Ingrid He of the Sjogren’s Tracker app on using her creativity to help people with autoimmune disorders manage their symptoms
Describe your business in a few words?
Sjogren’s (SHOW-grins) Tracker is an app that helps people with autoimmune disorders manage their symptoms and flares. We aim to help our users better understand their conditions and identify triggers to their flares. Our mission is to create innovative solutions to improve the lives of users and facilitate communications with physicians.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I had worked in the corporate world for over 7 years. At a certain point, I just decided that what I was doing wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. On some level, I just didn’t feel fulfilled. I wanted to pursue something with more purpose, where I can use my creativity to help others and make the world a slightly better place.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I actually worked as an attorney for 7 years, doing litigation and regulatory compliance work. I learned a lot during that time and worked with some pretty great people. I don’t regret the experience at all, but just didn’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life. I wanted to use what I’d learned and take it to the next level- to build something of my own that is impactful and lasting.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Not at all. I always thought I would take the safe road in life and get a stable job with regular paychecks. Life can be surprising sometimes.
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?
I’m not sure I had any concrete marketing strategy at all when I first started. I was pretty clueless and just wanted to get the word out there that my product existed. I was slowly exploring social media channels and gaining traction that way. I believed and still believe that as long I stay persistent, the business will grow, slowly but surely.
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?
This was my first time starting a tech business, so I made some mistakes in terms of hiring developers. I overly trusted third-party vendors to vet candidates for me and didn’t do enough due diligence of my own. And when I suspected that the developer wasn’t doing good work, I waited too long to replace him, which resulted in more time and money spent on work that would later have to be fixed. I learned to be more thorough from now on and to always do my own homework. I also learned to trust my instincts and correct mistakes sooner rather than later.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I won a few business pitch competitions earlier this year. For someone who’s extremely introverted, I’m pretty proud of myself for following through and pitching to an audience of experienced business executives and entrepreneurs. And the fact that I won some prizes made me feel validated that my product is a good one with potential to help a significant market.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
My go to questions are: 1) What was the last project you worked on that you were excited about? 2) What is your communication style when it comes to collaborating on a project?
Hiring good people is really hard. And sometimes, it’s not just about whether they are good at what they do, it’s also about whether their working style meshes with yours. It truly is like a business marriage, so you have to be very careful who you choose to work with.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
My business has actually not been impacted as much by Covid-19 since it doesn’t require in-person interaction. One thing that has happened though is Covid-19 has led to increased interest and studies of our immune system. People with long Covid also share a lot of the same symptoms as individuals with autoimmune disorders. I’m hoping this will lead to more studies on how our immune system functions and lead to more awareness for autoimmune diseases.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
In the next few years, I am going to try to establish partnerships with non-profit research organizations. I’m hoping information gathered through my app can help the research community better understand chronic and autoimmune conditions. I also want to raise more awareness not only of my app, but of autoimmune disorders in general.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
I actually only started my business in 2020, so the biggest lesson for me was to just put myself out there. Opportunities don’t come unless you reach out for them. The more you put yourself out there, the more chances are that you will connect with people who are willing to help you.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
You can never foresee everything that will happen or affect your business. The best you can do is be prepared about the things you do know and stay flexible so you can adapt when circumstances outside of your control change.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I have a close circle of friends that I have known for almost 20 years now. Keeping in touch with them has always kept me grounded. They are the type of friends who will give me their honest opinion and tell me like it is. It’s good to have friends who will be completely honest with you (in a nice way) and let you know your flaws so you can improve as a person.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Absolutely. Especially with my autoimmune disorder, stress can trigger a flare of symptoms. I try to minimize stress by planning ahead and making sure that I set aside time to wind down every day.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m not sure if this is surprising, but I have 2 incredibly adorable rescue cats. If there were ever a competition for cutest animals, they would rank high up there.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Make a list of things you want to accomplish for that day.
- Break large tasks down to smaller steps that you can check off as you complete.
- Block off time to really focus on projects that require concentration, such as research and writing (I’m talking about putting away your phone).
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It’s such a privilege to be featured on Entreprenista. It means joining a community of strong and independent women, and helping other women get started on their own entrepreneurial journeys. I love it when women help other women and lift each other up.