In today’s episode, we have Amelia Wilcox, CEO and founder of Nivati. She is a founder who created a high growth mental health platform that provides the easiest way for employers to understand and manage employee mental well being. The app provides HIPAA compliant real time employee data to companies and on-demand holistic mental health solutions for employees. Amelia is here today to tell us all about her journey as a lifelong entrepreneur, the ups and downs that it entails and the exciting path she is on as a b2b SaaS founder based in Utah.
Here’s a closer look at the episode:
Nivati’s Website: https://nivati.com/
Amelia’s Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ameliamwilcox/
Nivati’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nivati_Co
Nivati’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NivatiCo
Nivati’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nivati_co/
Nivati’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/nivati-co/
I mean, I think people go into entrepreneurship because all entrepreneurs have that in common, like freedom is their number one value or, you know, desire in life, like they go into entrepreneurship to be their own boss and to own their future and, and all of that. So I was just like, oh, man, this is awesome.
This is Found in the Rockies, a podcast about the startup ecosystem in the Rocky Mountain region, featuring the founders, funders and contributors, and most importantly, the stories of what they're building. I'm Les Craig from Next Frontier Capital. And on today's show, we have a founder who created a high growth mental health platform that provides the easiest way for employers to understand and manage employee mental well being. The app provides HIPAA compliant real time employee data to companies and on-demand holistic mental health solutions for employees. Meet Amelia Wilcox, CEO and founder of Nivati. Amelia is here today to tell us all about her journey as a lifelong entrepreneur, the ups and downs that it entails and the exciting path she is on as a b2b SaaS founder based in Utah. Hi, Amelia. Welcome to the show.
Thanks, Les. I'm excited to be here with you today.
Yeah, well, I'm super excited to have you I gotta say not to like set super, super duper high expectations, but your story as a founder and the journey, it's got to be one of my favorites of all time. And I mean that.
Well, thank you.
So So will you tell it
Going through the process is not one of my favorite parts of the story…
Of course. But that's what makes it so cool. So I'd love for you to start out. Just tell us tell, like maybe start where you grew up? Or you know, sure you got into…
Yeah, start back in the day. So yeah, I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. Grew up pretty poor. Both my parents worked I was just like, left my own devices a lot. Earlier earliest experience
An archer entrepreneurial childhood
Yeah, yeah, exactly. My earliest experiences with entrepreneurship include, like, when I was in middle school, my dad would bring home like these cases of chocolate chip cookies from like the discount bakery for 50 cents a piece. And I would take them to school and sell them for $1 apiece, which was awesome. So that worked for a little while to the school shut me down, then
I was going to say, Man, you got some really good gross margin on cookies.
I know. Yeah, and then like, my mom wanted to make Christmas cards and sell them one Christmas. And so me and my brother, I just remember every day after school, we'd be like, we had stamps and glue and glitter and like this glossy paper, and we made these Christmas cards we sold. Growing up and growing up when I was in high school, I would go and sell glow sticks at like, these outdoor concerts and so I just always hustling and looking for ways to make money. My my mom's
And evil regulators were just always shutting down.
I mean, in a true story of business. Even now, just like…argh…HIPAA.
We'll get there. We'll get there. But yeah, I feel the same way about about HIPAA. But yeah, okay. So what So so from high school and glowsticks and Kansas City like what, what was next? What was next on your, you know, in your journey?
Yeah, I went to college for like a semester in southern Missouri. And then I was like, my dad, my dad had like, forced me to do computer engineering in high school at like the VO tech school. And I hated it. But he was like, if you're a computer programmer, like then you will never be poor. And I was like, Okay, I would like to not be poor. That would be great. So I did that for I did two years of COBOL programming, my junior and senior year, which is like,
COBOL? That’s what they were teaching. Yeah, gosh, because I can't see. Yeah, I know. I was gonna say you're not old enough to be but I learned ADA. So that was kind of a kind of a comp, but it's a useless comp is.
Hey, there are still a lot of banking software's and stuff that run on COBL I'm told. So. It's still legit. Um, yeah. So then I went to college, I studied Java and C++. And I just didn't like it. At all. And I was just like, Alright, I'm done with school. I'm gonna go out to Utah where my mom grew up. I'm going to go stay with my aunt and just like figure out what I want to do with my life. So I came out which is where I live now. I live in Midway outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Then came I live downtown Salt Lake.
And what timeframe was this? I was
So in terms of what year though, Salt Lake has changed, a lot. It's all like it's changed.
Okay. Okay, so yeah, so I Yeah, so 20 Almost Yeah, like 20 years ago. So Salt Lake has changed a lot. Yeah. You've seen you've seen it change.
