Podcast

Episode 118: How HUED is making healthcare more equitable with Kimberly Wilson

Jan 07, 2021

In today’s episode, we meet Kimberly Wilson, the founder, and CEO of HUED. Her platform links Black and Latinx patients to culturally competent doctors of color.

After personally receiving improper care for a diagnosis from 4 white male doctors (who dismissed her pain and recommended a hysterectomy), Kimberly had to travel over 200 miles to find a doctor who understood the cultural content of her medical needs.

During our conversation, Kimberly shares how she built her platform, the challenges she faced being a black woman in Tech, how she landed a national partnership with Vaseline and more.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

You’ll learn:

  • Creative ways to work with software developers
  • How to form community partnerships for your business
  • How a social enterprise can generate revenue
  • How to thrive as a black woman in the Tech industry

Mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Kimberly

the first year we didn't generate any money. And really, founders, you're not going to make money for a while. I want anybody who's starting a company to really not think about. You're not seeing profitability until years into the company. That first year was us really understanding our market. It was understanding the pain points of our potential customers, and it was really honing in and identifying the solution that we wanted to provide to these communities. Then 2020 lot of things started to happen with the backdrop of our country, which ultimately ended up serving our company in a beneficial way.

Serwaa

I Off-Scripters It's your host, Serwaa Adjei-Pellé and welcome to Episode 1 18 of the She's Off Script podcast. This is the show what we hear and learn from women who created unique blueprints for their business success. My hope is that you'll hear their stories and translate their gems into a unique path for yourself.

Serwaa

In today's episode, we need Kimberly Wilson, the founder and CEO of Huge, which is a platform that links black and Latin X patients to culturally competent doctors of color after personally receiving improper care for a diagnosis from four white male doctors who dismissed her pain and recommended a his direct me. Kimberly had to travel over 200 miles to find a doctor who understood the cultural context of her medical needs. During our conversation, Kimberley shares the challenges she's faced. Being a black woman in technology. She's also shared how she built her platform, how she landed national partnerships with Vaseline and so much more. So before we hear the rest of Kimberly story, I would love it if you could subscribe, rate and review our show on iTunes or really anywhere else. You listen to podcasts. This'll help to spread the word of our our shows. So amazing stories that Kimberly's can continue to inspire women looking to launch their own Off-Scripters. Ernie's. The She's Off Script podcast also has a membership community to help you launch and grow your business with Resource Is and coaching. Join our boss Off-Scripters community today by going to Serwaa Adjei-Pellé dot com. Forward slash community With that, let's go off script with Kimberly Wilson, founder and CEO of Heat

Serwaa

Kimberly Wilson. Welcome to She's Off Script. Thank you for being here. Thank

Kimberly

you for having me.

Serwaa

So for any of our listeners who haven't heard of you could you share who you are and what you do.

Kimberly

So my name is Kimberly Wilson, and I'm the founder and CEO of Pude and Huge is a healthcare engagement solution. Taylor toe address the needs of black and Latin X populations.

Serwaa

I know you've had a very career both in higher education and in journalism. So could you share what your career path has been like at least before launching hewed?

Kimberly

Absolutely. So I have spent over a decade working at the intersection of Social Justice, education and media, as you mentioned. So my career has been spent in leadership roles at the gri Oh, you know, the root dot com working at Black Enterprise. Um, more recently in Essence magazine, But then my higher education career. So I served as an adjunct professor. I worked at N Y u. I taught at Howard University, and my courses were centered around social media and digital strategy, public relations and then strategic communications. So I have a background in communications just, you know, by way of my undergraduate degree. I later went on to pursue a law degree, and while my path didn't take me, you know, down that background. I've still been able to use it in the work that I've been able to dio. Why Law,

