Joining me in this episode is Sarah Mcdevitt, founder of Core. A mental wellness company who have developed a device for meditation that uses grounding vibration patterns, light and clarifying breathing exercises to bring your mind back to focus.
After suffering from anxiety and burnout in her career, Sarah changed direction and took her background in program engineering at Microsoft to set about creating a device to help her mental wellbeing.
We cover her journey from the early stages of prototyping and why there might be more iterations needed than you think, through to the unique challenges women face when fundraising (and the advice she received from another female founder that helped her change tactics to reach success!) and why she thinks it's absolutely critical to share your idea to as many people as possible early on.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Let's jump into this episode. Female Startup Club. Do you want to tell us what Core is at its Core And of course so Core is a mental wellness brand and we really took signals from the fitness industry to say how can we build a much more powerful mental wellness brand um that really recognizes the strength in pursuing mental well being. So what we've done is put out a product and sort of an ecosystem around that that helps people meditate and do breath training exercises um and see the data, the biofeedback data behind how these different practices are affecting them so that we can really take our care for our minds to the next level and what made you want to start it.
00:03:38Edit So I was an athlete and I was an athlete in college and sort of always tuned into that physical health, physical fitness and I think as an athlete, you really develop that keen awareness of, you know, anything is wrong or off in the body, you kind of know what to work out or what to, you know, work on in recovery or what to stretch, you have this really intuitive sense of your body and when I was starting my career after college, I was working at Microsoft for several years and about five years in, I was suddenly feeling what I now know to be some really intense anxiety, I don't think I knew what it was at the time, I had never identified with feelings of anxiety and always, you know, if you met me kind of be like, oh she's a pretty chill person, you know, even keeled and I just really got kind of knocked on my asa little bit by anxiety and there was one moment at work when it kind of came to a head where I was staring at my computer screen in my office and I just like I couldn't see basically, I just could not see what's on my screen and I left in the middle of the day, I just like sped home and it was this intense feeling of panic and I never felt that before and I tell the story kind of about being an athlete because what I was starting to realize was like, I can't just like work, I can't just kind of like for fight my way through this, you know, when it was my mind that was kind of feeling off um and since I never felt that before, it really took a hit to my identity, I think of feeling like kind of strong and on top of everything and you know, I can handle everything.
00:05:19Edit Um and I just couldn't in that moment. And so that was really a catalyst for digging into why that happened. What is anxiety, like, where does this come from? Why does it feel so debilitating sometimes when just yesterday you were feeling, you know, I was feeling maybe on top of my game and then you know, what are the tools that we should that I wish I had in my toolkit to help myself through this period of anxiety um uh and then the realization that, you know, if, if that could kind of flip on a dime like that for me that could happen to anyone. And once I started really researching mental wellness and mental health and the effect on our physical health over time as well, I really realized how this is a universal challenge. Like you're not sort of like mentally healthier, mentally ill, there's a spectrum right, like I just don't want people to feel that sinking feeling at all ever.
00:06:20Edit And so what should we be learning over time to help ourselves, you know, prevent feelings like that, prevent the long term health effects of stress and anxiety and be able to just feel on top of our game at all times. Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's one of those things where now it touches everyone, I feel like everyone is struggling with these kind of feelings and anxiety and especially now given the current state of the world, like it's creeping out where maybe you didn't realize it was creeping out before and now it's just like whoa, exactly. And so after you went through that experience, what was next? We're like, okay, I'm gonna start a business in this industry, I'm going to just quit my job. Was it a slower realization? Yeah, it was a slightly slower path, although I would say so many things just happen to kind of come into my path at the right time to allow me to do this. So when I felt that panic attack really, I was already on the path to grad school, so I was still working at Microsoft, but I had already applied um to grad school for a Master's in education and my plan was to go into Edtech, I was in engineering program management at Microsoft.
00:07:36Edit And um so I applied to this program to learn more about the education system and designing for education thinking I was going to Ed Tech, so I was already on on the path to go to grad school. I was like a month or two from quitting my job already and I think that was a big catalyst for the anxiety, like even though I was doing everything I wanted to do, I was staring down a big time of change in my life um and maybe not really processing that I was scared or you know, those kind of emotions that I was like not paying attention to. And so um so I quit my job, went to grad school as planned, but I really changed what I was focusing on and instead started researching stress and anxiety and the effect on physical health and mental health and then different practices like meditation and other interventions that are really effective against some of those challenges. And uh someone introduced me to meditation at the time that I had the panic attack.