Yeah, definitely. So yeah, I got I got a job when I first moved here because I lived with my aunt and both of them had jobs. So they like couldn't help me get a job or drive me anywhere. So they were just like, well get a job and figure out how to use the bus system. So I did. My first job here was a feature films for families. I worked in a call center as a like an inside sales rep. And I've never done sales before. And in like, one week, I was like, the top performer and they were like, offering me at the time, I think I was making 12 bucks an hour, they offered me 15 bucks an hour. And I was like, and back then it was a lot more money than it isnow. I was like, No, I really, I think I want to go work at the spa. I just want to I didn't really enjoy that. I guess call center atmosphere very much. Um, so yeah, I met a girl who did massage. She was a massage therapist, and she took me to the massage school and had to get my first massage. And I was like, so like, what? You want me to get undressed? It's so weird. I'm so uncomfortable with this. I remember even thinking like, why do they need you take your underwear off. So like you have muscles in your butt… I didn't even I didn't even have like basic anatomy. or anything. I just was like, there’s no muscles there, like what?
Is this normal?
Exactly. Yeah, so I got a massage. And it was like, amazing. And I was so also amazed. Like she I think she charged 60 bucks an hour, it paid for her own apartment, she got to make her own hours work on the people she wanted to I was just like, man, that's like the ultimate freedom. I mean, I think people go into entrepreneurship because all entrepreneurs have that in common, like freedom is their number one value or, you know, desire in life, like they go into entrepreneurship to be their own boss and to own their future and, and all of that. So I was just like, oh, man, this is awesome. So I went to massage school, worked in a spa. I had my own private practice for five years. And in the meantime, I was having I had my first baby with my husband and we started an online outdoor retail store called morumbi.com. It's kind of like a backcountry.com situation. And we ran that for a while and I learned a lot of really good things. I learned ecommerce, I learned how to like go and sell myself to big retailers, right. It's just another sales skill to be like, yeah, we're just, we're totally big and can take carry more things, right.
Like you haven't heard of us like yeah. Google it, you’ll see, we're huge.
So you had to like convince them to let you carry their brands and convince you to let them write right to let you write them a $25,000 Check. Right. So we ran that for five years had all this inventory in our garage. when the recession hit. We couldn't sell anything anymore. People had your called back in 2008 People lost jobs. The housing market went crazy. People were losing their homes, and it's just like the market kind of dried up. And so
Especially especially Yeah, I would imagine for like the luxury items like you know, outdoor stuff. I mean, some people that were already living out of vans, like that's, that's the thing, like, that's not a luxury item. But for everybody else I could see. Yeah, that would be tough. So would did you do? What did with morumbi?
Yeah. So it's Morumbi? Don't confuse it with rhombi Island grill. I don't want to get sued.
Morumbi, we'll put we'll put the link in the show notes.
No people can’t still go there. It's named after a mountain in Brazil. Anyway, um, so yeah, so we liquidated everything. We sold it for less than we had bought it for. We were left with about $60,000 in debt. And I was just like, Well, how do we get ourselves out of this now? So I was doing like five hours of massage a day. At this point. We had to two little girls, two little babies. And my husband was he's a firefighter. So he was doing that and driving concrete truck on the weekends and then working security a couple days a week at night up at like the Kennecott mines here. It was just like we were working so hard and I was like, man, we cannot outwork this problem. We could not get out of the situation we're in just by like putting in more hours. And so I thought, I thought we're gonna have to start another business, I don't know, should be something I'm passionate about. I really love massage. I'm super passionate about helping people in pain. I was like, how do I build a massage business? Well, I know I don't want to do a spa because I worked in the spa, the margins are really low. They're hard. There's, like, the overhead is insane, because you have to have a space. And then there's all the supplies and you know, tables and equipment and people and the turnover is high. Anyway, I just already knew the spa space. And I was like, not interested. So I thought, well, wouldn't it be cool if you could bring massage into the workplace, and companies would just pay for it as a benefit?
Very, very cool idea. And that was what time this was like.
2009…Yeah. 2000 end of 2009
Very forward.I mean, that's, that's a, you know, you rewind, you know, 10 years ago, 12 years ago, that's a very forward thinking sort of vision. Yeah, I would argue
it was definitely before it was cool. For sure. They were doing Canada. So it was happening a lot in Canada. And in California, there were companies doing it like in the Bay Area and stuff. So I was like, well, let's see if we can sell that here in Utah. So I had a friend that did logo design, and another friend that did website. And I just,
this must, this must be Nivati, right? No. I know. It's not I'm just teasing. But but it's, it's this whole journey is like the beginning of Nivati. So yeah, I just wanted to remind our, I want to remind our listeners that like we're getting there, but this is so cool, how it all evolves. So all right.
Yes, it was called Incorporated Massage started in February 2010. And I just originally got a bunch of brochures together, had somebody build me like a pretty terrible website and handed these brochures out to all my friends. I was like, just take this to work, give it to your head of HR, see if they'll pay us money. I didn’t have any employees or anything. Nobody didn't even to do the massages. And
So what was the fulfillment here? Was it gonna be you like, you’re gonna do all the massages?