Kimberly

You know, at the time I thought that I wanted to be,

Kimberly

you know, a big shot entertainment lawyer. I had worked, you know, in entertainment for a number of years. I had an intern when I was in college and entertainment, and I wanted my path to kind of take me that way. I really enjoyed learning about the law. I loved law school. I graduated from Howard University School of Law. But you know, that wasn't my true passion. And honestly, I really loved learning about intellectual property and Internet law and just everything that was taking place on the Internet during that time. Because when I was in law school, there was no precedent for anything that was happening on the Internet. Everything was so new, which that love of digital, that love of you know, I P really helped shape my career because I went then, using my marketing communications background and then this newfound love of the Internet. I actually went into digital strategy on, and I went to an agency and I did social media and digital strategy, and that kind of shaped my career path in my career direction. Later going into digital strategy, content, strategy and editorial,

Serwaa

and I could definitely see that in the way you've been able to get the word out about huge, and I would love to dive into that. But given that you didn't come from a tech or a medical background, what were your initial steps with getting huge up and running? And I think before that I've heard this. But our listeners may not have heard the backstory to why you launched you to begin with, so maybe let's start there.

Kimberly

Absolutely so, no health care background whatsoever. No tech background. As you mentioned eso just starting their everything was a challenge, as we know to industry's specifically from a leadership standpoint where we often, you know, don't see women of color kind of at the helm. As we know, the statistics specifically within tech are jarring when it comes to the amount of funding that black women receive, and just the amount of you know tech founders who are venture backed just in general. When we know that you know black women are the highest rates of entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, as it pertains to tech, we're just not getting funded. But my path kind of took me in a really interesting way because I started huge based off of a personal experience. I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids in 2017, and they are common for many women. So it's funny because I had never even heard about uterine fibroids until I was diagnosed. And then everybody told me, Oh, well, everybody has it, you know, on and it is extremely common. But for black women, specifically, up to 90% will develop them by the time they turn 50. So we all have them or get them in some capacity. But and many will never experience any issues. But you know if if you're like me, I had over 30 of them and they began to impact my other organs and in my day to day life, and I lived in New York City at the time and over a period of six months, and I've I've told this story quite often. I visited four different white male providers in New York City, and

Kimberly

they either dismissed my pain altogether. Andi, there were some days I couldn't get out of bed. My abdominal pain was that severe, that I would, you know, wake up crying and, you know, curled up on my bed. And I would have to go to the emergency room because of my pain. And then the other stated that you know the only way to absolve myself of any pain or issues that I was going through with to have a hysterectomy. And

Serwaa

I'm your thirties. What?

Kimberly

I was exactly 30 at the time. So, you know, finding out that personal news was very traumatic for me at that stage of where I was in life and how you know black women or communities of color, just in general is how we find providers, health care providers. It's through our own direct network. So, you know, we might

Kimberly

text a group of friends or we might post something on Facebook. Or maybe a family member is referring physicians to us. Andi, that's how we, you know, are able to recognize our care team. And the closest recommendation that I was able to receive was in Baltimore, Maryland. So I lived in New York and the only black O b. G. Y n I was able to find within my own reach was over 200 miles away from home. And the experience was a complete 1. 80. You know, she was a black woman who, in addition to the bedside manner, just being completely different and her just sitting and seeking to understand what I was going through,

Kimberly

she told me that there were other options for me. You know, I think in terms of just the medical system in general, a hysterectomy was what they used to tell our parents generation, um, years and years ago. But there's so much new technology now that she said, you know, you have this, and this is another option, and this is another option. So, you know, a year later, I had an abdominal myomectomy with the same physician. So, you know, I traveled pack my bags on. Guy had this, uh, I had a very invasive surgery, but ultimately my uterus is still intact. And it wasn't until finding that physician that I really received the culturally competent care that I needed and deserved. And it was following this experience that I talked to people. I had conversations with friends and family members and colleagues. I posted about the experience on social media, and it was just a resounding, you know, feedback that so many people go through the same thing every day in terms of the relationship in the experiences that they have with health care providers on. And for me it was recognizing that this is a larger issue and we need to do something about this issue because

