Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.
Caitlin Iseler had great benefits in her executive search job, but nothing that supported her as a working parent.
She loved working at consulting firm Korn Ferry and wanted to be exceptional in her career but also wanted to do the best she could as a mom.
“I was like these (benefits) are great but this isn’t really solving my challenge of wanting to be a great mom and really wanting to be present and having those health wins outside of work,” she said. “I became really passionate about this concept of how do you support people in their time outside of work so they can be great at work.”
So, in 2019, she and co-founders Liz Regard and Randi Banks started Happyly, a platform companies can offer employees that provides activity plans and ways to give back to the community. Twenty corporations, including Navy Federal, her former employer Korn Ferry and Appian, offer Happyly’s service to their employees.
“It shouldn’t take a lot of time or money to do great things with your family and to really live your best life outside of work,” Iseler said. “So our platform is designed to support those experiences for real connection and again it all ties back to, for employers to ‘take care of people and they’ll take care of your company.'”
Last week, the Arlington-based company launched a new website and this week will roll out a new version of its app.
“There’s a lot coming down the pike in terms of our product evolution and around this give back component,” Iseler said.
The Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation is a Happyly investor, and the company recently received a grant from the Commonwealth Commercialization Fund. The startup also participated in the 757 Accelerate program and has several other investors from Virginia and the University of Virginia, Iseler’s alma mater.
“So for us, it’s just such a good place to be, and that has a lot to do with how we’ve been embraced by the state in terms of trying to bring this idea to life,” she said. “And I was in the D.C. area for 15 years after college… it’s home in so many ways.”
Over the next year, Happyly looks to add 30 to 50 more corporate clients and to double its roster of eight full-time employees and 120 ambassadors, which create content across the U.S. They’re hiring across many different categories, Iseler said.
“At the end of the day, building a business and being an entrepreneur is challenging and humbling because I get to live my purpose,” Iseler said. “I’m really proud of the team that we built and being able to bring together people who have such different experiences but are united by this purpose.”
But it is difficult to create a new category.
“You have to find the right companies at the right stage to introduce something so different,” she said, noting after launch only about a quarter of the companies really “got it.”
“But those are the ones we need to focus on, right, because we don’t need every single company in the world, we need the ones that really care and get it,” she said. “And we hope that in a couple years that this new category will be something that every company is thinking about.”
While the wellness industry is huge, Happyly is perhaps the first to come into corporate wellness on the physical and mental health side and focus on families, Iseler said.
“This family technology space is booming in so many ways and I think it’s because people have realized in the pandemic the humanity in all of us,” she said.
Iseler decided to quit her job after the pandemic began and focus on Happyly full time.
As many workers have quit their jobs, referred to as the Great Resignation, companies now more than ever are focused on how they can support their employees.
“We’re at the right point in history where companies are really looking for creative wellness solutions,” Iseler said.
At Happyly, they focus on “micro-wins,” which Iseler describes as small moments in the everyday that can make life more joyful and fulfilled. They could be anything from taking a walk with your family around the block to playing a game or finding a great playground.
One of the activities on the app she particularly likes is riding bicycles along the Capital Crescent Trail in Georgetown and visiting cupcake shop Baked & Wired. Happyly often pairs activities with other things to do nearby if users want to make a day out of it. In Georgetown, that includes visiting the playground at Rose Park.
“So it almost feels like your Saturday turns into a vacation in some ways,” she said. “I think when you live somewhere for so long, you forget about what’s in your backyard and you think, ‘I have to go on this big vacation’ but there’s so much here.”
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