…Be aware of upcoming advancements in the tech space and find opportunities to fold those into your own business.
…Pick a niche and go both deep and wide. For a company to grow, it needs to have a fundamental purpose. But execution against that purpose can take on more forms than one. I originally wanted to start a brick-and-mortar acupuncture-only business. Now I have a tech based business that caters to a myriad of different wellness practices.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women Leaders in Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Camrin Agin.
ALTYR Founder Camrin Agin launched the wellness hub after her own transformation from an Energy Healing Session. For nearly 15 years, she has served as an executive in the Business & Legal Affairs group of a major motion picture studio and knows the benefits of holistic modalities in keeping her stress levels at bay. After struggling to find a practitioner who would come to her home that she could trust, she realized there was an opportunity. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, their two children and their dog.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Five years ago, if I was able to look into a crystal ball and see that I’d become a wellness entrepreneur, my instinct would be that the crystal ball was clearly broken. I guess I also never would’ve looked into a crystal ball five years ago. Growing up, I was never a very spiritual person. I’m an entertainment attorney by profession, and even in my 30s, I thought if I made any pivot in my career, it would be to the producing side of films. But life is fluid. I got married and had two kids. My plate became very full. Soon I started suffering from chronic, debilitating migraines. Every few weeks, I’d have a throbbing pain in my back and my neck. I went to several doctors, but regardless of their diagnosis or treatment, the headaches persisted. Around three years ago, I met an acupuncturist. She told me that pain was the body’s way of communicating. That my body was more or less saying I had to change my mental state if I wanted to fix my physical one. And I had to LISTEN. That led me to breathwork, sound baths, and what became a deep dive — and, if you ask my husband, an expensive one! — into the use of crystal therapy. The result: less migraines, less back pain, and the ability to be conscious of prioritizing and balancing the various aspects of my life. From that, ALTYR was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I had a very intense dream — one of those dreams that you wake up from disoriented and wondering where you are — about going to a meditation class. The instructor walked in and introduced herself as “Cami”. That’s what everyone called me when I was younger. I looked up at the instructor was me, as a six year old. Literally talking to a younger version of yourself, even in a dream, is a sort of out-of-body experience. It made me realize that I needed to get back in touch with my inner-child. Both for the sort of innocent, joyous POV I had then, and of course, to also work on the things I’d repressed for so long that I needed to address. To me, that dream sums up the spirit of ALTYR: Dig deeper, live lighter.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
God, this is embarrassing, but it boils down to: math is not my friend. Even Excel math. I was doing what I felt was a rather complex budget for the start-up of the business, projections of loss and profit over the first five years. I think I had forgotten to carry a “1” in my head or something when I plugged in some number, which threw off everything and had me thinking I had just wasted a tremendous amount of time and money in a business that was a sure loser. After a good cry, I realized the mistake and that version of the excel document never went beyond my own computer screen. It’s since been deleted from the trash can.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
So many times. There was actually an intermediate step in creating this business that went nowhere. Before I landed on doing a concierge business, I wanted to do a brick-and-mortar one. The idea would be that at any time you had free, you could drop in — without an appointment — and get a healing service. I had a business partner, with whom I had a falling out, and literally overnight, just as we were going to approach investors, everything fell apart. I remember waking up and I just couldn’t get out of bed. I figured I’d spent months burning the candle at both ends, for naught. But I knew I couldn’t give up. My nature doesn’t allow it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Well, from an emotional standpoint, my parents who made me believe that I could do something I wasn’t quite sure that I could do. From a practical one, my friend Rich, who has launched several start-ups, was able to walk me through the necessities of what it took to start a successful business. And he was patient with me even when I didn’t take his advice the first or second time and I had to learn on my own.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” I think that’s a pretty applicable quote to any situation you’re in that you wish you weren’t.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
It’s about creating a safe space within you by creating a safe space around you.