I hadn’t decided. Honestly, I was kina on the fence, I was like, well, I could do it and keep all the money. Or I could pay someone else, and then not have to do any work and keep half the money. And I was I knew that the work on the business, not in the business was like the solution I needed. But I was so tempted, because we were so poor, and like so strapped. I was like, man, but no, the first job I got, they needed three massage therapists. And I was like, well, there's my answer. I can't be three people. I might as well just hire three instead.
The business decision was made for you by the customer. That's amazing.
Yeah, so we started just doing it like a handful of like little events where it's like, admin Appreciation Day. And in fact, our first client is still our client today, we still we still because we there is a massage revenue channel that still exists at the version of the company now, which is Nivati. And so we do still have most of our original customers to work with us 12 years later.
That’s a cool data point. I know. That's that's like you talk about retention. And like, that's amazing. It's like,
Yes, we did a good job. Um, so yeah, we got our first contract to do it regularly with USANA Health Sciences here in Utah, like 500 employees, and we came in every single Monday and did their massages. And then once I did that, I was like, Okay, now I want more of these contracts, because that recurring revenue was real nice and easier to staff. Because then it's like, if you can just assign a massage therapist, like every Monday, they work here, then I don't have to go find massage therapists for every single shift. And so I was like, I want more of these. And then we got a contract with Entrata, which is a tech company here in Utah, and they had a Dallas office. And they said, Hey, we want massages at our Dallas office too. Can you do that, or should we hire someone local? And I said…
No, no, we'll just use our Dallas branch to service that.
Exactly. So basically, what I said I was like, no no no, and I'll figure it out. I'll get I'll get to massages in Dallas. So that was my first time trying to figure out how to hire an interview someone virtually, because with massage, it's like, the traditional massage interview was like you go into a spa or chiropractor's office or whatever, you massage your interviewer, and then they feel your massage and that's how they decide if they're gonna hire you
It's not like, you could ask them questions like, so tell me a time when you had a really challenging massage? Like, like that? Doesn't that doesn't work, right. Yeah, I get it. That's how you interview them. Okay.
Yeah. So I was I had to kind of figure out that problems like how am I going to hire people other side of the country, I'm not going to fly there and have everyone massage me. Because for my Utah therapists, I will have them come to my house. And I would just be like, come to my house, bring your massage chair and give me a massage. And then I started having one of my employees be the person getting the massages and making the decision, so I didn't have to do that anymore. And so at this point, I'm like, Well, I'm not gonna fly someone out there. I’m not going to fly them here. I was like, I've got to figure out a way to determine if they're a good massage therapist or not just by like watching a video is what I came up with. I was like, I have done so much massage, and I've viewed, you know, I can look at a person, I can be like, Oh, they're using the right body mechanics, I can tell that the pressure is good, I can evaluate their equipment I can see, you know, are they dressed professionally, and hygienic looking, you know, I can evaluate, like, all these different areas of criteria. So I gave it a shot, and I was like, I'm gonna have them do like submit like a five minute video of them massaging someone like someone in their household or whatever, friend. And then I built out like a grading rubric. And I was like, Okay, on a scale of one to five, I'll give them a score in these different categories. And then that's what we used to scale. So we hired everyone virtually.
Very cool. And nowadays, people would like probably build some AI algorithm to evaluate the video, but the video just the video idea. That's brilliant. That's really cool.
Yeah, so we grew the company to about 1,200, massage therapists across the US. And then we had teams in Canada and a team in Mexico that we contracted with, because I was like, I don't want to mess with international taxes. So yeah, so we contracted with partners in the other countries in North America, but grew that too. We worked with about just under 4,00 companies in the US. Intel was one of our biggest clients, we covered I think eight or nine of their locations across the US and yeah, about 50% 52% I think of our revenue was on contracts. And then the other 48% was events. So somebody just having us out for like, Nurses Week or as a Christmas party thing, just like whatever reason you might come up with. It's usually fake. Holidays made up by corporate America is Teacher Appreciation Week. It's Nurses Week, it's tax…
Lets get a massage. It’s Massage Therapists week. So So you grew this? I mean, unbelievable. from idea to, you know, 1,200 massage therapists, 4,000 companies? I mean, what a journey. I mean, you must have been one of the largest these sorts of offerings in the country. Were do you I mean, were you the biggest?
Yeah, we had one other company that was similarly sized. But right, when we were about the same size, they got hit with PAGA in California. So let me I'll explain what that is. So there's a company called Uber. Yes, I've heard of them. Um, and the whole GIG economy, they had 1090 nines and California, New York kind of came down on that. And they're still I think, in lawsuits, maybe even today. Going through that. But yeah so California trying to be all forward thinking as they like to do passed a law that basically said, if you were a service provider, you could sue previous employers for employee misclassification on behalf of the state. And it could be retroactive for three years. So companies similar to ours that had 1099s where we had W tos. The 1099s all got hammered. And so our biggest competitor in the same space got kicked out of the state of California, they couldn't operate there anymore. And so their revenue was cut down by a third. And so then we became the reigning champion, and we also picked up some of their accounts.
