Personal burnout will lead to professional distress — put your laptop down if you are skipping meals or missing time spent with friends/family.
Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Alison LaSov, CEO & Co-founder of Advekit. Alison LaSov is a Los Angeles native who attended UCLA for her B.A. and Pepperdine University for her M.A. Alison is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist, and practiced as a clinician for years in Los Angeles, specializing in adolescent and child Anxiety & Depressive Disorders. In 2017, Alison teamed up with her co-founder Arielle Garellek and they launched Advekit, a modern platform that makes therapy accessible and affordable to anyone searching for Mental Health support. She currently lives with her husband and Australian Shepherd, and enjoys playing tennis and recreational soccer in her free time.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
Igrew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, and had a pleasant childhood. I was an avid soccer player during my youth, and traveled to games almost every weekend for ten years. I accredit my early days as an athlete to my current drive and hustle within my work, as well as my passion for leading a team that works well together.
You are currently leading a social impact organization. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
Advekit was founded in the mission that we should all prioritize our Mental Health and reduce the stigma around asking for support. Finding the right Mental Health therapist can be a difficult process, as the relationship between therapist/client is nuanced and not one size fits all.
I launched Advekit as a platform that makes it easier for people to access Mental Health support, as well as understand their insurance benefits in real time on the site. Accessibility and affordability of treatment are the two most ambiguous aspects of seeking mental health support, and we are solving for both of those components, so that more people can receive the support that they deserve.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
I’ve worked in the Mental health space for years, both as a provider and recipient of therapy. For years, I noticed too many friction points that were not being solved for, and therefore, too many people were not able to access treatment — I knew I wanted to change many aspects of the space, but I did not know how I wanted to do it. After conducting many research groups on the barriers of entering into therapy, I determined that there was a large need for people to be able to find and pay for sessions. I decided to launch a company that would make it easier for people to access the mental health support that they needed.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
For me, there were numerous events that were influenced by folks not getting the mental health support that they needed. From a macro view, I was apprised of the prevalent mass shootings across our country and large rise in self-harm, especially among young people. At the time, I was also operating a teen suicide hotline where I was overhearing the struggles of neglected youth on a daily basis. The feeling of helplessness, when I knew that so much pain could be alleviated with proper mental health intervention, was too much to bear. I decided to stop talking about how therapy could become more accessible, and I started solving for it. I launched Advekit not only as a tool for people to get connected to the right mental health provider, but also as a resource to normalize the need for support.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
I believe that execution is more than half the battle to starting a company. It may sound trivial, but most people have a good idea, very few people act on it. My co-founder and I did most of our initial work on napkins and paper scraps. We would scribble down images of what our product could look like, and then we would send photos of our drafts to one another via our cell phones. We would text our edits to one another, and this went on for about 8 months, before we hired our first developer to build our prototype.
The most difficult part of the journey is not taking your foot off the (metaphorical) gas pedal. There will always be more intelligent and more creative people out there than I am, but there are few people who will work harder and maintain my level of passion for what we are building at Advekit. I cannot emphasize enough that having passion for what you are creating is critical to the success of the company.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Similar to folks who use Advekit, my co-founder and I have had our own set of interesting challenges while trying to run and fund a growing start-up. Between the two of us, we have had a new marriage, the birth of a child, a partner who underwent emergency open heart surgery, and have collectively moved four times in three cities, all since launching in 2017.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
I used to run our social media, and I do not even have a personal IG account. My images were extremely outdated and I had no idea what I was doing. I also did not understand what tagging was or how it worked!
I thought it made sense to hire a PR rep within the first few months of launching our business — not the right move or the right spend of money for the stage that we were in! I was under the impression that everyone had a PR person to make them seem “legitimate,” which could not be farther from the truth. The most important thing I learned was that before we publicized our efforts, it was important to spend on proving our product market fit and generating traction.
When ultimately deciding to engage in PR efforts, be sure your company is in a position from an operations standpoint to handle widespread recognition of your company, and do not hesitate to ask fellow entrepreneurs who they have used as PR individuals or firms, as there are many out there!
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
Coming from a Clinical Psychology background, most of my peers had never ventured into the start-up space, so I decided to look outside of my community. I tapped into the Los Angeles tech scene, and connected with female founders along the way who championed my journey from the beginning, and even now. I am impressed with the female founder network in the tech space, and have attended many events aimed at women helping other women succeed in business. I am lucky to have people believe in me, especially coming from a non traditional background for a founder of a venture-backed company. I am excited to pay it forward and help other female entrepreneurs with their business ventures, and give the confidence and encouragement to follow through on their ideas.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I can share that we have helped thousands of people find and pay for therapy, as well as thousands of therapists grow their businesses. What I love about Advekit is that we have a social mission to really make an impact on people’s overall wellbeing.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
I would love to get the word out there that Advekit is a free resource for people to use to find and pay for therapy. Our therapist providers are vetted professionals who are taking new clients, and we take the burdens out of the tedious process. We also have resources on our site and are launching support groups based on various topics that have been requested by the community.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- It’s okay to try something that doesn’t work, workshop it, and try again, and ten more times if needed.
- You do not need to be a graphic designer to make a VC pitch deck.
- You do not need a MBA to be the CEO of a business (I don’t have my MBA but used to feel inferior because of that).
- Personal burnout will lead to professional distress — put your laptop down if you are skipping meals or missing time spent with friends/family.
- Do not give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
It feels good to end your day, knowing that you improved someone else’s.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
There are so many people I would choose, but for some reason Sheryl Sandberg comes to mind. She has been a pioneer in the tech scene for many years, and has gone through personal and professional setbacks. I think she would be really interesting to learn from.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow Advekit on our Instagram page handle: @Advekit
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!