00:08:39Edit It was the first time that I had really experienced it and it just clicked for me at the time. And so as I was starting to feel some personal benefits from it, you know, maybe my kind of engineering mind was like, but is there research, like tell me the science behind this. And so I spent my time really researching it and um you know, the kind of Western medical research behind meditation similar um practices is fairly recent but incredibly, incredibly promising. And so I was really excited by that and just started talking to everyone I could possibly talk to about there journey of mental wellness and also their journey of meditation and at the time, you know, headspace and calm. A number of these apps were just starting out. They weren't huge yet, but they were really just introducing a mainstream sort of approachable concept around meditation and kind of normalizing even the word meditation. Um and making it a bit more like um mainstream versus like hippie.
00:09:45Edit Exactly, exactly. And so that was amazing. Like I think those apps are phenomenal. They're a great introduction to the concept and I think they've done a great job with opening up the public's mind too, being a really approachable subject. Um but what I found in talking to hundreds of potential users and kind of, my early user research was um that it was a great introduction, but they just couldn't stick with it. Like there are so many questions that I'm sure many of us really to, which is like, I don't know if I'm doing it right. It's way too hard to focus. I can't turn my brain off. Like all these things that we, you know, that I just kept hearing repeated and I was like tang if you know, if we can't help people stick with it for months and months and really make this uh you know, a daily part of our lives um then we won't be seeing the benefits. It's something that we have to be consistent with to see the benefits. And that's so hard when it's such a sort of mysterious feeling. Practice. I mean as you're saying all that, I'm like, yep, that's me, that's me, that's me, I've tried a million different things and you know, I've done like a course in transcendental, which I love doing the course and I found it so therapeutic, But I just couldn't commit to 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon.
00:11:02Edit And so I really dropped off and then again with apps like calm and headspace, I have the subscriptions to them, but I stick with it for a couple of days and then I'm like, I'm not saying anything, I don't know what I'm supposed to see it, I don't know what I'm meant to be feeling and I find it really hard to yeah, just to stick with it. And so I think what you're creating and what you're talking about is just so amazing to be able to monitor that. Yeah, exactly. So we we took that and you know, said okay, how we want to build something that helps people stick with it above anything. Let's help people stick with it. And so two of the things that we found to be incredibly powerful for that um one is having this physical guidance, so we, you know the core is a device that you hold in your hands. Um it's very, it's kind of like the size of a softball, it's very grounding, very centering, has some nice weight, but it looks very beautiful. So it can sit on your nightstand and remind you to just pick it up and kind of you don't have to rely as much on your phone to be your meditation reminder.
00:12:06Edit Um because your phone has all the other things we stress about in it. Um and so you can pick up core and we guide meditation exercises and breath training exercises as well with vibration in your hands as well as the audio from the classes in our app. And this physical like very um you know, somatic connection to a guide was just such a different way of trying. It, it really helps people stay grounded and have something to do. Like it kind of makes meditation more active practice for people. Um which just makes it so much easier to, you know, the basic premise of meditation is when your mind wanders not to, you know judge that not to get sort of like frustrated by that, but just to gently bring your attention back to one Thing. one sensation in the present moment. Um and oftentimes that can be your breath, but it can also be the vibration that you feel in your hands with core. So that's been really powerful. And then the second piece like you mentioned is the data and what we track.
00:13:11Edit So holding the device tracks E g electrocardiogram. So we're getting a really good look at your heart and nervous system during meditation and we don't interrupt your practice sort of as you're going but afterwards we give you a report that shows how your body responded to the different techniques that you're doing and this is I think the most powerful piece of our ecosystem because first of all we you know we're so used to tracking everything and you know fitness, physical health, nutrition um having your own data insights into that data is really empowering because wellness is very personal. Like what works for you may not work for me and so giving people insight into how different things affect them, empowers them to make decisions about their practice, understand they're kind of stress patterns differently um and really make decisions that can better their health. Um And then from a kind of day to day perspective like if we can give you a sense in the first couple days of trying this that hey this is really having an effect on you and build that confidence that yes the practices working Yes you've got to keep going but every time you come back you can see a little bit of progress um that's incredibly effective to stick with it.
00:14:35Edit And so for example if you were to get some data back on the app, that's like, yeah, you're I think it's as manages your monitors your heart rate right? And so if you're getting something back and says, yeah, your your heart rates really high and you're stressed and all this kind of thing, what do you do to make it to make it better? Because I find that with things that track um different aspects of my life. So for example, I use sleep cycle that tracks my sleep and it sometimes can work in my negative because I get really stressed about like making sure that I'm going to have the right night sleep and then that can stress me to the point of not having the right night sleep, if that makes sense. And so I'm wondering what you actually do with those results to make it better? Yeah, that's a great question. So, I'll tell you a little personal anecdote as part of that answer. So when we were first developing the technology and the device um with the biofeedback, we had just gotten it working. And so as a team, we were meditating almost everyday together uh and one of the key metrics that we pull out of the data is called heart rate variability for HIV.