Kimberly

it's, you know, it's no coincidence that we African and when I say we I refer to, um, African American demographic or just even the Latin X community. We have the highest rates of maternal mortality, heart disease, diabetes, colorectal cancer, asthma on and someone and so forth. And that is not just economic challenges that we're being faced with. Ah, lot of that has to do with the psychological barriers that exist for communities of color, which has stemmed from the history of the health care system. So, you know, we have fear we have distrust, Um, especially, and you know, when we think about distrust relative to vaccinations that are about to come on the market, and, um, you know, I've been seeing personally on social media, people talking about not wanting to be the first. They're not wanting to participate in that. So you know, we have toe. We have, you know, wanting to really get to the root and understanding of behavioral things that were happening within the health care system and by no means is huge. The end all be all solution, because there's a lot of work that has to happen. But we wanted to serve as a bridge to starting those conversations and really closing the gap in medical care. And that was a very long winded way of, you know, walking through my personal experience.

Serwaa

I and I think it's important that everyone understands that as a backdrop to the journey that you've then gone on. But it's one thing to see a problem, and it's something entirely different to be able to address the problem. So back to the question of once you knew that this was a problem that you wanted to tackle. Given that this is not something you had any background or skill in, how did you approach it?

Kimberly

So you know, and I know you're really trying to get to the nitty ready of like what? That process looks like so and I could dive deeper into that. So ah, lot of it was research, understanding competitors and what the space look like and what I was actually trying to solve. There's so many pieces toe healthcare on understanding. Okay, What was the actual solution that I wanted to do Thio accomplish and starting from their recognizing industry competitors and

Kimberly

then kind of writing out. Okay, this is how we're different. This is our value proposition. This is what we're going to accomplish. I've then tapped into resource is and just industry mentors who had been, you know, technology adjacent or had worked in some capacity and started asking questions. And honestly, I really put myself out there at a really early stage. I started going to tech conferences, you know, I had I had launched the company in October of 2018, and that next month I registered. I went to Afro Tech in San Francisco. I networked. I met people on the US side. I met designers. Um, and I really dive into the content of technology and what it meant to start a company. And then, thankfully, I have a legal background, so I got to work on. You know, the legal formation of how I was in a structure, the company, what bylaws looked like? Um, you know, first things versus purchasing the domain, the domains of everything that I wanted the name toe look like, um, there were different names in the earlier stages than huge. And then, you know,

Kimberly

really, I d ating on what that looked like and purchasing basically every domain that is even similar to hued in name and then, you know, hiring a software developer and what that process kind of looked like. And we built something we built in M V P. It was a really early stage kind of model of what we wanted to build out, and then literally, just having conversation. So what we did is we surveyed people because how do you understand what a solution is without really understanding the problem or and understanding? Okay, I see this as a benefit, but what do people see is a benefit. So we started serving people on the patient side on the physician side about their pain points and what they would want to see in a technology platform that really hit on all of their pain points. So that's how you know I did it in the beginning. And I read books. I read a lot of books. Um,

Kimberly

you know, uh, and thankfully, I have a marketing background. So that is one of the key drivers in our successes that we started to build community online. We started to build the buzz around it. We started to collect, you know, email addresses from people so that, you know, at least follow up with the newsletter and have them participate in our beta so that once we, the M v p went live, we were able to start to collect data. And it wasn't until this year. Um,

Kimberly

where you know, that first year was such a struggle? I'm not even gonna lie. Um, you know, understanding the business model, understanding our value proposition, understanding. You know, there is a huge difference between a service based company and building technology. Andi, the intellectual property that goes into that. And, you know, you want to file a trademarking, want to just do all these things. So that was what the first year looked like. And it was ah ah, lot of nose.

