Tegan Bukowski took the road less traveled and hopes to make all the difference for millions struggling with stress, burnout and chronic conditions.
In 2018, she launched digital marketplace, WellSet, to link clients directly to holistic and preventative health providers.
After recognizing the need to make holistic health accessible and affordable to all in the fall of 2022, WellSet pivoted to offer digital memberships with group classes in over 20 holistic evidence-based modalities.
The new platform is available for employers and consumers and aims to end the burnout epidemic through daily self-care practices like meditation, yoga, sound healing, journaling, myofascial release, acupressure and more.
To accelerate WellSet’s growth and generate funding, Tegan joined 1501 Health’s first cohort, which has helped her bring WellSet from idea to execution.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Tegan on the personal factors that led her to founding WellSet, how she thoughtfully built her list of providers and why she repositioned her business model.
Q: What experiences led you to start WellSet?
A: Growing up in a somewhat unstable environment led me to become a chronic overachiever. From the outside this looked like ambition, intelligence, and drive but underneath it, I was struggling with stress, anxiety and depression. It wasn't until I became an adult that my body began to quite literally break down under the accumulated stress and burnout.
Over and over again, I was hospitalized due to a chronic inflammatory condition in my digestive tract. Each time, I’d have tests run, be given prescription medications, and then released without answers.
I knew stress and anxiety were playing a role in my condition, however Western medicine didn’t integrate stress relief and prevention measures into my treatment at any point – so I decided to take my health into my own hands.
At the time, the wellness industry was hard to navigate. People hardly knew what the words “holistic” and “integrative” meant when it came to health, so it proved difficult to find a path forward. I became a yoga instructor and mindfulness coach and found a holistic nutritionist who helped me reduce inflammatory foods in my diet to reduce flare ups.
During this time, I began to understand that if I wanted to heal my body, I needed to address my emotional health. Mainly, I needed to get my stress levels under control. I learned that chronically high levels of cortisol create an inflammatory response in the body. I explored practices to help calm my nervous system and process trapped emotions and trauma.
I wondered: why do we, as a society, treat the symptoms of physical and emotional stress when we can go upstream and prevent them instead?
After this realization, I launched WellSet as a comprehensive and accessible platform to improve mind, body, and emotional well-being.
Q: In the fall of 2022, you rolled out a new digital health platform. Tell me a little bit about what the initiative means for members.
A: Our mission is to expand access to the power of holistic health to millions around the world, and this platform helps us do just that
We’ve curated over 20 evidence-based mindfulness techniques, like journaling, meditation, yoga, stretching, myofascial release, self-hypnosis, sound healing, nutrition, acupressure and more.
Our classes are packaged in an affordable membership, and our team of instructors are supportive, diverse, and of course highly credentialed and experienced.
Our daily and on-demand classes are designed to help members manage stress, boost their mood, improve sleep, prevent burnout, reduce inflammation, build healthy habits, and find balance. We’ve found 90% of WellSet members feel calmer and less anxious after taking class.
At the end of the day, WellSet helps members find balance in their busy lives and free up energy for us to pour into what brings us joy, whether that's a job, family time, learning a new skill or nurturing a passion project.
Q: Why did you join 1501 Health and how has it helped you grow?
A: 1501 Health supported us as we narrowed down our company’s focus and scale our offerings to reach enterprise clients. Our 1501 Health cabinet of advisors helped us find its ideal position in an extremely fragmented market.
They helped us recognize that our initial 1-1 business model was out of reach for many people who would benefit from holistic health practices.
For example, a health coach might charge $200 per session. Most holistic practices are effective when available as continuous care, or at least a longer intervention than a single session. This becomes cost prohibitive for nearly everyone.
The team’s guidance was a great support as we developed our go-to-market strategy for our digital subscription model in the enterprise space. Our advisors helped us refine everything from format and price point to sales strategies.
We are grateful for their advice and partnership. It was critical in helping us get to where we are today!
Q: What do you like most about the way 1501 health was set up?
A: I was attracted to the variety and expertise of the mentors available through 1501 Health.
We were seeking advice on how to work with key players in the healthcare ecosystem from insurance companies to enterprise-level clients.
When we first arrived in the incubator, we were a direct-to-consumer company that had not worked with large payors, providers or self-insured employers. By the end, our team had gotten a full education in all things healthcare!
We’ve found so many more opportunities than we would have in a more traditionally structured incubator.
Q: What advice would you give founders to manage their stress levels as they're building a business?
A: Starting a company is a marathon, not a sprint. There will always be more to do than there is time to do it. Founders often feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders, which can be a quick road to stress and burnout.
So many founders don’t feel they have the time for rest and self-care, yet that is the only way we can maintain the energy, optimism, and creativity that’s required to build and grow a business.
My advice is to proactively practice mindfulness, prioritize movement, and develop good sleep hygiene. Learn to recognize the signs of burnout, and when you feel them creeping up, don’t be afraid to set boundaries and protect your mental space.
1501 Health helped me, and by extension WellSet, set realistic goals and identify those boundaries as the company evolved and transformed.
While WellSet will of course expand and grow our offerings in the future, 1501 Health has been pivotal in helping us find our ‘lane’ in the market.
HR Daily Advisor | April 2023
MindBodyGreen | April 2023
Fast Company | March 2023
Employee Benefits News | February 2023
PR Newswire | January 2023
Well + Good | January 2023
FItt Insider |mMay 2022
Radiche | June 2021
About 1501 Health
1501 Health is a unique partnership between Healthworx and LifeBridge Health, representing expertise in both health insurance and financing (payers) and healthcare delivery and services (providers). The investment and incubation program empowers entrepreneurs to get their innovative solutions to market and expand their impact in healthcare quality, access and affordability. To learn more about 1501Health, visit www.1501Health.com.
Healthworx operates at the intersection of healthcare and innovation by creating, co-creating and investing in companies that are improving healthcare quality, accessibility, affordability and equity. As the innovation and investment arm of CareFirst, Healthworx envisions a healthier future for all people by changing the way health works. To learn more about Healthworx, visit https://www.healthworx.com.
About LifeBridge Health
LifeBridge Health is one of the largest, most comprehensive providers of health services in Maryland. LifeBridge Health includes Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, Grace Medical Center and related affiliates. For more information, visit www.lifebridgehealth.org.