health in Her Hue is sort of coming together. Tell us about how did that actually like become an entity or a separate thing. Like when was that, that, uh, experience of just [00:20:00] like, this is going to be what I do, and this is going to be the company that I form.
[00:20:04]Ashlee Wisdom: [00:20:04] What people don’t really know is that for two years before, I think last year is where people were. We got a lot, a lot of traction where we pushed out our first product, so to speak. And, but for two years back in 2018, I like created the mission. I created the mission and vision statement, and I anchored myself in that, at that time.
[00:20:21] I wasn’t necessarily thinking about a business, but I felt I had a hunch that it had potential to grow into that. And so I started off with building, , content and making content more culturally relevant, so that to improve health literacy among black women and builds a community. So my rhyme and reason for that was I didn’t want to just build a thing.
[00:20:39] I wanted to build a community to understand what are the collective pain points that black women have is they’re navigating health care because I’m just one black woman. And my limited circle of other black women, I don’t know all the problems. So I was really intentional about building a community so that I can learn whether they shared pain points.
[00:20:56] Um, what are the some of the more new one’s issues that they’re having, and then try to [00:21:00] build something around that. And so one of the things that kept coming up was, um, not being able to find black doctors if that’s your preference. And I saw that within my own network that people are my friends or people I went to college with are always asking me for recommendations for black doctors.
[00:21:14] I’m based in New York. People are constantly asking for black doctors in different boroughs. And so our very first product that we launched last year was a provider directory. And we only had six doctors listed on it. And these are doctors I’ve been working closely with on content and push that out to the community and it went viral.
[00:21:30] And that’s when I realized, Oh, this has like the vision that I’ve been kind of like keeping in my head and holding closely to like, I’m really onto something here. Let me keep sharing the bigger vision that I had, that I’ve been too afraid to share. Cause I think that people might think I’m crazy, but by pushing out that product last June, I really validated that there is a demand for a central space where black women can find trusted providers, trusted content, and then also community for support in managing [00:22:00] their health.
[00:22:00] Dan: [00:22:00] That makes a lot of sense. And, uh, I love that. I’ve talked about this before. I love the idea of movements almost right. That become, a company because the enterprise value can come from the fact that there’s this huge hole and a community of people who can come together and say, yeah, you experiencing that.
[00:22:19] I’m experiencing that and Oh, by the way, there’s this entity now that’s saying I feel your pain and I’m here to solve it. I don’t exactly how we’re going to solve it, but we’re going to solve it. So, um, I love that. So tell us a little bit about like, how, how does it work? Like, is it, is it a mobile experience?
[00:22:35] Is it online? How do you find information doctors? How does it work?
[00:22:40] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:22:40] Yeah. So our very first product, um, you know, we’re startup being super scrappy. It was a little bit disjointed. So we’re using one platform to host the provider directory, another platform to host the community, and then another platform to host the content actually next week.
[00:22:55] Um, we, we’re going to have an app that’s in the app store that has all three components [00:23:00] in one mobile experience. So people are able to go in and use the provided directory and they can filter for providers on, based on a few criteria there. Race and ethnicity, gender identity insurance network location.
[00:23:13]And so they’re able to easily find providers on our platform based on very specific criteria that we have our content library and then a community forum for people to ask questions and, um, engage with one another. And hopefully, providers can respond to the community’s questions and provide educational content and response. It’s uh, right now it’s a web experience, but in a couple of weeks, it will be a true mobile native app that people can download and use.
[00:23:36] Dan: [00:23:36] Awesome. And we’re recording this at the beginning of March. So by the time it comes out, it actually might be in the app store. And is it going to be in iOS or Android or both, or,
[00:23:46] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:23:46] yeah, it be in both iOS and Android stores.
[00:23:50] Dan: [00:23:50] Terrific. And how do doctors and providers, like, how do they find their way into the directory? Do you have a process or do you recruit them or how does that work?