Wow. Well, you avoided that, of course, because of your experience selling chocolate chip cookies, like you knew how to maneuver around things like PAGA.
I feel like it was more like because I was a massage therapist that was misclassified as a 1099 working at a chiropractor's office. And I was like, it’s wrong, it's just wrong. They.
So you did it right for the employees, which is why you Yeah, in the end you won because you did it right.
Because you can't provide any kind of benefits or continuing education or tell them where to be or when to be there or make them wear a uniform. There's like all these rules, and it's a gray area, it's like if more of these than not are in the positive, then you should be an employee, if less, but it's like a gray area. But California takes that very seriously. And just the lawsuit costs alone will put a company out of business, even if you're not actually misclassifying. Anyone you certainly want to be accused.
Sure. So you grew it. So you've you've avoided this. You did the right thing. You grew you you took over California, National domination. Then what? It just kept getting better, right?
it did for a minute. So…
What do you mean for a minute? What happened?
I mean, I don't know. I don't know. I can't figure it out. Um, yeah. So Q1 of 2020. We by February, we had already exceeded our Q1 goals. And in the meantime, it's like we were on the Inc 5000 the last two years. Utah 100. The Fast 50. 40 under 40 is like… we won like awards every month, it was pretty fun. And because we were growing so quickly, and I'd raised about just under $2 million in angel funding, and we were ahead of goal, we'd already hit our goals for Q1. And then March 13. Friday the 13th 2020.
What what was that? What's the significance? Sorry, I know. I'm teasing so bad here.
It’s like when COVID hit the US. Oh, and everybody's like, Oh, we’re doing work from home and you can't touch people. I mean, I can't think of an industry that was impacted more than ours, because we had a 98%, revenue reduction in 2020. From 2020, from 2019. And we were on track to have a we're on track to have 100% revenue growth in 2020. And we ended up having a 98% reduction was like the total opposite of what it was supposed to be. It was 98 because we did have January, February and half of March, were we operational, so that made up like that. 2%. We still had revenue.
I mean, Amelia, you tell the story with a smile. But I mean, this is like, there's rarely rarely in entrepreneurs ever encounters this type of a circumstance, right? I mean, this is, this is unprecedented. How did how did you feel like what did you do? What was what was like? What was going on in your head?
It was like the worst thing ever. I can't, there really isn't no more horrible have an experience that I've been through. I was like, Holy crap, what are we going to do? And I thought, I thought, listen, hopefully this only lasts like two weeks, maybe four, I sat down with my board, they're like, put together a 90 a 90 day massage at a standstill and 180 at like a six months, so three months and six months. And I had built out one month and they were like, We want to see three and six. And I was like six months is not gonna last six months. You guys, this is a huge waste of time. We're in the middle of a crisis. I gotta focus on all these other things. And they're like, nope, put together a six month forecast. And so I did and when I did, I was like, crap, we will be completely out of money and out of business in like, four and a half months, right? So I put that together, they they said, Okay, we need to furlough everyone on the entire team and just put a pause on all spending, maintain our cash position and wait this out. Later, they told me that they met without me, and that they had already decided the company was gonna be filing for bankruptcy. They were like, they were like, there's no way that she's gonna survive this, we're gonna be filing for bankruptcy, blah, blah, blah. But they wanted to encourage me to try and solution anyway. They're like, yeah, and then figure out how else you can make money. Let's try everything you know, from dog walking to Amazon drivers. At the same time, we have this whole population of all these massage therapists that we were their income. And they're like, there's no work. So we have all this pressure from our team of like, help. We need money, find us something to do. So I'm like, Okay, well, how can we use this, this fleet of humans with cars and time to serve in some other way? Can they deliver vaccines to people's homes? Can they, you know, we looked at everything. Even COVID vaccine scheduling, we have this platform that we had built that could do scheduling for massages. And so we repurposed it to schedule COVID vaccines to move really quickly. So we were one of the early scheduling solutions for like the the test Utah initiative here in Utah. But I mean, we didn't make money doing that it was all volunteer. Yeah, it was just like, well, we're humans, and they're willing to work.