00:15:45Edit And it's this great metric endurance athletes have been using it for quite a long time to measure their training and recovery and it's really applicable to us in daily life, who may not be elite endurance athletes um in the same way, so basically it's kind of like an overall wellness score and when it's very high your body is very recovered, it's very able to kind of um modulate itself for whatever comes its way when it's very low, it's a signal that it's kind of struggling a little bit um and you're not fully recovering. And so we were, as a team, we were starting, we were meditating every day. Our technology was working, the biofeedback is working, you know, as an entrepreneur, I was like pushing super hard, working really hard, and one day we meditated together as a team and my HIV score was super super low, and at the time I was like, oh my God, is our technology wrong? Like, you know, it's something wrong with the system, and three days later I got sick and I had to take a couple days out um and that's what HIV does, It can flag when your body is no longer operating a kind of full function, maybe your immune system is already fighting something, maybe you're just at that point of overstrained and overstress where your body is not more susceptible to getting sick um and it can flag that days before you have symptoms of actually feeling sick or feeling, you know, intense anxiety or burn out potentially.
00:17:18Edit And so um what you can do with that, like we're all about building that self awareness um and I come back to kind of the athlete story where you're, I'm so in tune with, when something feels a little bit off in my body, it's not injured yet, right? Like, I could still keep running, I could still keep working out um but because I'm in tune to that, I'm like, oh no, I think I need to do to change it up today, and so HIV gives us that sense for the mind for kind of the mental game where it can just flag, like, hey, something might be a little bit off and we're so used to just pushing that away and keep working, you know, work harder, work harder, work harder, it can give us that flag that says like, it, you might need to kind of like gets more hours of sleep and get some more recovery, make sure that you're maybe tuning into what's going on physically or mentally before it turns into something that's like an actual injury, like getting sick or feeling burnt out. Yeah, doing like a real kind of self audit on what you've been eating, how you've been sleeping, what's going on in your life kind of thing, so that you can make your, make your tweaks Yeah, exactly, and I kind of like to think about, you know, entrepreneurship is a long game um and if you're, if you have a day where you're feeling it like 80%, if you continuously give 100 and 10% when your mind and body are at 80%,, you're going to burn out like something's going to crack.
00:18:42Edit Um, and so if you have days where you're at 80% and you give it 80% for that day, you are much more likely to be back at 100% tomorrow. Yeah. Like take a few hours, have a rest for a walk. Listen to exactly play with a dog, dog, talked to a friend who is not a coworker, get outside your work bubble for a minute. Yeah. Yeah. I think that is really important, especially now that it, there seems to have been this trend. A lot of just keep on working, keep pushing hard. Don't think about that stuff, sleep a lot less than usual when you're building a startup, all that stuff. That's crazy. Um, I want to talk about the early days of building the business. Um, you know, I know you have a co founder, I know you guys raised A bunch of money. I think I read four million is what you raised. Can you go back to the beginning and tell me, how did you like a decided to kind of like take that level of commitment and raise money and how did you find your co founder?
00:19:45Edit Yeah. So I graduated from grad school with this idea and really took some time to decide and reflect if I wanted to start a business knowing that it's a long journey, it's a big commitment, it's going to be hard. Um, and at the time I just was like, this is the most meaningful challenge in front of me and I just have to try to tackle it. And so starting out the early days were a lot of networking, I knew I needed to start to build a prototype. Um, and I had no hardware experience, no consumer electronics experience. And so I just started talking to people posting on linkedin and posting a different kind of like collaboration areas. Um, I mean I was really fortunate where I went to grad school uh, to find some talented people there to talk to and really start my networking from there and I found my co founder on the premise, just a prototyping together at first, which I think is a really good way to do it. It felt really urgent to find a co founder, but actually, um, it is really a long term relationship and so just working together a couple hours a week on prototyping was really affected to see how we would work together long term.
00:20:59Edit Um, and so we started out like a couple hours a week together, then 10 hours a week together, then 20 hours, and then suddenly we were really working on it full time together. Um, and then decided to become co founders together. Um so funding, we really researched again, we knew that hardware was sort of a specific beast. And so we really started to research which early, early early investors had hardware knowledge because we knew they would be really important to kind of add to our experience set early on. And so we targeted a very specific list of early stage investors at that time because of that. And I think having, having a specific reason for why you're pitching a certain investor is helpful. Like it shows you've done your homework, it shows you're actually looking for something in return. Um, you know, what they have to offer is some version of experience, whether that's their network or actual operating experience and their money.
