Therapair – Danielle McFarland & Sheree Evans
Coming from a strong client engagement and startup experience background these two ladies are nothing short of impressive. They found themselves coming up against a variety of challenges on their mission to change how customers and wellness practitioners connect. Applying for the BlueChilli 156 accelerator program was one of the ways they explored overcoming their hurdles on the innovation marathon that is a startup journey. We asked them a few core questions about themselves and how they’ve managed to come so far.
What’s the problem you decided to address with your startup?
Therapair is a two-sided marketplace so we’re solving problems for both health and wellness professionals and their customers.
For customers, sifting through search results is a time-consuming experience. When they do find a therapist, they can’t get a real sense of who they are in order to decide if they’re the right fit for them, nor view live availability to book them online.
For health and wellness professionals, they don’t have the know-how and time for marketing to find new customers. They often lack resources to hire a receptionist and miss bookings because they can’t answer the phone all the time. Also, customers sometimes don’t return because they weren’t the right fit to begin with.
Therapair solves these problems.
What was the ‘ah ha’ moment that you realised you needed to do this?
There’s a bit of a story behind us reaching our ‘ah ha’ moment.
Sheree got her qualifications as a remedial massage therapist and I was starting to dabble in graphic design and web development so my skills were useful.
Together, we ran a mobile massage business, which we grew into a successful one with multiple therapists. The trouble was, everything we needed to manage our business was spread out across multiple tools – CRM, accounting, scheduling systems, pen and paper – and did a poor job of helping us move our business online. There wasn’t a single solution out there that did what we needed and realised that others in this industry were facing the same issue, so we decided to create our own.
The result of this was Mystro, online business management and scheduling software tailored for health and wellness professionals.
We spent 4 years trying to get our software to market. We went through 3 development companies and spent 3 years working with a single company to build our software, only to end up in legal battles where we had no choice but to walk away without a product. And we lost over $80,000 in the process.
You’d think we would’ve just given up at that point, oh no. Instead, we walked away from 4 years of hard work with only our valuable learnings and started building our software from complete scratch early 2014.
We found two tech partners and ventured on the next stage of our journey. Together, we re-built Mystro from the ground up and were finally able to launch our software to the world in January 2015.
In the year to follow, we started to grow the number of health and wellness business owners using our software, we expanded to 24 countries, and continued to develop its feature set. However, a year after launching, both of our tech co-founders decided to leave the company to work on their own startup.
We were in a position where the next decision we make would potentially be the make or break for our company and everything we’d worked so hard for. Until we made a decision as to what we were going to do and resolved it, all feature development halted and we were left high and dry – not to mention, we had users waiting for features to be released. The next feature in the pipeline was online booking.
We came across BlueChilli and liked that they could give us access to a development team – the one thing that was letting us down at this point. So we sent through our pitch and not long after found ourselves part of their 156 accelerator program.
Even though we were an established company with a working product and knew which feature we needed to build next from what our users were requesting, we still had to go through the process of doing customer interviews and acquisition tests. And, boy, are we glad we did.
After over 60 interviews with health and wellness business owners, what we found was that it wasn’t enough just providing them with amazing software to manage their business if they had no idea how to market themselves to find new customers or how to retain customers long-term. That was our ah-ha moment!
So with that, we altered our game plan and the outcome was Therapair, a website that matches people with health and wellness professionals they can connect with to book real-time appointments, instantly.
Now, not only do we provide health and wellness professionals with the tools they need to manage their business, but we find them customers and send them guaranteed bookings, too. Through our matching formula, we create better connections between them and their customers to ensure long-term retention and increase the success of their business.
When did you realise you didn’t want to go it alone?
As a duo, we’ve never really felt alone, but joining BlueChilli was the best decision we’ve made to date.
The turning point for us was when our tech co-founders decided to leave. We knew we needed to be part of a network that could give us access to resources, mentors, support – part of a community of like-minded founders on the same journey as us.
What’s your superpower as founders?
Over the years, we’ve taught ourselves everything, which has resulted in us being extremely resourceful today and allowed us to make even an MVP look stellar. Between us, we’ve got the skills and experience behind us to do everything from graphic and user interface design, front-end development, marketing, SEO, photography, videography, software testing, and more.
We’ve even been dubbed ‘the super duo that knows how to get shit done’.
Things that we can do quickly and extremely professionally, other startups founders have to pay someone to do. It’s a great feeling knowing you don’t need to outlay costs to get something done as we can do it ourselves, especially during the early stages when you need to keep expenses low.
What’s one way you see your startup influencing the future?
For customers, it will change the way they find, connect and book health and wellness professionals online. customers are so used to booking everything online these days from flights and accommodation to car rentals – the online booking of health and wellness services is the way of the future.
For health and wellness professionals, it will dramatically change the way they start and grow their business, increasing long-term success and decreasing the failure rate of businesses in the health and wellness industry.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far as startup founders?
As a female couple who also work full-time on our startup together, we’ve learnt just how important it is to have a strong support network, which in our case was each other for a very long time.
The journey having a startup takes you on is both exhilarating and tough. We’ve depended on and motivated each other every step of the way and can’t really imagine having gone it alone. We’re surprised at how everything we’ve gone through has not pushed us apart, but actually made us a stronger, more powerful team.
You can learn more about Therapair at https://www.therapair.co/
You can learn more about the BlueChilli 156 Program at https://www.bluechilli.com/startups