Tamar Blue is the founder and CEO of MentalHappy, a social network helping people around the world to overcome challenging life events and improve their daily lives through peer support. She and her company are alums of Y Combinator, one of the most respected startup accelerators in the world. Based on personal experiences and her more than 7 years of experience in People Operations, Tamar understands the challenges people face in finding the emotional support they need to lead more fulfilling, happier, healthier lives.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
TB: Four years ago I thought entrepreneurship meant financial freedom, creative freedom, and being my own boss. But now that I’m actually an entrepreneur, it means so much more to me. It means learning from failure; listening to partners and consumers, and making adjustments; accepting help and wisdom from others; giving up having total control in favor of trusting the expertise of my team; and refusing to accept defeat.
How did your company come to be?
TB: MentalHappy is the first social network designed to help people improve their emotional wellbeing through positive peer support. The company was founded in part to help heal my own anxiety. Like many people, I was having a hard time navigating life after a failed relationship. I was also struggling to decide what should come next in my career. Wanting to help myself and others at the same time, I started the company as a product-based business selling care packages with items aimed at spreading joy and promoting wellness. After a couple of years, as both our user community and my vision grew, I decided to shift the model from a product-based business into a service-based platform. With that evolution, we became capable of serving millions of people who struggle to find and afford the support they need to improve their emotional wellbeing.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
TB: Even prior to the COVID crisis, the rise of telemedicine and a new cultural emphasis on emotional wellness had created a surge in demand for our offering. When Shelter in Place orders started coming down across the country, we had just wrapped up beta testing for our peer support app. We pushed really hard on engineering and scaling, and then quickly reached initial capacity. There is now a long waitlist for the product, and MentalHappy community members who are paying a small fee to ensure first access to our social network as soon as it goes live.
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
TB: The darkest days I experienced on this journey were just before launching MentalHappy. I was running another startup that wasn’t going in the right direction. I lacked clarity about my future and even what truly mattered to me. It was painful! But, it prompted me to focus on rediscovering my passion and my purpose, and ultimately led me to finding happiness helping others improve their mental wellbeing.
Creating and founding this amazing social network and community brought me back from my lowest moment and reinvigorated my drive. My proudest moment so far has been getting accepted into Y Combinator, one of the most prestigious startup accelerator programs out there. Acceptance into YC validated the concept of MentalHappy for me, and gave me the confidence I needed to make my vision a reality.
How is your company changing the landscape?
TB: MentalHappy is changing the emotional wellness landscape in three key ways: radical accessibility; very low cost; and unrivaled peer support. We’re on a mission to eliminate the stigmas around mental health challenges, and provide all people – regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic background – access to affordable digital toolkits supporting emotional wellbeing. I believe that no one should face life’s toughest moments alone. Achieving happiness and mental clarity should be a right, not a privilege.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
TB: In the beginning, I didn’t understand how to create a truly cohesive business plan, because I assumed that the company creation process would be linear. I foresaw that we would start with the tech build out, move on to fundraising, then introduce branding, marketing and PR, and so on. What I’ve learned is that the process isn’t linear at all. All elements of our growth strategy are intertwined, and each element of the plan impacts the others. If I could do things differently, I would have tried to account for all of these things, and I would have launched our communications strategy earlier on in the process.
What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
TB: My life’s mission is to remind human beings of their inner strength and natural resilience, and help guide them to a life of good health and emotional wellbeing. This is my “true north” and it has guided me in personal relationships and in my career.
We must all find our true north, and keep this as our focus throughout every phase of growth. To find your true north, you need to answer a few key questions: “What is my end goal?” “What are my core values?” “Who am I helping, and why?” Life is filled with twists and turns, but having a true north helps us stay the course.
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
TB: The silence in daily meditation eases my stress and anxiety, and allows me to tune into my inner voice. Like a lot of people, I’m pulled in multiple directions each day and hear from many people offering advice. It can be hard to keep in touch with your inner voice and what matters most to you. Meditation allows me to silence all of the background noise and dig deep to find inspiration from within.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
TB: Ultimately, I will feel personally successful when something I created has led to others achieving happiness and success in their emotional wellness journeys. I want to see the company continue to progress and evolve for the next 10 decades. The essential components for accelerating the company’s success are continued demand for the network, investment dollars for key hires, enhanced tech-enabled features, and marketing. For me, success in my personal life and career can be seen in the success of others. I want MentalHappy to become a tool people utilize each day and find useful for many years to come.
Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
TB: The COVID crisis has created an urgency for me, and deepened my passion for supporting the wellness of others. We have seen and heard so many personal stories of anxiety, stress and loss of hope. I think COVID-19 has shown that we don’t need all the things we thought we did, or as much as we thought we did, but we do need to be well and to see each other being well. I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to face these difficult moments in life alone. The world needs a resource like MentalHappy more now than ever before.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
TB: In the beginning of the startup journey you might be working alone, but as the company grows you have to bring on more people to share in your mission. Here, again, timing is critical. My advice to fellow entrepreneurs is to think very deliberately now about the personalities and talents of those future hires, and write it down. If you wait to consider these things until you are ready to hire, it can be overwhelming. While the roles you need may change, the personality traits you highlighted earlier on will guide you because they should still fit into the vision of your company culture.
When it is time to hire, I highly advise my fellow entrepreneurs to: 1) Find experienced individuals who are experts in their respective fields; and 2) Trust these people to do what they do well! In order to grow and scale, you’ll need to be able to focus on the higher-level objectives of the company while letting your trusted employees and partners manage the day-to-day details.
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
TB: I do enjoy my daily routines, as I feel they help me stay grounded. My morning routine consists of mediation, prayer, gratitude practice, yoga and making a quick smoothie. Sometimes I’ll even read for inspiration or listen to something funny to start my day in a positive mood. In recent months, due to the pandemic, my routine is a little bit more flexible and now includes going on short walks with my husband, us practicing yoga together, and connecting more throughout the day. I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed it.
What keeps you motivated during this time?
TB: Now that I’m a mission-driven founder, there is no going back for me. I feel like the drive to push forward is automatic. I know that millions of people around the world aren’t getting the help and support they need to improve their emotional wellness. I know that without MentalHappy, they’ll continue to suffer alone. Keeping this in mind serves as a constant reminder of my true north and motivates me to power through.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
TB: I want to be known as the entrepreneur who found a purpose, persevered, and created something impactful that people need and can use to improve their daily lives. I want people to Google me and see what is possible, even when starting from absolutely nothing other than a willingness to try, overcome past doubts, and prevent fear from holding them back.
What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days?
TB: This quote encourages me to keep going during tough times in business or life in general: “If you quit now, you’ll end up right back where you first began. And when you first began, you were desperate to be where you are right now. Keep going!” -Unknown
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