00:22:04Edit And so what, you know, sort of our job as a founder pitching a VC is to show, here's what your money is going to buy. It's going to buy this next milestone of our prototype and we're going to be able to do that given the expertise of our team plus, you know, the particular expertise of of what you bring to the table. And so we started off, I think our first check was $100,000. And with that we're like, OK, let's use that to get another angel checking some of those checks in the beginning where $10,000 and they just add up together and you and start to build towards the next milestone. And so that was kind of like you get $100,000, you're going to invest that into. It was like the tech and the software and the prototype of the device in the early days. And then if you got another $10,000 it would kind of like add to that. And that was all proceed, right? Yeah that was all proceed and um yeah so we set out milestones for ourselves around the prototypes. So our first milestone that we wanted to get to was having a works like prototype and it looks like prototype and they were still going to be separate.
00:23:14Edit Um Actually I think after that funding we were able to combine them a little bit. So we had kind of our industrial design um you know the the ideal design of the device which we weren't able to execute on yet. We were still three D. Printing and you know kind of like hand putting random things together to make it work. Um But the functional prototype was really important to be able to get it into people's hands and test kind of our baseline value. Probably does this physical thing with some biofeedback actually help people um stick with meditation. Like that was our premise. We had to prove that even on a really small scale. So we started with our precede money, we hired one person, so it was three of us and worked towards what we call our alpha. Um So we ended up making, I believe it was 20 devices which were all hand, there were 3D printed and hand stoddard and hand put together by us.
00:24:17Edit And then actually giving those to potential users to use at home. So that, you know, even on a scale of 15 to 20 people we could start to see actual data of, you know, how many times per week do they meditate, what were they doing before? And what does the introduction of core, um, you know, instigating their behavior and all of that was a to prove to ourselves, like most importantly, got to prove to ourselves that this business has legs and then be of course to kind of prove that next milestone for the next um funding that we could get. What was the kind of early feedback you're getting from that initial kind of focus group of customers. The early feedback was incredibly positive around having this physical thing that grounded their practice. Um, I think that was really powerful. Our data in those early days was early and how we represented that to the user took a lot of iteration of kind of getting that uX right? But early on just having this physical device on your nightstand that you could just pick up and sit with was really, really powerful.
00:25:27Edit Wow, that's so amazing. I feel like it really is something that speaks to me as someone who has struggled with meditation in the past. So I imagine it just must have been so incredible for these people to be like, wow, cool. And I also want to know in the early days when you did that prototype didn't look the same as what it looks now, like similar or is it completely changed? We've probably gone through 50 shape iterations at least. Yeah, my very, very first prototype was like this awkward egg shaped three D. Printed thing that was big enough to stuff and are doing now, which is like hobbyist electronics board in it with the vibration motor and it had a cord sticking out because we didn't have a battery in there yet and it was so ugly, like I can tell you're ugly what, But all it did was verify that when people held it and had this vibration element to guide them instead of sort of sitting there and feeling like they're doing nothing, it just validated that little value prep. And so then we built the next one to be more ergonomic and um so yeah, we did kind of a shape study of like 40 different shapes from things that looked like video game controllers because we're like, well that's something people sit and hold for hours at a time, let's test that um you know, two things that were very weird organic shapes.
00:26:45Edit Um and then eventually to what core is today, wow, that's so cool and so um so crazy, what a cool experience. So when you were basically at that point we're like, yeah, we've got positive feedback, we know that this works were like 100% in, we're going to go out and raise the money to develop this at scale and launch at scale. What was that process then going through the kind of seed round of fundraising as a woman and tell me about that experience? Yeah, so we did continue to raise some precede funds. So with that first alpha, we were able to raise a little bit more money. So ultimately, um, we raised over the course of Probably two years, so this was not all at once. We raised about 1.5 million and a piece of advice, if you can raise that, like, in one sort of effort, go for it.
00:27:48Edit Um, we felt like we had to keep, it's much more difficult to kind of operate Your company and focus on products and customer development if you're raising it in like, you know, 100,000 here and then 300,000 and 50,000. But that was our path. Like it didn't all come in one day. Um and so that's something to kind of be prepared for. Um and so we used that money to put out a slightly larger data which saw a little bit more high quality product, we were able to sell that, and so we got beta customers, so we could see, we could sort of test some pricing, um, some marketing and some of those parts of the business that we hadn't tested before. So we ended up getting a couple 100 devices out And then use the strength of that data to then go raise our $4 million dollar round and some interesting things. So, you know, I was, I'm a first time founder fundraising is really hard. So I took part in this accelerator that was very kind of high powered accelerator and all kind of geared around teaching you how to raise and coming from stanford, like a huge leg up.