[00:23:59] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:23:59] So last [00:24:00] year, we, um, it was a rallying cry from our community. They were sharing the app that at the time was a web experience. And then we had a signup form that expressed our, like what the mission and vision behind Health in Her Hue was.
[00:24:12] And if resonated with providers and they signed up and their profiles were listed, Within the app, um, this new app that we’re getting ready to push out, we’ll be doing some more marketing because it’s a bit more scalable than our previous product and providers can go in and make, um, a user profile and they can actually manage and keep their profile up to date. And then patients, our members can also create profiles and go in and use the platform.
[00:24:36] Dan: [00:24:36] And have you thought about the economic models around this yet? Or is that still early?
[00:24:41] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:24:41] We have. But, you know, as a startup who knows things may pivot and change, but the way that we’re thinking through the business model is a membership experience. And so. Focusing direct to consumers, our members will pay a monthly or annual subscription fee. The provider directory.
[00:24:55] We will always be free and accessible to everyone, but then there’s a membership experience where people [00:25:00] will pay a monthly or annual fee for access to our content library, the community forum, and some of the perks that come with that. And then eventually our members will be able to consult with providers that are on our platform whether it be through chat or video consult.
[00:25:14]Dan: [00:25:14] It’s super exciting. And can you share, I mean, your story was pretty powerful, but can you share a story or an anecdote that would sort of represent this huge pain that you’re trying to solve? No pun intended.
[00:25:26] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:25:26] Yeah, absolutely. So, um, last year a provider tagged us on Instagram and this is actually a story.
[00:25:33] An anecdote that I share with investors when I’m pitching this doctor, she’s a black gastroenterologist in Texas and she listed herself on health in her view. And she said that a patient drove three hours to come and see her. Because she couldn’t find the black gastroenterologists in her hometown in Houston, three hours, three hours with her husband waiting in the parking lot for a 30-minute visit.
[00:25:57] And so the doctor post about it and said that [00:26:00] she, she felt like she had to give this patient an extra level of care because of how far she drove. She was happy that the patient found her, but it was really, you know, sad about the fact that she felt the need to drive three hours just to find a provider who would take her concerns seriously.
[00:26:15] And so that is an anecdote that I share with investors saying, well, why don’t you have to drive three hours to find a doctor who’s going to take her concerns seriously while Health in Her Hue won’t be able to solve all of these access problems. We do see an opportunity where if you know, we give that woman a platform where she can at least ask a doctor for a second opinion or get her perspective on something.
[00:26:35] Maybe she won’t have to drive three hours or she can decide from that virtual consultation, whether or not it’s worth her, making that commute.
[00:26:43] Dan: [00:26:43] I want to say, it’s a good story. It’s a very illuminating story. It’s not a good story, but it’s representative of why there’s such a big need. That’s cool. So I know you have a co-founder right?
[00:26:54] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:26:54] Yes, Eddwina.
[00:26:55] Dan: [00:26:56] Tell me how you met.
[00:26:57] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:26:57] Yeah. So Edwina, funny enough for you. And we [00:27:00] didn’t really realize this until it came up in an investor conversation that she was one of my first supporters before anyone was checking for Health in Her Hue, And this before I even planned to ask her to be my co-founder, but, um, Eddwina and I share a best friend.
[00:27:13] And so we, um, known each other socially for a few years. And when I was just getting things, going with health and her cue, I wanted to create a video of a black mother talking about her experiences with the healthcare system and, um, you know, just given birth and, and Eddwina volunteered her time. And I was like, this is going to be our mock, concept of like, I want to show investors that this is the type of content and conversations that we want to have on our platform.
[00:27:40] And she was game. Saturday morning, early Joe, about to Brooklyn and did that and shared her two birthing experiences. One was really negative and one was really positive. And the difference there was that she had a black doctor. Last year, she reached out to me and said, Hey, like, I, I love what you’re doing with health and review.
