Value Prop Shop has worked with over 20 health tech startups since its inception in 2016. We share a passion for improving healthcare with our clients, and we help them scale and grow their tech startups to reach success - which for most venture-backed SaaS startups means acquisition or IPO. And the metric to reach success is typically measured in revenue growth.
I had originally sat down to write a blog about optimizing outbound sales to increase enterprise-wide health tech sales. But right before I began, I opened Facebook and read the first post that appeared in my newsfeed. And just like that, a paradigm shifted. My view of the world suddenly felt too constrained. I realized that most of us living inside the health tech startup space have tunnel vision about startup life, success metrics, entrepreneurs’ goals, the challenges faced by female founders … the very concepts that inspired Value Prop Shop’s birth
The Facebook post I’m referring to was written by an extraordinary woman. As a matter of fact, this female entrepreneur and founder is so extraordinary that she is the only non-health tech client we’ve worked with at Value Prop Shop. And what she wrote reminded me of why, within minutes of meeting her almost 2 years ago, I knew that Value Prop Shop was going to be working with her.
-Sanaz Cordes, MD
Founder & Principal | Value Prop Shop
The Accidental Entrepreneur
by Arielle Juliette
On the eve of my company’s eight-year anniversary, I’m honored to be a guest blogger for Value Prop Shop. It wasn’t until Sanaz pointed out that I had founded, self-funded, and built my company with virtually no resources, that I started to truly think of myself as a startup founder and entrepreneur. But aren’t startups supposed to invent technology, get several rounds of venture money, and eventually see a financial return on their risk…when they get to wherever they’re going?
Well, my story is a little bit different. First, I have a skill, not a technology. I am, by trade, a dancer/dance instructor. Second, like most entrepreneurs, I have a passion. My passion is helping women find ease and confidence in their skin while enjoying exercise. It stems from some painful experiences that led to a lifetime longing to relate positively to my own body with dance. Although dance is a healthy activity, society’s traditionally prescriptive approach to promoting health is surprisingly unhealthy, and it doesn’t work for everyone (i.e. diets, strict workout regimens…etc.). Even the new digital health apps that are supposed to replace traditional programs feel dictatorial as they intrusively beep to remind you of what you must do to hit target goals, and a failure to do so is, well … a failure.
Finally, I have a different metric system for success than most entrepreneurs. If the success of my company is measured by sales traction and revenue, then it technically crashed and burned within a couple years of its launch. If it’s measured by being told my space is the only safe place some clients feel they have, the only environment where some don’t feel ashamed to exercise, the only place where others are beginning to love their bodies and let go of their crippling belief that “bigger” bodies cannot be healthy – then even Elon Musk’s got nothing on me.
As early as my freshman year of high school, my relationship with my body began being dictated by the harmful actions of others. Sometimes the gravity of these experiences didn't become clear until much later – as many women can attest to. With each course-defining experience, the feeling of having zero control over my own fate caused me to turn that control inward. Every single time, I regained a sense of control by restricting what I put into my body. This reaction became a decade-long pattern that grew in intensity and destructiveness.
I would lose a significant amount of weight because of dangerous calorie restriction to take back control of my body. At one point, I lost 25% of my body weight, and my body became open season for comments. Despite the frustration and despair of having my control yanked away by their words, I was clearly receiving validation that I was now a worthier human. And so, the cycle continued.
But the one cruel twist in my story, which I suspect up until now, is not all that different than that of many women, is that I was a dancer. A performer. I literally had to pose for pictures in tight and often revealing costumes for shows and even for classes. I started getting sick with stress when I had to dress to do the very thing I loved most in life – dancing. My inner critic was telling me no one wanted to see my flesh uncovered.
My decision to start my own company eight years ago wasn’t originally based on what it means to me today. I was a young woman who loved to dance, and I wanted to create a business where I could support myself while doing and sharing what I love with others. But over the years, my passion to help women find confidence and joy in movement, at any size, began to define itself as the real meaning of my company. My own students opened my eyes to what my business was doing for them – beyond providing them with a place to dance. We grew our services to include different types of movement classes, regular social events centered around movement and body acceptance, and we even partnered with a local healthy living company that provides traditional exercise classes in a judgement-free manner.
Anyone who’s been alive in the past 50 years has noticed that a narrow range of body types are represented as “fit” or “healthy. A body, at any size deserves care, love, and respect. All bodies are good bodies. All bodies deserve to be seen. I will continue to do everything possible to help each client feel confident in her skin and feel safe exploring physical movement that is both fun and healthy.
Did I invent something? No. Did I disrupt the status quo? I will unabashedly venture to say yes. If an entrepreneur is someone who takes on financial risk to introduce a new concept to the market, then in my small corner of the world, I believe I meet that definition. What’s more disruptive than restructuring the way we think about body health and replacing guilt and shame with love and acceptance?