00:29:03Edit I mean, incredible privilege to go to stanford and have that network. But I still, I mean it was still so hard. And so the accelerator, some of the things they taught were incredibly valuable and I used them and some, I felt like just really were not working for me. And so at some point I kind of took a step back and looked at that and looked at, you know, the rejections I was getting and why. And it's really hard to tell why you're getting a rejection. It's sort of not really in the investor's best interest to give you really direct feedback, which I think is really unfortunate. Um, so that's something to push for. Like what an investor does give you in now try to push them to give you a really direct feedback. Um, but anyway, back to kind of a fundraising tactics. So I would say, you know, tech VC kind of prides itself on being data driven, but it's really, really not in that really stages. It's, it's emotional decision making, it's kind of power dynamics, it's relationship games and I hate that.
00:30:10Edit Like I'm a math and computer science major. I'm like, here is very rationally why we did this and why we did that. And like that's not just not really what VCS are used to seeing, I think from mostly male founders, like they're used to seeing just this like grandiose vision with very little to back it up and, you know, and then the early traction. And so my experience was, there was a lot of advice from this accelerator that was about how to play this kind of psychological game with investors, which included like being a little bit coy with certain information and sort of painting a picture where the investor thinks they've kind of like figured out your secret without you really saying it. Um, it even included things like, um, you know, show up to a meeting five minutes late to like play this power dynamic game. And it just was really against what made sense to me. Um, it's not really bizarre. Yeah, it is fairly bizarre. It's really bizarre and I don't think that works very well for non white male founders pitching white male VCS.
00:31:19Edit And you know, that's, that is the majority of the pictures that happen. And so then I stepped back and got advice from one female founder who had just raised, I think like $10 million. and she told me data data data, like show them more data than they've ever seen at that stage, put data behind every single thing you're saying, you know, just kind of like not killing with kindness, like killing with data type of thing. And so I really changed my tactics to, instead of like trying to figure out this weird psychological game that I had, that was part of the advice that I had gotten from from other more kind of institutional ways, um, I switched to just like putting all my cards on the table, like we know this is going to work because this is what we've proven time and time again and really not partaking in this kind of power dynamic thing and just putting it on the table with a ton of confidence. Um, and then ultimately we raised and everyone's experience is going to be different in fundraising, but I think if I were to give kind of a, a broader piece of advice around that based on my experience, one I would say just be aware of who your advice is coming from, because everyone has pitch advice and everyone has fundraising advice and it's going to conflict with each other and so you really have to start to understand what's going to be authentic to me and um, and if the advice is coming from sort of what has typically been, um, you know who the founders and VCS are just question if it's if you think it's going to work for you and if you can find advice from founders who've raised, who are like you double down on their advice.
00:33:17Edit Um, and obviously I wish it was different. If I had a wish for tech VC, it would be um, to like have a rubric beforehand, standardized some of the wording of your questions, require yourself to back up some of these scorecard scorecard items from, you know, real data that you got from the founders. And, you know, I I when VCS here themselves say, I just don't have a gut feeling on this one. You know, their their gut feeling is that part of their investment decision? It has to be early stage investing. You don't have a lot of data. Um, but just to ask themselves, like why are they saying that? Because that's a way to introduce bias of just, you know, having maybe having not invested in either too many female founders or founders of color before. Sometimes that's where a lot of bias is introduced. So that would be kind of like my wish for VCS, but in the meantime, as we're hopefully pushing for some change in that industry for female founders and founders of color, like go find a founder who's raised who's like you and also who, you know, has raised for a business like yours.
00:34:30Edit So for us, um, you know, hardware and health businesses, finding advice from those people can be much more valuable than some of the broader institutional kind of advice. Yeah. I wonder like how it's going to change because and like when it's going to change because it seems like that's the kind of thing that, you know, we hear often, like it's harder for women to raise. Like you're pitching to, um, a demographic that doesn't understand what you're talking about. You know, it's like, you speak a different language like blah, blah, blah. We've heard it all before and it's like, how do we move forward on that and fix it and get more people, either more women into VC or for the people who are in VC, you know, white men to understand the female perspective and to listen to the different voices. Yeah, I have many thoughts on that couple that stand out. I think one is, um, for investors, I mean, I mean, I haven't been an investor so I don't want to claim to know how they really should do their jobs.