Serwaa

So I mean, let me pause you there because you have said so much in a very short span of time, and I I know people are going to be wondering. You mentioned that you tried to get as much into the tech community as possible when you said and then I hired a software developer. You said it as though it was so seamless. Was it?

Kimberly

Well, um, it was not. I actually went through a number of software developers until, you know, building out the team that we have right now. You know, I had the first of it, so I had no clue where to even find a software developer. I had one in my network, and I reached out to her to say, Hey, could you build this for me? She didn't have the time or the capacity. What she said to me is, you know, join. There are meet up groups. Um, that exists where basically

Kimberly

there's we build black, which is one organization, and they do programming where you can,

Kimberly

you know, I lived in New York at the time, so I do wanna, you know, have that caveat that every city has different kind of structures on networking groups. But there are networking groups that exist where software developers and we build black is one of them post monthly meet ups and founders will attend the meat up and pitch to software engineers at the event. So you go to the event, you know, each founder will, you know, will present an idea for five minutes and just talk about what they're trying to build. And then afterwards for software developers will come up to you and say, Hey, I have an interest in that. And then there's some level of mutual understanding there. Um, I also the same way that there are in person, meet up groups. There are job boards. So I would search software developers New York City and there would be, um, meet up groups and things like that online. So everybody who I wasn't able to meet at events I literally posted building Healthcare Technology Company that matches patient, uh, to black providers on people responded to my listing and that I would meet with people in person on DTA, talk to them and then, you know, I found my first developer. It didn't end up working out, uh,

Kimberly

mhm

Kimberly

you know, it costs a lot of money on building M V. P. And I had used all of my personal savings, so I didn't have any funding. I used personal savings I had had about in the early stages About $10,000 dedicated to building this platform. $10,000 in the grand scheme of things is not a lot of money to build technology. So because I wasn't able to offer, you know, a lot of money to a software developer, obviously that, you know, widows down the list of people who are interested.

Kimberly

I found my first developer It didn't work out. Then I found a second developer who his name is actually Devon. He is the founder of we build Black, that organization that I'm talking about. So he built the first M v p. How I've got into my development team now is, you know, I've been in the industry a little bit. Mawr, I've, you know, built up my network and actually, it came through a recommendation of a friend who is a founder, and our technical adviser was actually actually a technical advisor for her company. And he's been leading ourselves for development right now.

Serwaa

The other thing I love you said is you started toe build and launch before you launched your M v p and that you built a community. Could you speak to the importance of that for the growth you've been ableto accomplished since?

Kimberly

Absolutely so. Before we even had any technology built, we started. You know, I started having conversations and telling people about what you build, and some people do it differently. I will say some people work in stealth mode and they build everything behind the scenes and then they just launch. Um, I thought it was more important to

Kimberly

you know how stakeholders have people interested in exciting and develop a list a waiting list of people who could participate in the beta because we wanted to build our network. We wanted to build our list serve. We wanted to build our email newsletter and do it a little bit differently at first. So in that, um, I would go to community events and functions, and again, this is how, um

Kimberly

this is pre co vid so really, really doing events. So, for example, I hosted an event in partnership with Trellis Health, which unfortunately, is a fertile women's fertility clinic that closed earlier this year. But last year we worked with them to offer three fertility testing for black women in New York City. Um, and

Kimberly

then we did programming around black women and fertility and women's health. Um uh,

Kimberly

in really to educate these communities about what was existing. So we were trying to go into local communities to one educate, inform, provide health literacy and offer them free services towards their health and then say, Hey, this is what we're building be a part of the huge community S.E.O. We offered something and then provided value in some type of way. So that's what we're doing. We're going to conferences. We were hosting events and we really built up a network of people who were then ready because they had already had a part of the huge experience to them say, Hey, this is what we're building. You should be the first you know, the first part of our trial of the first people to benefit from this, and that's really how we built up community in the early on set.