And that's probably important just for their, you know, for their mental health and for their, you know, feeling of satisfaction that they were getting as employees prior to COVID. Right. I mean, ultimately, you want to take care of the people, right, and which you had 1200 of them or more it sounds
I feel that very deeply. Not only can I not help our massage therapists, I couldn't help my own like, corporate team, because I was just like, I don't have any money to pay you guys. We will literally go to business. And so it was heartbreaking. I had to tell. I just told the whole team, people that were depending on like their families, depending on this, but at the same time, I'm like, well, they could they were eligible for unemployment. So I didn't have to say like they have absolutely nothing. We knew there were all these unemployment benefits are being extended and things like that. But man I was I was sick to my stomach. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep it was it was the most gut wrenching experience. And when I had to tell, like my chief revenue officer at the time, when I had to tell him like, we can't afford to keep paying you because you have to be bringing in enough money to cover your salary. And it just it just wasn't possible. We didn't have anything else to sell yet. When I had to, you know furlough him and I know that like his family and his wife was pregnant and I was just like, I'm the worst human being that's ever lived. That's how I felt. It was so hard. Um, But I can make hard decisions, I can make the hard calls and I did. So then, we pivoted. In the middle of this furlough, we had a few people that we had brought back, who were willing to work for stock. So they weren't even getting paid. But they're just like, they were like, Yeah, I got nothing else to do, I'll work and take more stock in the company. So they really believed in us and the team and wanted to help find a solution. And so we, we originally launched and said, Well, we have a team. And I sent out the survey to our massage therapists just like hey, what else can you do? And we had yoga instructors, we had registered dieticians, we had life coaches, we had fitness instructors and personal trainers. And we put together this kind of initial MVP of like, what if we could just offer these services over zoom, and do like these group classes for companies, and at the same time, I interviewed our clients to find out what their needs were. And I thought, Oh, we can totally solve this with like group classes over zoom. So that was my first shot at pivoting the company. And I quickly realized, like we were not gonna make, there was not a path back to, to the revenue numbers, we were at pre-COVID. And so I was like, Oh, that's not gonna work. And so then my life coaches started telling me that their clients had a real mental health challenges that they needed just to refer them to someone like, oh, my gosh, this person is like, has a problem with substance abuse this person's suicidal, suicidal thoughts, like, how do we give them some help? And I was like, wow, I don't know, I guess we need to find a partner just to refer them to. So I started calling all these clinics all over Utah, and they were all like, we are backed up for months, we cannot help you. And that's when I thought, well, we have a really great team. That's experts in staffing, massage therapists. Wonder if we could bring them back and have them try to hire mental health therapists? And then if we could sell that to corporations, and do it virtually? So that was my like, next hypothesis…
Spark, what a spark? I mean, it's a brilliant, yeah. And where did that go? How did that how did that evolve? Or, how quickly did it evolve?
Yeah, so we had kind of two experiments going on at the same time, because the other thing that was happening was clients were asking for recordings of these group classes, and even asking us to make custom classes for their teams to put in like their intranet. And so that was my other ideas. I was like, they're willing to pay for content, I wonder if we should just like make a bunch of content and sell it. And so we bought all these, like, video kits, like, at home video kits, like a circle light and like a little stand for their phone and a mic that they could plug into their phone. And this version was just like, we identified 12 people, we sent them at home video kits. And they're all out of work at this point, too. Because if they're yoga instructors, or they're doing massage, whatever the case may be all that was shut down. So they were just so excited to have something to do and to get paid for something. We were like, just start making a bunch of videos. And we're gonna put them into our app, because we had our platform we'd already built for massage. And so we just kind of started expanding it. And we got we got some PPP money. So we got like a PPP one, we ended up getting a second PPP as well, we got an idol loan, so I was just like, using everything that I can get my hands on, I'm like, this is our seed money, guys. And we're gonna go see if we can take it to market fe. Um, so yeah, we closed our first mental health client. And it launched October 2020. And we also I think it was
That’s quick. That's a pretty quick turn. I mean, yeah.
Yeah. It was like, it's like six months.
Yeah. So you had at that point, you had a, an MVP basically built that you onboard that customer? Yeah, I
I mean, the first demos we did were literally in Adobe XD and people didn't know it wasn't real. I'm just like, oh, yeah, then you just click here. And I feel like it was just so chaotic to that people. There's just like stuff just flying everywhere. And so it's like, even if we did like the demo on Adobe XD and then like, what we actually presented to the client didn't look the same. It was like people don't even really blink, because they it was just my boys need help.
Yeah, and ultimately, what they needed was the solution, right? I mean, they were looking they weren't, they weren't looking for the slickest bells and whistles, beautiful UI, like they just wanted a solution that worked that was addressing their problem. And that's what you did. That's what you were focused on.
Yeah, even in the very beginning, before the app went live. We literally just had a page on our website that had an icon for each modality that we were offering. And then when you clicked it, it just opened up their Calendly page, there was actually really no, no actual like scheduling software or anything. We didn't even have an app. It was just like, there's a web page, go here. And then we and then we would manually look at what was booked and then build a client. So that's kind of how it started, on the service side. Yeah. So once we had about five clients, we…so this is a January 2021. And we had a handful of testimonials. I was like, well, we will literally be out of money in 90 days. So now I have to go see if I can convince anyone to fund us.
But you did something, you built something from nothing, you bootstraped something to a point where you could say, look at this opportunity, which was, which is, you know, once again, another puts you in another class of founder that I mean, is a rare is rare. You survived this amazing chasm of death, came out of it and built something with nothing. And demonstrated that it worked.
Yeah, it worked enough that at least five companies had decided to take it.
And so what was that fundraising process like then?