00:35:38Edit But um, but I think a lot of examples from hiring and kind of trying to remove bias from hiring could actually apply to investors. So one of the things that we do proactively to try to reduce the, the unintentional bias in hiring is by, like I said, having a Rubert beforehand before you ever start talking to someone like have a rubric that is what you're looking for and force yourself if you're coming off of an interview or in this case coming off the pitch and just being like, uh, like, you know, some of the subjective, like I just didn't have the gut feeling, I didn't quite connect to that person, You've got to put it down on paper and the rubric with the reason why I like, what did they say? What did they show in the business? What is actually, you know, against your thesis and the business? Um, that is a real reason, not just, I didn't connect with that person. Um, Because you know that, I think that's something like 2% of VC investment goes to women founders and an atrocious like partial part of a percent goes to women of color.
00:36:46Edit Actually, I think specifically black women founders, it's like 1/10 of a percent of VC money and that's just atrocious women found incredible businesses and um, and yeah, so we've got to fix that. I think another way is, um, is putting women in positions of power in these startups. So, um, you know, board of directors, um, leadership positions, of course advisory boards, because I think we can really like the people who become investors most likely have generated some wealth from being involved in startups that then go see major success. And so one of the ways that we can put people in those positions is putting people on your board who have reached success in, you know, either startups or larger businesses where they've climbed that ladder internally and leveraging their advice and their leadership on your board, which will then put hopefully both of you in a position to become investors and support the next generation of founders.
00:37:51Edit Those are probably my two main things. And were you able to get VC from any women or have any women on your board as well? Yeah, so our lead investor of the $4 million spirit of BC and she is my board member as well. Um, so our board is just too right now, which is great, super small and agile. Um, and yeah, I mean I we have work to do on racial diversity for short for sure a core and um, we're very open and accountable about that. Um, from a gender perspective are I was reflecting on our last board meeting that There are five people there, we had, You know, myself are my board member of our board observer, our attorney and someone from my team who is giving a presentation on our marketing and 100% female. I was like, this is really cool. Like, you know, starting at Microsoft almost all my meetings were like quite a quite a bit of man, which is not a problem.
00:38:57Edit I mean I saw my favorite teams um, at Microsoft where, you know, a bunch of great men, but it is really cool that that we can add some more different places to the table. Yeah, and starting to be that change and be a company that's kind of leading the way and and being able to look around and be like yeah I'm doing it, yeah, I need to be for sure. And you know, the other thing about that, I think, I think some investors realize and that I hope um company leaders continue to realize is that you know everything about entrepreneurship is creative problem solving. Like from a business perspective to a resource and perspective, I mean you've got to be scrappy, you've got to solve all these problems in weird ways because you don't have the resources to solve it in a typical way and that's why startups work, they look at something completely differently and come up with a really creative problem solved. Um to have the best creative problem solving, you have to have people with very different thought processes and past experiences and perspectives on the world at the same table.
00:40:08Edit And also in a way that they feel comfortable bringing their whole self to that table. And you know, early in my career, I can identify with not exactly bringing my whole self to work, like I brought the part of myself that fit in with what at the time was mostly older, mostly male engineering team And and me being like a 22, year old girl at the time, I brought what fit in, I didn't bring my whole self to work, and now I really realized that the most creative problem solving is going to come when everyone at the table feels fully open to bringing whatever crazy idea they have, whatever crazy experience they have. It's that's different from everyone else and that is incredibly valuable to the business. Yeah. And I think being able to not let yourself be like crippled by this, you know idea that you have to, you know, fit into a certain box and like be a certain way to be that person.
00:41:12Edit Like I think even me with the podcast, like my personality is very like bubbly and silly and girly and and instead of like hiding away from all that and being like, oh I should look really sophisticated and I should sound really chic and eloquent with the way I speak, which which I'm just not like that and letting that like stifle me, I've been like no, I'm going to lean into that side of myself and be colorful and be bright and just be raw on something like a podcast um and just be myself and find the audience that likes that style rather than like hiding it and then not letting yourself move forward. Absolutely. Um I want to move on to talk about marketing and how you were in the early days, acquiring your sort of first round of customers and you know how you are now I know you guys launched um at S. E. S, one of the biggest tech trade shows in the world and I imagine that was probably a platform that was great to get lots of journalists and eyes on on you and your product.
00:42:16Edit Um but yeah, can you tell us about how you were acquiring customers in the beginning and what you're doing now? Yeah, so by virtue of kind of what our product is, um in terms of being for kind of long term engagement and retention as a business, we really focused on being like a high lTv business model. And so a lot of what we relied on early was word of mouth and pr and a lot of organic um Attention because, you know, when someone felt core and had court, they would tell a friend about it. Um they might tell 20 friends about it because it really was such a change from what they had experienced before. So that continues to be really critical. Some of our, you know, some of our users are just our best evangelists, just very naturally because it makes such a difference in their life. So we try to really, you know, support and lean into that, like you said, C. S was amazing for pr um and so what we found to be really successful and continues now is really pushing the organic efforts that we have and then, you know, from a very tactical perspective retarget, you know, using our performance, marketing spend to really re target people who engage at an organic level.