Serwaa

And I liked that approach because there's a little bit less friction when you're trying to get people to buy in because they've already built that relationship with you as opposed to spring it on them and having them be like, Hey, I don't know who you are. Not sure if I really vibe with you as a company, right?

Serwaa

So when you're building a social enterprise like huge,

Serwaa

you probably need to strike a balance between serving the community like you said, and then also generating enough revenue to keep doing that work. So given that you bootstrap the company, how have you approached that balance?

Kimberly

So I will say the first year we didn't generate any money and, you know, and really founders, you're not going to make money for a while. So I want anybody who's starting a company to really not think about profit. You're not seeing profitability until, you know, years into the company. But

Kimberly

you know, that first year was us really understanding our market, it was understanding the pain points of our potential customers, and it was really honing in and identifying the solution that we wanted to be ableto provide to these communities are then what happened is 2020. It was such a huge shift in everything. Um, Cove in 19 happen. The onset of black lives matter protest. Um, following the death of George Floyd Ah, lot of things started to happen with the backdrop of our company and our country, which ultimately ended up serving our company in a beneficial way. I will say this does not happen to a lot of people, is just that we were working in the health care sector, and then a global pandemic happened, and the populations that were disproportionately, um, impacted by it happen to be marginalized communities and our exact demographic. And where we had conversations a year ago where we would talk to potential investors and stakeholders. Nobody cared about what we were doing. Um, the And then the conversations this year completely shifted because of, you know, data and statistics and what we were seeing on the news every day he became relevant. It became relevant. So then then it became everybody was interested

Kimberly

in what we were building. So it just happen so fast. And I will say we're in a unique position that this typically doesn't happen with a lot of companies and with a lot of founders. But it put us in a position where we then started having to turn down everybody because you know, we are doing what's best for our company and that people who are just looking for a moment in time, right? S.E.O

Serwaa

It's such a politically correct way to say, because I know a lot of companies and maybe influencers have experienced that as well, where all of a sudden there's so much attention from people who may not have given them the time of day before now. But then again, that is part of the secret sauce of success is, um, timing as well as all the preparedness and the work that you put into into that getting to that moment where things just seem to jump off.

Kimberly

Absolutely so that is really what happened. So we announced a partnership

Kimberly

last month with Unilever. We had been working with Unilever since the beginning of the year. They, at the early onset, saw the value and what we were building on. DWI wanted our partnerships to feel like that organic, that we were a mission aligned and it wasn't just t B. A quick conversation S.E.O that companies are able to stay relevant right now, because again, whenever I talked to investors, whenever I talk to anybody, our biggest

Kimberly

concern and the who we are focused on is the needs of patients. We, uh you know, and I hate to say it, but, you know, our biggest focus is not on payers, uh, insurance providers or hospital systems or physicians. We are ultimately trying to serve the needs of patients.

Kimberly

Um, and people that look like you and myself. In my case, I was able to be my own self advocate. I knew to keep searching until I found the right person. For me, everybody is not in that position. And sometimes we make choices based off of what is put in front of us, because that is what we We're entrusting our lives, you know, to healthcare providers. But, you know, they don't always get it right. And when we think about the history of our health care system, we know that to be a fact. So,

Kimberly

you know, it really kind of put our company in a stronghold for 2020 and beyond because of you know what we're doing.

Serwaa

So, in learning about huge one of the phrases I keep seeing placed in quotation marks is, um, culturally competent. And it seems to me like one of the initial hurdles to getting partners would be for them to acknowledge that disparity in health care exists. So have you gotten any pushback and using that term culturally competent?