[00:27:56] Like, it really resonates. Like, can I support you? She has an [00:28:00] MBA business background. And I was like, look, can you help me with the financial model? Because that’s not in my wheelhouse. I could spend time watching YouTube videos and learning how to build models, but I don’t want to spend my time doing that.
[00:28:12] And so she volunteered her time and we’ve been working on that and a few other projects together and it just dawned on me. Like Dwayne has been a supporter from the beginning. Like she also has a story that really resonates with what, with our mission. And she has a business background that I don’t have.
[00:28:27] So I think she’d make a great partner. I know her, I trust her and I asked her and she was gained.
[00:28:32] Dan: [00:28:32] That’s great. And, Unfound Nation, there’s a little nugget there from Ashlee. I think a lot of people ask me about how do you find the co-founder as if it’s kind of a dating thing or there’s a matching service, but the way that you did it is really, that’s really the best approach, I think because you can see like, Hey, can you help me with this?
[00:28:50] And if they’re saying, Oh, well, I’m too busy. Or if they’re like, yeah, I’ll help you. And they come back and they’re like, And I have this idea and I have this idea. [00:29:00] That’s how those, bonds, can form in a working relationship. And if you have a personal relationship beforehand, all the better, because you get to know each other, obviously at a different level, when you’re eating cold pizza at midnight, trying to do financial models, but, but at least you have a sense of the person and their character who they are, which is super important. Cause you’re, you’re kinda married to this person for a while as a co-founder. Right. So that’s great. so can you give us anything about kind of the current status?
[00:29:28] I know you’re about to sort of launch this, the mobile app in terms of progress, to date of, subscribers or, or people that are interested in their providers. Are you just limiting it to certain regions or is it, national at this point? Can you give us some sense of that?
[00:29:44]Ashlee Wisdom: [00:29:44] Our previous MVP was not scalable. So we didn’t want to keep marketing and getting providers signed up there. Cause the way it works is now if providers want to make any edits to their profile, they’re emailing us and we’re having to go in and update their profiles. And it’s just. It’s not fun. I’ll share more about the traction within the [00:30:00] first two weeks of launching that initial MVP. We had 34,000 people log in to the app and that’s when I was like, Oh, there’s clearly your need, but also we don’t have the bandwidth to manage. And this platform is just not scalable.
[00:30:12] Um, it sounds like, all right, I’m going to pause on marketing it heavily community is making it buzz and that’s, that’s great. And we had since June. So now we have over 800 providers and practitioners who’ve signed up. And so it’s not just limited to doctors. We have doulas therapists, lactation consultants, midwives that are also on the platform.
[00:30:31] We are now moving to this new platform. That’s. It’s still not our, you know, our North Star, but we want it to continue optimizing on the user experience as we’re actively fundraising to build the actual custom platform that we plan to build and release. And so this new platform we’re excited to market it because it’s a bit more scalable.
[00:30:52] People can create and own and manage their profiles. And we’re expecting to see just as much and even more traction we had. We’ve [00:31:00] had 55,000 people log in to the current MVP. And like I said, that’s all been organic inbound, no heavy marketing or push. So I’m excited to get a true app in the app store and see how many downloads we’ll get.
[00:31:11] Dan: [00:31:11] So that’s where you are today. What does success look like for Health in Her Hue?
[00:31:16] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:31:16] Yeah. I want Health in Her Hue to essentially be like the first touch point for women of color. when they’re thinking about health and healthcare, like finding providers information, like I want health and or youth to be that go-to platform.
[00:31:29] Uh, when I think about the quality of our content, uh, because the content and the community is really what has gotten us to where we are to date. And so I’m sure there are additional features and, you know, bells and whistles that we want to add to the platform, but I really want Health in Her Hue to have, for lack of a better word, the reputation of being the virtual guide for women of color as they’re navigating the system, that just quite frankly, was not designed for them.