00:43:39Edit And I think that, you know, consumers are just so tuned into what's authentic and what's not, you know, and they can just sniff it out. And our brand really stands for, you know, we're open. Their strength and vulnerability were super authentic about what we're trying to do and we don't want to have just kind of transactional relationships with either our customers or um, you know, influencers talking about what core is and so we really focus on the relationship building, both with customers and influencers that we're partnering with or brands that we partner with and you know, putting our instructors are meditation instructors out there to do live meditations on our instagram, but are just open to anyone and really just like bringing people into the fold to see what we stand for and how they could benefit in their lives. And then, you know, ultimately, I think it's for a product like ours, it takes looking at it, you know, a couple of times to bring it into your life
00:44:43Edit And um, but that's changing too, like as people get more accustomed to what core is and meditation and obviously it's been an incredibly stressful time for people and people are looking for stress relief more than ever. And so we're seeing people, you know, kind of feel that need and be like, oh my God, yeah, I need that. Like that's the, that's the thing I've been waiting for. So definitely me. I've already spoken about your product to multiple people who I also think would benefit from it. It's a really good gift. I mean it's on the more expensive side as a gift, but it's a really, um, I imagine a really valuable, like, thoughtful gift to give someone. And I also really think a critical thing that you said a moment ago is like building a product that people want to talk about and building a product that people want to tell their friends about is such an important piece. I really like your paid ads by the way, I was having a look before this conversation. You guys do really good video content and like do you do that all in house. Thank you. A combination. And actually, I mean speaking to sort of what consumers, you know, how much they want something that's authentic.
00:45:49Edit A lot of our ads somewhat forced by covid a lot of our ads lately have been user generated content or um, you know, stuff we need people to be able to produce stuff from home because we can't for a long time, we haven't been able to produce anything in a studio or anything like that and those perform really well and you know, same thing. It's like people want to see that real people like them really use this and really feel that it's impactful to their lives, ultimately that's what they want to see and then of course combined with some higher production value, like you know, just get you pumped about it with cool music and cool graphics and um get you pumped about the product and the brand. I think those two things in tandem is what really works as a combination. Yeah, I think people really enjoy and this is coming from my personal experience as well, is just seeing content that looks native and isn't like being bombarded by another ad.
00:46:51Edit I was reading about a school, I think it was in America that introduced meditation for kids and I was like, yes, this is so awesome. Like if we all have learnt, you know when we were in school and carried on that practice throughout our lives, everyone would be zen. Yes. Yes, absolutely. I mean that that's kind of where this started was and there there are a growing amount of programs bringing mindfulness and just even breathing techniques into schools as young as four or five years old and it's so critical just to have the toolkit. I mean why don't we 100% there are really effective breathing exercises and mindfulness practices that I've totally agree. I fully believe we should all, we should be wearing them when we're five years old Nun, maybe that's your next product idea. Exactly, a device for kids um what advice do you have for women who have a big idea or want to start a business?
00:47:54Edit I think my biggest advice is to start talking about it, I think there's a lot of fear in the early days of like are people gonna think I'm really weird and crazy for having this big idea and especially in the early days you're you know you're probably still questioning it yourself or don't quite have everything figured out yet and that's of course, you know that's normal, that's okay. But I think the biggest benefit you can do for your own idea is just to start talking about it and release that fear that people are gonna think you're weird like whatever they're going to be really freaking impressed and inspired by you when you actually do start it. So just start talking about it as soon as you have the idea, a lot of those early conversations that we had with hundreds of people really informed what would be valuable to them in the product and that's so important and it also helps to construct that network that you start to form that can be really valuable to your business later. The more you talk about it, the more people want to help and the more people that you do know are like oh you know what I know someone in marketing at this beauty brand, maybe they can help you with some advice and then you talk to that person and that person is like oh you know what I know this, you know Angel ambassador that maybe you can talk to and it just spirals from there.
00:49:11Edit And so if you're thinking about if you have a big idea and you you know it's sort of been simmering in your own mind, just start talking to anyone and everyone about it. Yeah. The power of community and the power of networking. Mm Just to help like iterate the idea in your mind. I'm a big in my Masters in Education. We learned so much about the learning benefit of speaking your ideas that allowed and getting kind of the social response back to help construct the next iteration of the idea. Yeah, solidify what you're doing. So we're at the six quick questions part of the episode. My favorite part. Number one is what's your why I just so badly want people to feel at their best and never feel that sinking feeling of anxiety or doubt or burnout. And I truly believe that if we could make mental illness a foundation of how we live every single day and what we prioritize, we could really change how society operates together.
