SPOTLIGHT: TEGAN BUKOWSKI OF WELLSET
Tegan, tell us about yourself. What led you to start WellSet?
I grew up on a boat on Puget Sound in Washington State. It was very adventurous and beautiful, but I had a really unstable childhood in a lot of ways. Very early on and a little before my time I had to learn tools to stay emotionally balanced. Thinking back on it, I probably discovered my first form of meditation at church. I think my childhood spirituality helped me stay grounded, rooted in community, and feeling supported even when things were rough at home. I went off to college and became more agnostic, less spiritual and more individualistic, as the story goes for many people in our generation, I think. I felt flung out into the world on my own with no one and no spirit to catch me if I were to fall. I had a marked increase in anxiety and stress, which then caused chronic health issues that were so severe I would end up in the hospital with internal bleeding. Doctors told me that I could either go on steroids for the rest of my life, or figure out how to reduce my anxiety. I think most people know they should reduce their anxiety levels but I bet few have been given such a clear cut ultimatum.
After I graduated from architecture school at Yale I lived in London and worked for the architect Zaha Hadid. I ended up becoming a yoga instructor on the side while I was waiting for my work visa to come through. I fell in love with the reconnection to mindful prayer, breath, body, and more importantly community. I discovered the power of hypnotherapy and breathwork, the brilliance of traditional medicine systems like acupuncture and Ayurveda. I learned how to heal myself and also how to let a community of healers support me.
I started WellSet because I saw first hand the enormous affordability and accessibility gap when it comes to holistic care. Our mission with WellSet is to give millions of people affordable access to mental and emotional health tools and daily support from a team of incredible experts. We are now working with employers to make membership even more affordable.
What is your goal with WellSet?
Our goal is to educate employers and insurers about the importance of mind-body-emotional health so that no one is left without holistic health coverage in the future, even if they can't pay for it out of pocket themselves. We are launching our new product right now which is a little like "Peloton for holistic health" - daily live streamed and on demand classes taught by holistic health experts in over 20 different modalities.
Who was WellSet created for?
If you have a brain and a body, WellSet is for you. We have such a wide audience of people who are our members because such a wide swath of the population is affected by anxiety and stress.
How did you decide on the 20+ holistic practices that WellSet offers?
Our practices are all science-backed holistic practices. We have been very selective with the types of practices we offer because we are making inroads with healthcare plans, big insurance companies and employers. We also have a strong stance around holistic health not being lumped together with mystical practices. They are very different things - esoteric practices are not for everyone, but living a balanced supported holistic lifestyle is for absolutely everyone.
How do you connect with the experts who teach the array of classes you offer?
We had over 20,000 people apply to be part of our 1-1 marketplace (which was acquired last year by credit card company Ness). From that 20k, we have had over 650 instructors teach for us in a group setting. Of those, we chose our favorite ~30 instructors to be our in house teaching team.
Where do you see WellSet within the next year?
We are going to be serving school districts, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, universities, large corporate companies, and factory workers. It's a really exciting time for holistic health!
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