[00:31:52] So that’s. Connecting them to providers and using data insights to basically route them to the right health care information, right. [00:32:00] Providers, people who can support them in managing their health. Basically, I want us to be the go-to spot when women of color are thinking about health and health care like I want health, and are you to be synonymous with that?
[00:32:09] Dan: [00:32:09] I love it. That’s a great vision. So we’re going to take another short break and we’ll be right back with Ashlee Wisdom from Health in Her Hue.
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[00:33:10] Dan: [00:33:12] So we’re back with Ashlee Wisdom. So, Ashlee, um, tell us a little bit about the experience with Serena Williams.
[00:33:19] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:33:19] Yes. I still remember the day that I got the news about that. So I was a part of a leadership incubator with vital voices. It was literally a Saturday where. I was feeling super discouraged about Health in Her Hue, super overwhelmed, and also super discouraged.
[00:33:35] And I literally was on my computer working all day until like around 8:00 PM, picked my head up, and checked my email. And it was from the head of Vital Voices, VP. And she said, Hey, we have this partnership with Stuart Weitzman, they’re providing grant funding. And we gave them a list of the women in the cohort and their companies.
[00:33:54] And as part of their brand partnership with Serena Williams, they gave her the list of companies and women [00:34:00] and told her to select which two founders she wanted to receive the grant and Health in Her Hue was one of the companies that she selected. And, you know, we got the grant thanks to Serena Williams, as well as a shadow on her social media account.
[00:34:14] And that meant a lot to me because I’ve used the headlines with Serena’s stories in my pitch deck, um, I’ve referred to her birthing experience a lot and talk about the fact that she’s a woman with means and fame and still had difficulty getting a provider to take her concerns seriously.
[00:34:31] So getting that nod from Serena Williams through a grant was just like, The stamp of approval that I needed to, to keep on trucking along.
[00:34:39]Dan: [00:34:39] And, it’s an amazing acknowledgment for sure. And you’re right. The fact that she’s a woman of means, and she could have any health care that she wants and still struggling with the issues that you’re trying to tackle.
[00:34:53] It’s pretty amazing. And as an entrepreneur, you know, you just, you just summarize the daily [00:35:00] experience of an entrepreneur, right. Which is. You know, from one moment to the next is lows, there are highs, there are successes. There are setbacks. And I think a lot of people don’t realize just how challenging lonely sacrificial the entrepreneurial journey is, especially early on.
[00:35:18] And you, learn to cling to those like moments of yes!
[00:35:22] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:35:22] Absolutely. Um,
[00:35:23] Dan: [00:35:23] Did you get a chance to meet Serena at all?
[00:35:25] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:35:25] I didn’t. And so we were actually supposed to do an Instagram live together as a part of that. And it ended up not working out, but she at least knows my name and gave me a shout-out and gave me and Health in Her Hue a huge shout-out in a few different publications.
[00:35:40] So wish I could meet her. Hopefully, that’s, that’s something that can happen, but does getting that nod from her was, was enough, and I look forward to hopefully meeting her at some point.
[00:35:50]Dan: [00:35:50] She’s doing a lot of really amazing stuff in the sort of startup ecosystem and stuff. So, um, I’m super excited about all the things that she’s got coming.
[00:35:59] Tell us [00:36:00] you’re a black founder, you’re a woman founder. You’re a non-techie nonbusiness person. Self-proclaimed. How do you think about how the world views you? Do any one of those things resonate in terms of your mind and being reminded about those labels quote-unquote, or is it the confluence of all those things that feels like more of a challenge or maybe it’s more of a gift?
[00:36:25] How do you think about those things?
[00:36:27]Ashlee Wisdom: [00:36:27] I think it’s a confluence of challenges because of those different identities that you’ve just named, but also. I see it as a gift. I see it as more of a gift than a challenge. And, and that, that’s also for just my own mental health to keep pushing through.
[00:36:43] But there have been moments where I’m just like this, this VC game is just not, it’s not set up for people who look like me to, to win. And I’m very aware of that, but I have never allowed that to stop me from, and honestly, w what keeps me going [00:37:00] is that I really believe in what I’m doing.
