Alexandra Philip Reeve came to the Quarter Zero Catapult Incubator with a problem she wanted to solve: how teens access information about health and wellness.
In ninth grade her best friend was diagnosed with anorexia and was hospitalized. Scared and worried for her friend, she did what anyone her age would do: she turned to Google.
“But I couldn’t really find anything that targeted information towards teens or was speaking to teens on an authentic level,” she says. “When you search for anorexia, you get 250 million results.”
Alexandra realized then that there wasn’t anything on the Internet that could help young people filter through all the medical information available online. She knew there had to be a better way to use existing resources to empower young people to manage their own chronic conditions or overall wellness.
That’s how emojiHEALTH was born. A messenger platform that serves teenagers information relevant to them, emojiHEALTH interacts with teens in the same tone in which they would chat with their friends, and with plenty of visuals.
She had a hunch that visual communication: infographics, videos – and yes, emojis – were the key to engaging teenagers.
Her work on emojiHealth won her and her co-founder Anna Melnyk the One to Watch MEDy Award at the Exponential Medicine Conference. The innovative company now also partners with healthcare brands to build custom AI bots to communicate with patients.
But Alexandra didn’t always think of herself as an innovator.
“Somehow we’ve been trained to think that innovators are this special unicorn breed of human that we can only aspire to be,” she says. “But it’s not some gene that people are born with. Innovation in my mind is just solving a problem in a new way, and there’s no one way to solve a problem.”
She says the most important thing she learned at Catapult was learning it was OK to fail.
“I started emojiHEALTH just by texting my friends. And they let me know that I was failing. They said, ‘I’m bored by what you’re doing.’ So I moved over to Facebook Messenger, which was a little bit better because I could show more visuals.”
After leaving the Incubator, Alexandra says it was initially difficult to transition from a supportive environment to the real world where her young age sometimes felt seen as a liability.
“Still, Catapult helped me learn the skills to present myself in a professional way that really helps me get my value proposition across to professionals, be they mentors, investors, or employees,” she says.
At the same time, Alexandra has found that being a high school founder has helped her get media exposure. She’s been interviewed by a variety of news outlets, including CTV, CITY TV, and CP24. She advises high school startup founders to make sure they spend a lot of time crafting a compelling story and then capitalize on their age in their pitch.
“People are typically astounded by young entrepreneurs who are balancing the challenges of high school with the challenges of starting a company before officially becoming an adult. Reach out to organizations who you think might be interested in what you are doing, and then let the press grow from there,” she says.
Most of all, Alexandra believes that not waiting to start a business is the key to making a future you want to live in.
“I’ve realized that the future must be created by youth,” she says. “You have to take advantage of what you can do today to change your life, your community, and the world.“