Oh, it was scary and painful, because I was like, we're like down to our last $150,000. And I'm just like, All right, well, this is everything I've worked for, for the past 11 years. And it's either we either raise the money or we go back to normal Oh, and at the same time, like go back to normal, we lose everything. Is what I meant to say, at the same I…
I hope that's not normal!
I hope now. At the same time my husband and I had, so we had we had like, bought a lot like three years earlier. And then we had like, saved up for an architect and then had saved up for a construction loan. And we had just started construction on our like dream house in Utah up in Midway. And we were 60-70% of the way through the build when COVID hit. And so the whole time I'm going through this pivot, I'm like, like, we're gonna lose everything I've worked for, we worked so hard to be able to build this house. And this was like our, you know, magnum opus, like, it was like, the thing I've been shooting for my whole life was like I want I want not to have any debt. And I want to have like, a nice, comfortable house for my family. And so I was so excited. So yeah, when it when it all came crashing down, I was like, Oh my gosh, we're gonna lose everything, we're gonna lose the house, like there's no way for me to make any extra money and not just lose the house, it's like, we wouldn't be able to finish the build. So we can't even sell it. It'll be a half built house and a half built house built for pennies on the dollar. So we're gonna end up upside down and I was I like, I've never been so sick, I actually the stress and working like 90 hours a week actually got an autoimmune disease, I got Graves disease. And I had to go to an endocrinologist. And it was a year and a half treatment process till I got into full remission, and I'm in remission now. So I, I don't have any active Graves disease right now. But I like that the amount of stress and just like the darkest time of my life was horrible.
Oh, well, I'm so glad you pulled through. I mean, it's especially given you know, where the company is now and where you are now. I mean, it's, it's amazing. It's amazing. Can you tell us about that kind of what got you to present?
Okay, so I had my five clients, I went back to our existing angels, and I said, Guys, we got served this black swan event that nobody ever sees, we were doing really well, you know I can execute. I have this new idea. We have these five clients, they like it. Here's their testimonials, fund us to just get us to that next step. So the first couple months, it was so slow. That's how it is. I feel like with every fundraising, it's like until you get your first bite. Everyone's just like, we'll see what's gonna happen.
We're interested, let us know if anybody else leads we're right. It's like, yeah, oh,
yeah, it was all angels. So we didn't. This was like my third angel round experience. And so I've just always led my own Angel rounds. I set the terms and I'm just like, This is what it is. And then people jump in. So yeah, this time around, though, we ended up getting a lot of new investors who had never been interested in what we were doing previously. But now that we were moving into the mental health space, and we had a SaaS based pricing model, they were all over it. And we got bigger checks than I've ever gotten. So I rate I needed less investors, because I had multiple, you know, 100,000 plus checks. When before, I think my biggest check size was 50. And most people were at 25 at the other rounds I'd raised. So yeah, we closed $840,000 thing it closed in February of 2021. And then I was like, Okay, we bought ourselves like six to eight months of runway. Let's go. Let's see if we can get this done. And so then we brought on like an architect to help us build the platform because one thing that I left out of the story is we when we were still a massage company, we had made the business case to go from having our own custom built platform we had built and rebuilding it inside of Salesforce because, Salesforce had some out of the box functionality, where like they had a mobile publisher so we didn't have to build our own mobile app, we could just push the button. And our community would be published into Apple and Android. And they maintain all of that. And so we had gone from having a developer team of like seven developers to build our, we call it the booking app for massage, our tech, not tech enabled services platform. And we had, we had a team of seven developers and it made more financial sense to move to Salesforce, because they had some of the pieces we wanted to build out of the box. And so it was a, it was a speed to market and lowering our headcount on developers that we had made that decision. So we were actually actually about 70% of the way through that migration and internal build when COVID hit. And so we had this platform that was 70% of the way built for massage, tech enabled services, we had to stop all the massage, build and pivot and put all of our development resources toward, you know, the CMS building out like the content and being able to book virtual services. And so we use that money to continue that build and improve the experience and all that. But in the meantime, there are literally hamsters on wheels behind the curtain and making everything work and move so our clients feel like, oh, there's this app, and it works really great. And it's like, they push a button, and then somebody's watching a report, and then they're going and doing something else to make it happen.
Oh, my gosh. That's the Mechanical Turk of mental health. Yeah. So so what what, you know, you pivoted, you got the you got the team focused on, you know, building, what about where's the content coming from, though? And can you tell us about kind of what the current offering I mean, you have like an amazing amount of sort of full spectrum that covers not just what people would think of as traditional mental health options, but going even like financial planning, right? And like some of the you well you describe it better than I do. So. Tell us about it.