Kimberly

So and I do want to point that out because ethnicity does is not equal or does not always translate to culturally competent. Where we started with the platform is matching providers of color to patients of color because data and studies show just one toe. One patients who are match black patients who are matched with black physicians instantly report, improve patient care experiences and ultimately improve health outcomes. But it is very unrealistic as a company, when we think about on the supply side that every patient will always be matched. Two physicians of color. So are larger strategy because also, um, you know, black and Latin X physicians only account for 13% of the physician demographic. We're focused on the 87% right. The 87% is who mawr more so have to deal with the population who we're going after. So what? We've been doing is we're focused on cultural competency curriculums, cultural sensitivity, trainings on really understanding the racial divide and the racial disparities and and what is existing between those patient care experiences that equals or equates to not receiving the same quality of health care to white counterparts? Um, you know, our second rate health care system is shortening our lives and, you know, working with the 87% so that we can move the industry forward. So that is our larger term strategy. And I'm glad you kind of accent because, um, cultural competency in general is such a buzzword this year, Um, that I'm sure we're all very tired of hearing it. But all cultural competency means is really understanding, um, and seeking to understand the needs of that patient and giving them the care, um, that they deserve they need. And they deserve for what you know, and without dismissing

Kimberly

their fears or their traumas. And it's really all about understanding. So how can we move the industry forward so that they understand? And they seek to understand the needs of their patients,

Serwaa

Got it? And so, given that you're now hitting your stride as a company. I'm sure you're pulled in a lot of different directions. What is an average day look like for you? And what kind of support system have you put in place in order to make sure you stay sane as a founder?

Kimberly

Uh, that's a great question, because anybody who speaks to me or anybody who's on our team knows that on average, I'm in about 60 meetings a week. Um,

Kimberly

they're very intensive days that I have a minimum about 10 meetings a day. You know, I'm meeting with other health care organizations. I'm meeting with different partners that we have. I'm pitching. We are going through an institutional round, so we are raising venture capital dollars. So I'm having conversations with investors. I'm having conversations with stakeholders. Um, so, yes, that's what my kind of day to day looks like. Nobody ever told me ahead of being a founder, that I would, um you know, you spend so much time. It is a full time job in itself to raise venture dollars, right? So, you know, now we're at a place where we're generating revenue, and I don't have to do everything myself. So we have a team um, in terms of our team members, we have, ah, growth strategist. We have a researcher on our team who focuses on us and just kind of clinical research. We have a social media manager. Obviously, we have our development team, so we're we have people in place now so that, you know, in the beginning, it was really me doing everything myself. And now we're building traction. As you mentioned, we are generating revenue. Were able to pay team members to support what we're building.

Serwaa

How does a company like you generate revenue?

Kimberly

I'm glad you asked that question. So we generate revenue through partners. So, you know, obviously, you know, Lever is a customer slash partner of ours. But in addition, we worked with players. So insurance providers, we've just started the conversation with different employers and health systems to help them develop their solution. Um, solutions to this problem. So we have Ah, a few different pathways for revenue, but those are just a few of them.

Serwaa

Great. So what is next for huge And how can we support your growth?

Kimberly

So, yeah, obviously, you know, our biggest thing is building out the technology, and so that it is Mawr customer centric and patient centric, um, providing more health literacy. More resource is our cultural competency certification and curriculum that we've been building our So these air the a few of the things that are kind of within our radar, but in terms of supporting and engaging,

Kimberly

you know, absolutely visiting huge. Our website is H u E d c o dot com. If you are searching for provider, please register. If you are a provider and you are looking to be a part of our hue network, Obviously we vet physicians who want to join on. You can register and submit your profile on the side as well. So on the patient and physician side, please visit Cute. You'll get all the information and resource is that you need and we just want to continue to engage with everybody.

Serwaa

Great. Kimberly, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today. I'm excited to see what the future has in store for Huge. Thank

Kimberly

you so much for the opportunity.

Serwaa

You're welcome. S.E.O. Hi, Off-Scripters. I'm so glad you made it to the end of this episode. If you enjoy listening to our show, please pay it forward by sharing us with your network. Between episodes, you can find me on Instagram. Our handle is at She's Off Script, or you can catch up on past episodes at She's Off Script dot com. See you on the next one.

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