00:50:18Edit That's amazing. Number two is what was the number one marketing moment that made your business pop? Mm hmm I don't know if I have a number one marketing moment. I think the thing that kind of made core Pop is this realization that we can take some of the guesswork out of meditation. Um so the realization that you can hold it, you can feel it and then you can track it just removes all that mysterious guesswork for meditation. Yeah, I feel like you really hit the nail on the head with that like consumer insight of how the other person feels, how the, the person who is not very good at meditation feels Number three is where do you hang out to get smarter? I talked to other founders, but even more so I talked to friends in different jobs and understand how they're solving challenges in their jobs because a lot of times I'm so wrapped up in my business that I kind of lose the sense of like, well what's happening in creative industries outside of what I'm focused on and um what's happening in other industries that I can take cues from.
00:51:35Edit Um, and even just coming back to basics of like how is, how are other friends managing a team of five or 15 people, what's some of the personal challenges they're solving? And so I spent a lot of time talking to other founders and investors, but also people outside of my industry too, take insights and cues from how they're solving problems in their industry. It's amazing. # four is how do you win the day? And I probably know part of the answer, I could probably assume I do meditate typically before I go to bed every day to kind of like close the chapter of the day and sleep really, really well. But I also, um, I think real kind of winning the day for me is connecting back with the why because on the day to day, you know, whether I'm focused on fundraising or marketing or product or solving some issue or engineering, you get so wrapped up in the details and um, so coming back to either like a customer, you know, something that a customer shared with us or something like that is how I feel like, you know, reconnected to why we're doing this.
00:52:49Edit Yeah, really nice. Um # five is if you only had $1,000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it? I, I have two answers. My first impulse is to spend it on our people. I absolutely believe that the people in this little family of a company are the most important and I feel incredibly grateful for them just bringing their all to it every single day. So I would figure out something cool to show them how, how thankful I am for them. I had a different as the second answer though. That was like, maybe there's there would be like a cool creative campaign we could do, that's like $1 partnerships with 1000 people or companies and we could spread something huge about these like $1 partnerships to actually, you know, get core out in the world even further. But so those are my two. I don't know which I would choose. I love that. I feel like that could be, that could be some kind of campaign like woven in to one of your new marketing strategies.
00:53:55Edit I love that. That sounds really cool. Um, and last and final question is, how do you deal with failure? And it can be about a personal experience or just your general approach and your general mindset? Yeah, I, I think I take failure as just a step in the game. Um, you know, I think early on well and so I played basketball in college and in a basketball season. Well, everyone has just been watching the last day. I saw Michael Jordan, right? Like someone who hates hates losing more than anyone. Um, but he still lost games, right? Like you don't go through basketball season undefeated typically. And so even in the most successful season, um, those losses can feel like failure and they're just a step in that season. Like maybe you don't win that next game if you didn't lose the first game, um, and learn from it or get motivated by it. And so I think of it very similarly in business. Um, you know, we've been at this for years, like if some of the early failures or missteps or all the rejections you get in fundraising truly set us back emotionally.
00:55:02Edit We wouldn't still be able to be fired up about it. And so especially in, um, like in fundraising, I think I just as a microcosm of kind of running the business overall when you get rejected or you get a moment of failure, it's like, okay, we tackle that it's an opportunity to take on the next step, and for me, every part of entrepreneurship is just moving one step forward at the time and the next step forward at the time and the next step forward instead of thinking about or getting overwhelmed maybe by whoa, we have to do so many things for us to be successful, but today we just have to take one step forward. Yeah, one step at a time. I really liked that analogy of bringing in like the learnings and the insights that you've learned from, you know, being an athlete too um to business, It's really cool. I think the other thing that that's really relevant and I mean, I think this applies for anyone who's had kind of a coach in their life of any sort, um but you know, when you're being coached, you, you might get criticized, but you have the mindset of like, you're actively trying to be coached, you're actively trying to get better by taking feedback and criticism.
00:56:17Edit And I think that really applies to entrepreneurship to that when you receive critique, it's helpful um and taking the mindset of like, okay, what's valuable out of that and there might be some critique that you just ignore because you're going to get conflicting advice from a lot of people, but being able to identify the valuable nuggets in those pieces of critique and just not taking them as a personal insult, just like, okay, what can I take from that? You know, moving on to the next day, incorporating a piece of it, next, next, next next Yeah, how can you be your best self and how can you get your business to being its best self? Amazing, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast today. Where can people find you? Yeah, you can find us at hello core dot com or at instagram on instagram at Hello underscore Core. Amazing, thank you, thank you so much.