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Boss Insights 2021: Navigating the journey from healthcare professional to health tech startup CEO

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Trent Innes

May 2, 2021

This article first featured in the Boss Insights 2021 report, Sole trader surge: small business in a post-COVID world

Despite the challenges that 2020 brought, our latest research shows Australia has yet again proven to be an overwhelmingly resilient nation. While many businesses had no choice but to shed staff or close their doors after the arrival of COVID-19, many Aussies were prompted to take the leap to self-employment over the past year. Prepared in partnership with Bernard Salt and his team at The Demographics Group, this report identifies key trends and patterns, and uncovers where opportunities lie for small businesses in a post-COVID world. 

Managing the balance

Since leaving a clinical role to follow her dreams of building an app to help people with chronic health conditions, Stephanie Mascarenhas has found strength, support and camaraderie within Sydney’s startup ecosystem community.   

2020 was a big year for healthcare workers. However, spare a thought for Stephanie Mascarenhas who worked full-time as a Clinical Scientist with NSW Health, then used any free time she had to build an app that helps people take control of their health.  

“Over the years I’ve spoken to thousands of people about their health and one of the greatest problems they face is managing it. Between seeing specialists, remembering medications, organising appointments, and safely storing vital health records, health management can feel like you’re drowning in a sea of never-ending stress,” explains Stephanie, founder of Handy Health, an all-in-one health management app. The app is designed to help Australians keep track of every aspect of their health including medications, records, and appointments. 

In the past, reminder methods such as pillboxes, calendars and phone alerts helped people manage their medications and appointments. But these options are tedious, time-consuming, and prone to mistakes that can have serious consequences. 

“The current methods of health management are stressful and confusing. I’ve seen the devastating outcomes in my patients and my own family members, and that inspired me to take action” says Stephanie. 

As a frontline healthcare worker treating high-risk patients with respiratory issues, Stephanie found it tricky to balance the demands of a clinical role with developing the app, especially as COVID-19 unfolded.  

Despite the challenges, she knew the concept would help Australians maintain their wellbeing.

“I’m deeply passionate about health – for all people – and that energy drove me to make a real difference,” says Stephanie. 

Taking the leap 

Inspired by the risks Steve Jobs took during his entrepreneurial journey, Stephanie recently went all in on the business by leaving her clinical role to focus on the app.

“I profoundly believe in what I’m doing. I’ve discovered my life’s mission and that is to serve the people of this world. No risk can deter me from my goals,” she says.

Stephanie isn’t the only one who believes in Handy Health’s potential. Her family are investors, as well as her fiancé who she considers a partner in business as well as in life.

A big believer in patient-centred care as the key to a robust healthcare system, Stephanie developed Handy Health as a SaaS product, available as a free app with an option to upgrade to a premium version. 

With medication-related hospital admissions costing Australia an estimated $1.2 billion dollars each year, the app is not only helping individuals but also addressing a significant burden on the nation’s healthcare system.  

Outsourcing for efficiency  

While Stephanie knew she had a great idea for an app, the technical process of building it was beyond her skills. Finding experienced professionals to help bring her vision to life was essential.  

“Being in a clinical setting was all I ever knew so I had to develop my technical skill set. The hardest part was finding the time to sit down and learn about it,” explains Stephanie. So she hired a software development team to help her build the app and bring her vision to life.

Stephanie also receives help with the numbers side of the business. By using Xero and engaging an accountant, Stephanie has minimised the time she spends on the back end of the business.

“I needed someone or something to handle the accounting side so I could focus on strategising, innovating, and growing the business. We now have an accountant who takes care of our BAS and financial statements through Xero. It’s such an easy, seamless process,” says Stephanie.  

Joining the startup scene 

In the past few years, Sydney’s inner-city suburb of Haymarket has emerged as an entrepreneurial hub, alive with university students and startup founders from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Stephanie is just one of many founders who have tapped into the scene via a six-week accelerator program held at Haymarket HQ, a co-working space that also supports startups and small businesses to find new markets.

“It’s been amazing. Within this community I’ve learnt so much about startups, raising capital and pitching to investors,” Stephanie explains. 

Apart from connecting her with mentors and other entrepreneurs, the program has exposed Stephanie to fresh ideas and new ways of thinking.

“It’s great to see young people identifying problems and finding new ways to solve those problems with technology. It’s cultivated an innovative mindset in me and an unrelenting courage to challenge the norm,” says Stephanie.

Stephanie’s tips for pursuing your business dreams:  

Become a believer

The only limitations are the ones we place on ourselves, so it’s vital to develop unshakable self-belief that you can achieve your goal. 

Prioritise personal development

Listen to podcasts and read books by thought leaders to build your skills, create a positive mindset, and learn about the path other entrepreneurs have walked. After all, success follows success.

Get with the program

Look to join an accelerator or incubator program to fast-track your growth, meet mentors, and connect with other entrepreneurs.

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