In Conversation with Riley Rees of Sofia Health
Describe your business in a few words?
Sofia Health is your on demand holistic health and wellness marketplace. Our platform gives you access to professionals who can support your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs!
Today you can find, book, and pay for services from hundreds of health and wellness professionals across the country. You can even sign up for group classes or buy products.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Sofia Health was the culmination of personal need and research.
In graduate school, I was working on a project that involved researching patients with chronic conditions. Overwhelmingly, it was clear that they were spending a significant amount of time searching for alternative solutions, practitioners, or therapies. They all wanted to feel better or heal. In some cases, they just wanted to have their condition or symptoms “identified.”
Meanwhile, I experienced the painful effects of a bulging disk. Dissatisfied with traditional medicine options, I found myself doing exactly what people in my research study had been doing: I started searching for alternative solutions.
The market for complementary, alternative, and holistic health was extremely fragmented. With all of the medicine that exists today, people are still sick and our society is sick of being sick. This culmination solidified the need and Sofia Health is our solution to help individuals find a practitioner, a service, a therapy or a product based on their symptoms and what they need support in.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I’m an Air Force Officer, Pilot, and former Aeromedical Evacuation Technician. I have a passion for creating mixed with a ‘take action’ personality. I have developed a few startups and I’ve had my share of failed attempts. All of which led to a great amount of learning..
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
In retrospect, this might be obvious. I love to create. I’m the person who loves change and challenges!
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Startups and marketing are fundamentally all about testing. So for us, what was most important was getting as many data points and as much feedback as possible. In the very beginning we used ads to run tests. I never recommend getting any feedback or data from any one you know.
Our initial strategy helped build a base of super users and supporters so I think it was very successful.
Our platform empowers entrepreneurs and powers their business, we hope they will continue to share Sofia Health with new clients and use our site for booking, billing, and client messaging! This helps spread the word and as we grow, our practitioners grow.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Build a product people want. Know who your customers are. Listen to your customers.
It’s important to understand who your customers are, whose problem you are solving, and who the payer of the widget is. This is not always as straightforward as it seems. But you need to be hyper focused as an entrepreneur so you don’t waste valuable resources – time and money.
One of the projects I worked on beforehand involved getting consumers access to their own personal medical records. As it turns out, your medical records are key when you need a second opinion–and switching between health systems and providers is no easy task. Unfortunately this is a case where the customer had to pay but was not the one receiving the solution. This is a huge and costly mistake!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Launching Sofia Health and supporting a community of entrepreneurs via the platform is a great accomplishment! Looking forward, we are just as excited to share all of our patient and client success stories.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Why do you want to work at Sofia Health?
We are a mission driven company that cares about equal access to care and improving health outcomes. We want to work with like minded, motivated, mission driven people.
This question tells me so much about an individual. I can tell whether or not they prepared for the interview if they know what we do and they know how they can fit into our organization!
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The health and wellness industry was forced to rapidly adopt telehealth solutions. Insurance is now reimbursing for telehealth visits and we hope this doesn’t get rescinded once the pandemic is over.
For Sofia Health, we provide the tools for health and wellness entrepreneurs to get their services online and in front of clients. Since COVID hit, we have seen an uptick in mental health and wellness services being consumed via the platform. Mental wellness has been a tremendous struggle for many people. We’re grateful to be part of the solution so individuals can get the care they need.
Many of the practitioners are solopreneurs. We’ve been able to provide them with a business structure, including taking payments and scheduling appointments, as well as a marketing platform, in an extremely challenging time.
Also, many people in education, travel, and the hospitality industry have been laid off. We have been able to support a great number of them who have cross trained into careers in health or wellness. We’re thrilled to help them launch their business on Sofia Health and to provide structure and mentoring for them.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We are gearing up for growth. Over the next few years we will be adding tools that support the solo health and wellness entrepreneur even more so.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Resiliency. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. 2020 has been hard for every single person around the world. Having a mental toughness will allow us to embrace the change and provide us with the ability to recover.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
What I will tell people is a lot of activity does not equal growth.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Meditation and a daily practice of gratitude.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
It’s necessary to have balance in life in order to maintain good mental health. Your mental well-being is what helps you build resiliency and face challenges head on and with clarity–key aspects for any entrepreneur. Like most business owners, I don’t have a lot of extra time. I’ve come up with a few specific practices that work wonderfully for my mental wellbeing and ability to continue pushing hard at my business.
I practice gratitude. I try not to schedule work calls on the weekend, and I make an effort to get in a workout, like going for a run, which I find clears my mind and helps me sleep.
I also have the added perk of seeing new therapies and practices pop up on Sofia Health, so I’m lucky that element of my work also helps with my personal wellness!
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Strength. Being a female founder is challenging. Oftentimes we have to do more with less in the early stages of business. So we need to tap into our inner strength, believe in ourselves, and just keep going! That is what being an Entreprenista means to me.