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CT Women-Owned Wellness Startup Embraces Health Tech

Sep 05, 2019

DavisInnovation Destination Hartford met with Solstice Strategy Partners, LLC Co-Founders Delanea Davis and Rita Faith MacRae in August 2016 (read the interview: Startup Combines Leadership Skills and Energy Healing).

When it launched in 2013, the women-owned business provided wellness services including leadership development, coaching, intuitive counseling, and energy healing. Since then, the company has been focused on its digital wellness offering, while still maintaining its mission to strengthen the mind-body connection. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price caught up with Delanea, who shared some updates.

NAN PRICE: Tell us a little about your startup evolution.

DELANEA DAVIS: When we first started, we were providing services to help people heal on a physical, emotional, and spiritual front. About three years ago, we underwent a digital pivot. We realized there was a smarter not harder way for us to really scale healing the way we want to.

It’s not about hiring more practitioners and trying to micromanage how healing is delivered, but more figuring out: How can we teach people how they could develop their own practices and learn to train their brains to heal their body and mind? We felt an app was a great delivery mechanism and refined our target market to hospitals and insurance companies and the patients they serve.

NAN: Not only did you pivot, you also relocated to Hartford.

DELANEA: Right. There are quiet pockets of innovation happening here. With efforts such as the Hartford InsurTech Hub and Upward Labs, Hartford is slowly becoming an insurance innovation and medical tech hub, which is very exciting. And that’s right where Solstice needs to be.

After a few years of building our business in Tolland, we were exposed to Upward Hartford. When we relocated our office there in December 2017, this awesome community of startups and entrepreneurs focusing on tech and change was just starting to form. We’re surrounded by likeminded people—interesting med tech trailblazers who don’t get discouraged by hearing “no,” which we find really inspiring.

NAN: Have you been involved with any other Connecticut startup resources?

DELANEA: Up until recently, we were a self-funded team of 12 people. We applied for various forms of funding along the way but needed to prove our concept, so our only option was to bootstrap and make things happen. This past spring, we were fortunate enough to get a CTNext Technology Talent Bridge grant, which enabled us to hire two interns, a college junior and senior, who we hope to hire when they finish school. So that was our first cash infusion.

We also talked to Connecticut Innovations three years ago, when we were just an idea on paper. They told us we were too early and encouraged us to come back when we were further along. We reengaged with them this January and, in July, they awarded us $150,000. So ,we are now a part of their investment portfolio. We’ll use those funds to launch our first clinical pilot and feasibility study with Hartford HealthCare in September. We are thrilled to team up with the medical community on bringing meditation in as a modality for pain management.

We are also now the Official Meditation Partner of the 2019 Hartford Marathon. We’ll be adding a special “Runner’s Corner” section to out current in-market app, which is called Cloud9 Online, so runners can use meditation as a part of their pre- and post-race preparation.

NAN: You’ve created an innovative solution—are there similar apps on the market?

DELANEA: People tend to ask us about our direct competitors. While there are other apps out there, we are unique because we come from the insurance world and the medical world, and it’s our charge to bring these worlds together to drive change. For meditation to become more mainstream, we need buy in on all those levels. We need data that proves how powerful meditation can be, then doctors to recommend it as part of their protocols. And, in the cases where financing matters, we need insurance companies to be part of that conversation, too, so they can eventually fund it. This level of collaboration will lead to a paradigm shift in the healthcare system, which is our ultimate goal.

NAN: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned along your entrepreneurial journey? Anything you wish you’d done differently or had known about sooner?

DELANEA: If I could do something differently, I would have leveraged small business resources offered throughout the state much sooner. There are so many resources here to help entrepreneurs. I think our first few years when we were focusing on services, we were going it alone and not realizing that, especially as a woman-owned business, there’s a lot here for you. Also, as soon as we moved into technology, that opened up a lot more opportunity for funding.

The more you incorporate into a community of entrepreneurs, the more you gain. They’re excited to share with you lessons they’ve learned so you don’t make the same mistakes. Since I’ve learned to network with likeminded people, our company has picked up major momentum. But, like they say, there is no proxy for time in the saddle. You learn lessons as you go.

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