[00:37:01] And I’ve always heard people talk about entrepreneurs being a little bit of crazy and not realistic. And here I am, I can kind of see why people say that, but it’s really the conviction that I have in my business. That allows me to me too. Um, when I can to ignore the obstacles that I know are clearly in my, in my path, um, and just to, to keep overcoming them, but.
[00:37:21] Fundraising as a black woman has been, has been an experience. I’ve learned to take, take what, you know, take what comes at me. And like there certain things I’m just like, Hmm, that’s interesting. That’s a data point. I want to process that through a meeting and pull posts at some point, but I’ve, I’ve just been leaning into my conviction, honestly, Dan, and allowing that to fuel my perseverance through this process.
[00:37:43] Dan: [00:37:43] Good. That’s a great answer. And I think that that a lot of the challenges that we face is sometimes it’s super subtle like, are you judging me? Or are you evaluating my business? Right. And to some degree, they are linked obviously, but you know, I think everybody [00:38:00] knows that you know, some people get your vision, some people don’t right.
[00:38:03] But if it’s you’re being dismissed somehow or evaluated differently, just because of who you are. And when you walk in the room, that’s, that is a tough thing. , You want to share any nuggets? I mean, obviously, we don’t have to talk about specifics name names. , can you, can you remember a situation where you, were engaged with somebody and you walked away thinking? Yeah. That’s that felt like it was pretty clear. This is because of who I am.
[00:38:26] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:38:26] There was one, one call that I had, and it’s honestly the only call that I’ve ever had where I just felt like really bad afterward. Like I was like in my feelings, am I going to lie? And it was clear to me that the person was very, I just felt like it was a condescending conversation.
[00:38:42] Like here’s another. Black founder, building a healthcare company, that’s focused on trying to help black people. Like that’s cute, but that’s not going to bring us the return that we’re looking for. Like that was the vibe that I was getting. And it’s, that always is frustrating. It’s just like me saying that I’m building a [00:39:00] company for black women and I plan to expand like.
[00:39:02] The question’s about market size. It’s just like they’re 21 million black women in the United States. Like how is that a small market? Another thing is, you know, a lot of times when you talk about black women or a healthcare company for black women, women of color, the first thing that people think about is Medicaid. And for justifiable reasons and in many instances, but I get frustrated with that because I’m like all black women aren’t on Medicaid and there are black women with means who want solutions that are tailored to their needs. And so sometimes, you know, there are a couple of instances where I’ve had investors just kind of be condescending and kind of like pigeon hole for lack of a better word, my company into a box.
[00:39:37] And I can just can sense that within the first couple of minutes of our conversation. I’ve just learned that what I’m building is not going to resonate with everyone and everyone’s not going to believe in it. And I can’t take that personally, but in the beginning of this fundraising process, it was hard.
[00:39:54] I was like, you’re telling me everything makes sense that I’m like approaching this from, a way that you’ve never [00:40:00] seen, but there’s still a hint of like, this is cute, but this is not a fundable business. And that, that hurts. It hurts.
[00:40:07] Dan: [00:40:07] It does. It does. And you know, I, just, gave a talk, , yesterday to some aspiring investors and I said, you’re going to get into this where you’re looking at hundreds of deals and you know, you’re going to give them 20 minutes or two hours or whatever, and move on.
[00:40:23] But just remember that for, each of those entrepreneurs, this is their life and this is their passion, and respect it and honor it. And some investors just, they forget that maybe not intentionally, but, they do kind of forget that. And are you raising money now? At this point or…
[00:40:38] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:40:38] Yes, I’m raising the pre-seed round.
[00:40:41] It’s looking like we’re getting ready to wrap that up the end of this month. And that feels really good. Cause it’s been, it’s been quite the process. And to your point of being a black founder, I feel like people have asked questions and have drilled into. Very granular details about the business in a way that I think isn’t fair for a pre-seed [00:41:00] company or early-stage company.