Yeah. So we're a holistic mental health platform. And our focus is really anything that contributes to negative mental health, we want to address in our platform. So for some people, maybe they're struggling with anxiety and depression, just because they're not sleeping well. So we have like a sleep neuro music library that will help people fall asleep and stay asleep. It's like clinically proven, it's pretty awesome. Or maybe you're just feeling really anxious because you're living paycheck to paycheck, talking to a therapist isn't going to help you. But working with a financial coach, learning how to get on a budget and get out of debt will help eliminate that problem. So one of the big things we learn in that first year is that mental health is so personal, that not everybody's open to talk therapy, and not everybody needs talk therapy. So what other ways can we solve this problem around mental health to meet every employee where they're at? So we saw that if you looked at the data, the people that were using teletherapy, were a different population than the people just watching videos on mental health. And so that told us that like, it's like, oh, those people both have access to both, but some are choosing one and some are choosing the other. And they're not overlapping really much at all. And there's like research about mental health chatbots. And, you know, people are more open to like chat or text therapy that would really talk to someone face to face. So we're just taking all this information. And we're trying to say like, how do we meet the needs of every facet of care that people are interested in, because ultimately, what our clients care about is what percentage of their population is engaging in using the services and feeling better. And we're going to capture the highest utilization numbers, if we're able to meet employees with whatever it is that they need for whatever level they're at.
And your holistic approach, you think about I mean, these are all gateways for people to get well, whether they start with something as small as watching a video, get warmed up to talking to a bot, and eventually being like, you know, actually, I want to talk to a person, but it's sort of like everything is a potential gateway to getting well, right?
Exactly. I liked the way you didn't use the term gateway drug. No, we don't say that. We're in the mental health space…
We don't prescribe things. It's a gateway. Yeah.
Yeah. So it opens the door. It opens the door to get ready and comfortable with that level of care.
Yeah. So So where are you at now? What's exciting, like what exciting news you have to share? Or where's the company today? In 2022?
Yeah. So today we've got about 70 corporate clients. 23 people on our team now. We are serving around 20,000 employees. And we just closed a $4 million funding round our first venture round in March, closed at the end of March. Thank you was was a lot of work.
Yeah, that that could probably be a whole nother episode. We could talk about that right?
Yeah. And then I just won CEO of the year here in Utah for the pivot. And it was pretty crazy because I'm on like the same...I'm on the same level with like, you know, the CEO of IHC have Intermountain Healthcare and like all these, like big companies, there's a handful of startups, but they're all much more mature than us. So I was just kind of like, floored when I got the email. I was just like, what?
You really I don't think it's crazy. I mean, our listeners that just heard the story, I mean, no doubt, like, I can't imagine anybody challenging you for that title, Amelia. I mean, it's amazing. It's such an amazing journey. So it's very cool. And by the way, you know, one thing we didn't talk about, in the, in the, you know, throughout this journey in the process of growth, you said something early on about when you worked at the call center, you know, kind of just coming out of your shell as an early professional, and discovering this, this sales superpower, and I gotta say, from the second that I met you, I was like, Wow, this CEO, this founder can sell. I mean you you sell. And you you did, like you sold? Was it like the first 40 customers or so?
t was like our first 450,000 of ARR I sold. And so yeah, I
That's the hardest 450,000 right there, right.
I didn't know, I didn't know until I went through this experience that I even had, that that was something unique to me. I just, you know, how you just kind of assume everyone's just like you until you learn that they're not like, oh, everyone, this is easy. For me. It must be easy for humans in general. People were so amazed by that, that I was like, oh, maybe that's something unique to me that like it's a talent or a skill that I have that is less common, or unique in some way. Anyway, it was eye opening experience. I learned a lot about myself that I didn't know, and I probably would have maybe never learned not having gone through that experience.
Yeah, for sure. You know, another another kind of superpower, you got a bunch of them. But another one I want to highlight and I'd love to get your perspective or advice for founders is, you know, you, you really seem to be at least from what I see, like LinkedIn, just sort of Maven and expert. And like you are you're on it, like on the social, on the promotion on the what's the secret ingredient, there?
Vulnerability and consistency. That's what people engage with is vulnerability. And it's from a formula standpoint, there is kind of a formula to it, where it's like, you can't just have every post be like, I'm baring my soul about this thing, right? You can't have every post be highlighting someone else and making someone else look like a rock star, you can't have every post be about your family, right? But it's, it's what people want is connection, and they want to feel connected to you. And they connect to you through authenticity. And with that authenticity, there has to be some vulnerability and some showing like, I'm less human, you know, lessons learned posts are really popular, but they can get old. So you just you can't stick to any one strategy, you have to make sure that whatever you're posting on LinkedIn is a blend of different things that people engage with. Different people engage with different stuff, too. So yeah, I can't tell you how many times in the last two years, I have gone somewhere in public and random people I've never seen before come up to me, they're like, I follow you on LinkedIn. I love your stuff. I’m like…this is weird.
But it shows you're doing something and you're doing something right. So that's, that's great. What do you have any advice on on networking, especially networking in in, in region or Utah? Wherever you feel comfortable sharing or some advice on?
