(Image: Think Hopeful Inc., Founder Irem Choksy)
How I Built This features inspiring interviews with Glean Network Alumna, exploring the victories, obstacles, challenges, and breakthroughs that characterize the Spiritual Entrepreneur's journey. This month, we are honored to feature Glean Network Alumni (START Cohort 4), and founder of Think Hopeful Inc., Irem Choksy
What is Think Hopeful?
We are a SaaS mental health tech company focused on a peer centric model and AI to increase mental wellness accessibility for 2/3rd of those in need who don’t receive or access wellness; we offer it as an early stage intervention and preventative care tool for organizations.
(Image: Think Hopeful)
Tell us about the “Genesis Story” of Think Hopeful Inc. What were its origins? Why did you decide to build this? Why now?
Think Hopeful is created by founders who identify as people of color. We are into breaking norms for the better - in this case to create access that is relevant for marginalized and stigmatized students of color.
Our founders have had lived experience of not accessing wellness support in college, feeling misunderstood, and often, not represented. As Asian and Brown and heritages that are not mainstream, we have firsthand knowledge of cultural, language, and access barriers that are beneficiaries struggle with.
Over 50% of college students experience mental health concerns, and 90% of those students don't use it. The stigma around mental health, cultural barriers, and cost prevent those in need from accessing services. Through extensive customer discoveries, having had the issues ourselves, and being professionals in the field along with the tech expertise, we are figured it was time to narrate a story that holds relevancy and authenticity for people who generally don't have the venue for it.
What has been the most rewarding experience of building Think Hopeful Inc. so far?
Our collective realization of our individual strengths and pooling it together to make the most impact has been invaluable and the most rewarding experience.
Two of our team members have been individually recognized in October 2021 by the County of Santa Clara and received grants for their projects with marginalized communities. We have secured 2 pilots this year, and are excited about 2022.
What has been the most challenging experience of building Think Hopeful Inc. so far?
The most challenging experience has been finding appropriately experienced and supportive mentors.
What were your intentions coming into the START cohort? How did your experience with START support you in your journey?
Having people who are in a journey to find solutions to complex problems is inspiring. I found the lectures/discussions rooted in a desire to learn, cultivating better methods of reaching goals, and having the cohort's company to bounce ideas off of each other beneficial.
My intention with START was to deep dive into understanding the validity of my solution and to have the room to maneuver as necessary to validate the project.
What is one piece of advice you would give to anyone entering START, or taking some of the first steps with their start up?
Assemble a team you love (a lot).
Are there any resources/hacks that particularly help you in your leadership role that you would like to share?
"A leader is a dealer in hope."
I don't have many rituals and hardly consider myself a role model leader. I find myself lucky being around people who are creative, progressive, compassionate and fun. The combination makes it difficult to not resonate some shared compatibility; the journey is marred with a lot of potholes, but definitely enjoyable and one that's devoid of regrets while keeping hope alive.
I enjoy reading. Some books that have helped me explore and debunk my notions on success and decision making skills are: Blink, Thinking Fast and Slow, Outliers, The Tipping Point, and Freakonomics.
I am doodler, into music, and my overly energetic Border Collie ensures I keep moving - those help with keeping a more positively skewed mindset.
Learn about START, our 10-week entrepreneurship incubator taught by Columbia Business School faculty. Deliver your vision into the world while building a sustainable business model to shepherd its growth — and yours.