[00:41:01] And I, and I get it. I, I don’t have a VC background. I don’t look like the founders. Um, investors are used to investing in, but I feel like I’ve gone through like Series A type of diligence, pre-seed round, and…
[00:41:14] Dan: [00:41:14] isn’t that crazy. Isn’t that crazy?
[00:41:16] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:41:16] It is. It is. But it’s getting me, it’s going to be prepared for Series A’s how I’m like talking to myself. I’m telling myself, you know, you’re ready for the larger rounds of funding. Now that you’ve gone through the fire with this pre-seed round.
[00:41:27]Dan: [00:41:27] You’re developing those superpowers. That’s a, that’s a great way to think about it. So tell me, kind of on the flip side, have there been allies, organizations, mentors that have been instrumental in your journeys, particularly as a black woman, founder, I know you did a Female Founders Alliance program, Ready set Raise, but yeah. Have there been any, particular ones you want to shout out? Cause we get a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs listening who are looking for those, those allies,
[00:41:55] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:41:55] Yeah, so Female Founders Alliance was very helpful in helping me get clear about the pitch [00:42:00] and like communicating the business to investors.
[00:42:03] So I’m really grateful that I was able to go through that experience. And after completing it, I saw that I was able to like close deals, whereas before I was having great investor conversations, but no one was actually signing. Term sheets for me. One of the mentors that’s been really instrumental and helpful through this process when no one was checking for me or even helping me out with doctor Dr. Ivor Horn. I met her when I was out at the JP Morgan Chase conference. And she took me under her wing and just has been kind of guiding me and helping me navigate this VC, invest the world in the healthcare worlds. And so she’s been a Godsend, she’s been a Godsend and the Vital Voices program that I actually did as a woman, founder, growing women leader, they were very supportive and amplifying the work that I do.
[00:42:48] And so that also has been really helpful or, you know, Through this process, like getting the word out about what I’m building. Cause I don’t have money for marketing just yet. Um, and so they’ve been really instrumental in investing in me as a [00:43:00] person and then also, amplifying the work that I’m doing. So I’m really grateful for the vital voices community.
[00:43:05]Dan: [00:43:05] That’s great. And Dr. Horn is a mutual friend of ours, so, and I can attest to, she casts a great light on the community, particularly in the health tech world. She’s a great voice. And so I’m so glad to hear that she’s, uh, personally resonated with you as well.
[00:43:20] Why don’t you share with us? What’s an insight that you got clarity on since starting Health in Her Hue about the market you’re going after that other people may not understand, or even maybe that you didn’t appreciate when you first started it.
[00:43:36]Ashlee Wisdom: [00:43:36] One thing that I’ve learned or been really grateful about the way that I approach the way I’m building health in Her Hue is that I’ve built a strong community around the brand or the mission and vision. And now I’m seeing, you know, tweets and different things pop up about the power of community, or like moving into this, uh, this era where communities like the company moat.
[00:43:54] I had no insight into that, like being the future state of like startups, but I [00:44:00] just had this. Actually not even just a hunch, I’ve built a community for other brands before and saw how powerful it grew and took the same approach with Health in Her Hue. And what’s really powerful about this approach is like now I have my customers and engaged users telling me what they want, or I can go to them and, and survey them and use that to inform what I’m building, as opposed to just having an idea and building something and not being sure it’s actually solving a real problem. And so I’m really glad that I took that building a community approach as a, as opposed to just starting off building a product and deciding on a business model, but really having the opportunity to learn the pain points of by my soon to be end-users.
[00:44:40] Dan: [00:44:40] That’s great. I wholeheartedly agree with that. I think we’re entering an era where. It’s not necessarily about code it’s about communities and, movements and people who are aligned and find connections that they can’t find otherwise. And if you do that well, and you create a trusted experience, products, [00:45:00] services, business models will flow.