Yeah, I mean, my advice on networking is just like, it's like always be helping, right? I always, not always, but most of the time, I am asked to speak at universities to college students, or even I just did a high school. Last week, a virtual high school, then they recorded the session for their curriculum. Anytime I get those opportunities, I'll go do it. So um, and even what at one point of my board members was like, you give back later, right now you need to like, focus on the business. And I was like, No, but that's not me. I give back now. Because what if I died tomorrow? And just say, Well, I'm gonna wait until I'm like, in my 50s and retired or whatever. Now I gotta get back now. So and I love also I love getting in front of young adults and teenagers. It's like the energy is so just reignites that entrepreneurial fire that I have, but my point was, I have had multiple investors come out of those University talks, and new clients and connections. I've had people that there's I just had someone email me the other day, they're like, You came and spoke in my college class and now I work at this place and like can we set up a meeting So there's that and then connecting like I connected an entrepreneur yesterday, who wanted some investor intros and I sent him like six, you know, double opt-in investor intros for sure. But just taking those five minutes to just try and help people. It always comes back to you, like 100x, that's my biggest networking advice is like be authentically wanting to help other people.
That's great advice. Last question that I have for today, you know, you've you've always impressed me as well as, as, as someone that seems to be able to sort of manage and balance being a CEO, being a SaaS CEO of venture backed CEO, but also being a mom. And I remember the first time I met you in person, you were with your daughter at Silicon Slopes. And I would love for you to just share some advice, you know, for parents out there that are trying to do at all trying to be great parents and founders, like, how do you do it? What's the magic?
is super hard. For me, like I started my company with babies working from home, we were a remote team before COVID, for like a decade, we were using Zoom before people even knew what it was. So I built a company that reflected what was important to me. So for me, it was like, I wanted to be home with my girls. And it had to be able to work with my life. So I would I would work like after they were at school, and then I, you know, they come home and I'm doing dinner, and I'm taking them places. And then I'd work again after they're in bed for a few hours. And so my organization took on those attributes of that flexibility. And at the time, it was like so different. In fact, I remember an investor telling me you can't build a company. You can't scale a company like that, like you have to be in an office together. And I was just like, I think we can. And now it’s like, hello.
Thank you very much.
But yeah, for me, it was how much can I integrate family and work when like, Give and take. So just I had to get rid of that idea of like, Oh, you got to work nine to five. You know, when I first started in corporate massage, I was only working part time on it. Just like where I had time, then it grew. And it took more of my time. And then now like you mentioned my daughter was with me at Silicon Llopes. I my life now every business trip I take, I tried to take one of my daughters with me. So I have three girls, I don't have any boys. So that's why she just keeps saying daughters. Not like I'm excluding my sons. I just don't have any.
No, no, we understand. But that’s such a cool idea. I love that. That's really special…
Yeah, even even with like when we were closing our venture round, and I went to go meet our VCs in person. I told them in an email, I said, just so you know, my daughter is going to be with me, I always take one of my daughters when I go on any trip. And so the first time I met my VCs, before the round, even closed, they got to meet one of my daughters. And, you know, my daughter's got to learn like, this is what conversations are like, these are questions they ask and like this is venture capital. This is just like a really good learning experience. And so for me, it helps me number one, because I'm getting these special experiences one on one with each one of my kids that are unique, and because my best memories from childhood are when I was one on one with any one of my parents. And so when I think about that, I'm like, How do I give that same thing to my kids. And so bringing them on trips with me, it's like a good education. It's one on one time, we always eat at some really great restaurants and like, have some like amazing desserts or do a little sightseeing, wherever we go. And, yeah, I just think I think that's the way that things will be moving forward in the world anyway. I mean, everyone's used to seeing kids on Zoom calls now and taking breaks in the middle of the day to do stuff with your kids. I mean, my team does. And I think and I've heard them other companies doing it, too. But it's just we're in a different era now where I think we're going to see more of that.
As somebody that has, you know, seen the future many times before I, I would put a lot of faith in what you just said. I think that's that's absolutely right. And I want to thank you for sharing that. That's just such a special story with what you're doing with your daughters. So thank you for sharing that with everybody. Well, Amelia, from you know, cookies and glow sticks to massage on demand and COVID to emerging like a phoenix. And starting this this amazing company addressing mental health challenges. I gotta say, I just can't wait to see what continues to happen here because it's been an amazing journey. And thank you for shout telling the story today on the show.
Awesome. Thanks for having me. As always a pleasure.
Can you please tell our audience where they can find you and Nivati online?
Yep, so Nivati is just in nivati.com, and then I'm super active on LinkedIn. So if you want to DM me or connect with me on LinkedIn, And that's awesome. I would love it. It's just Amelia Wilcox. So that's how most people find me get in touch with me anyway.
Awesome. Thanks Amelia. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Found in the Rockies. You can find links in the show notes or go to foundintherockies.buzzsprout.com to get transcripts, links and contact information for today's guests. If you like what you heard and want more, please don't forget to rate review and subscribe to get notified as our new episodes drop every two weeks. We'll see you next time.