[00:45:02] So the question we like to ask, it’s a little cliche, but I love like the asset anyway. Cause we get good answers is if you can go back in time. To the Ashlee of, uh, let’s say five years ago. So well before Health in Her Hue was in your, in your mind’s eye, but you were thinking that maybe I want to do something.
[00:45:21] What piece of advice would this Ashlee give that Ashlee?
[00:45:24] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:45:24] I would tell that Ashlee to stop focusing too much on like, defining what success is. Um, cause I think Ashlee five years ago was thinking about how she was going to set her career up, to have a great title and have the salary that she was looking to have.
[00:45:40] Um, and just thinking very much about success, personal success, individual success. And I would tell her to focus more on impact. Like how do you, how do you want to affect change with the work that you’re doing? And because success will naturally follow if you’re more concerned about the impact, as opposed to just your individual success.
[00:45:59] And [00:46:00] so that is something that I have a lot more clarity on now and wish I did back then because there was a lot of anxiety around. I want to have this title. I want to work for this kind of company. I want to have this kind of salary to keep up with the Joneses. And the moment that impacts became my central, you know, my new focus, I feel much more clear on the path that I want to carve out for myself, and that doesn’t have to be within a corporate entity. It’s me driving impact for the community.
[00:46:24] Dan: [00:46:24] That’s great. I think everybody eventually comes to that conclusion, that impact and doing something greater than yourself and having meaning. Can be the thing that really drives you, but society sometimes is telling you a lot of different things, right?
[00:46:41] You just have to turn on the, I was going to turn on the TV, like I’m 50,000 years old here, but you know, you just have to expose yourself to media to see that that’s, what’s portrayed as success. Is wealth and accumulation of stuff and those don’t fill the soul. Sure.
[00:46:58] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:46:58] I’m realizing now that [00:47:00] perceived safety is not real safety. I flight job security, all that stuff is something I held on to and clung closely to. And now I’m this out here in the wild and I realized I was never safe because anything could ever, you know, you lose your job any moment, any second.
[00:47:15] Um, so I’ve just been leading into that also, like not allowing fear to stifle. The way that I actually want to move.
[00:47:22] Dan: [00:47:22] I love it. So, we always like to leave the audience with a call to action. So Ashlee tell us, how can we be helpful for Health in Her Hue, what can we do to be helpful to you?
[00:47:31] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:47:31] Would love to get more doctors on board. You know, doctors who, um, culturally aligned with black doctors, Afro-Latino doctors that should be on Health in Her Hue. Please let them know. We’re specifically looking for doctors, OB GYNs, um, dermatologists, and psychiatrists, therapists. Like those are the types of providers that our members are really, really looking to connect with.
[00:47:51] Um, so if you’re a black doctor or know black doctors, please encourage them to sign up and also just download that. It’ll be in the app stores, hopefully by the time this is, [00:48:00] this is live.
[00:48:00]Dan: [00:48:00] And you want to share, um, like if people want to find out more information, about you or about, uh, about the company you want to share the handles or URLs.
[00:48:08] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:48:08] Yeah. So you can go to healthinherhue.com and we are on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and Facebook @healthinherhue. Follow us on those social channels. And you can go to the websites to stay up to date on what’s going on in our world.
[00:48:23]Dan: [00:48:23] Well, this has been an awesome conversation, Ashlee. I really appreciate you taking the time.
[00:48:28] Ashlee Wisdom: [00:48:28] Thank you for having me, Dan. This is great.
[00:48:30]Dan: [00:48:30] We’d like to thank our guests, Ashlee Wisdom, and our sponsor of The Plug.
[00:48:33] This podcast was produced by me, your faithful host, Dan.
[00:48:37] Our music was arranged by Michael Kihanya.
[00:48:40] Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listento, that’s listen-T-O. And follow us on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn @foundersunfound.
[00:48:51] Thanks so much for tuning in.
[00:48:52] I am Dan Kihanya and
[00:48:54] you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.
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