The general idea is that we need our minds and bodies to slow down. But that doesn’t mean to stop. It means to take frequent steps to be conscious about taking a pause. Because everyone’s lives are so overloaded — constant information, constant connection, constant need for immediate response — it’s easy to lose sight of how you yourself fit into the whole system and easy to lose focus of who you yourself ARE. ALTYR aims to help you refocus that sight and journey within. We provide the opportunity to allow you to sit with yourself and be aware of what it is you’re really feeling, what it is you want, and to explore that in a calm and non-judgmental way. When you want to, where you want to. It’s interesting — there’s this almost sublime dialectic where wellness and technology meet. Tech allows ALTYR to reach the largest group of people who want to find time to put down their technology for a moment.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Before our practitioners launch into a service, they do a pretty quick yet in-depth reading of their client’s emotional state. Empathy makes us stand out, I think.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I just launched ALTYR two months ago. So, you’re catching me what still feels like a very nascent stage. I’m proud of what the company does — offering people the opportunity to feel a sense of balance, comfort, and tranquility. I’m excited for its growth, but I’m also excited for the unknowns, the inevitable pivots I’ll make as the business continues to evolve.
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in Tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
I’m satisfied that women in general have put a bigger focus on supporting other women. For too long, there was the old adage that the biggest enemy a woman had was another woman. I feel we’re moving away from that to “a rising tide lifts all boats”. “Collabs” are certainly part of the zeitgeist’s most recent vernacular when it comes to media, marketing, and branding overall and I’m here for it. And today, for better or worse, everyone has a lens pointed at them. So, it means being ambitious, smart, and powerful isn’t enough. It’s about how you conduct your business and how you conduct yourself. None of this is easy, because it means you need to honestly take conscious stock of your values, behavior, and choices on a constant basis. Which means as women, we need to be supportive of each other by giving each other opportunities, but also taking enough time to discuss how we execute against those opportunities by recognizing the importance — and symbiosis — of both professional and personal growth. “Candid feedback” is another one of those buzzy terms you hear a lot about right now, and it’s easy to disregard its significance, but it’s a mistake to do so.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
Look, we live in a world that has been established as a patriarchy for thousands of years. It’s the default setting. I often get annoyed that I’m on every email from my kids’ schools, but my husband isn’t. It’s just a part of a system that more or less almost always makes the female the “domesticated” person. The tech boom started as a cross-section of truly innovative thinking — business and business practices — by young people. There was almost a “frat house” approach — and I don’t mean that pejoratively. I just mean it was about setting up pool tables, ping pong tables, video game consoles, and skateboards in the office. And these aren’t “male” things in the sense that plenty of women enjoy them. But they sort of sit on the “male” side of the gender line symbolically. So that almost inevitably leads to a “frat house” culture, which I do mean pejoratively. The problem is actually in the question of how do we address the gender divide in the first place? I look at my kids — who are less than ten years old — and their classmates. Boys wear dresses. Girls play videogames. The truth is, now more than ever, you’re not a jock or a theater kid — you’re a kid who plays football and stars in the school play. But that’s with a generation that isn’t out of school yet. They’re not in the workforce. I think it’s by us — those that are in the workforce — adopting a more intersectional mentality that we’ll start to get out of the old archetypes that are still so definitional to our business but also our lives.
What would you advise to another tech leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
Talk about a question that makes me feel exposed. I haven’t yet GONE through years of successive growth. I’m new to the game. What’s clear to me is that platforms of technology are rapidly changing. Social media is now a bona fide avenue for business marketing. Tik-Tok is something to embrace as a branding megaphone and in about a year, it’ll be in the dust because something else rolls around. I guess my advice is: be aware of the trends, recognize their value, and don’t be surprised when they disappear. Expect to pivot. Take a walk and think about what whitespace may be in your market. What has been undervalued can become valuable if it’s approached in the right way.
Do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
The cliché of ensuring your employees would be a rabid customer is true. Building a vision of the brand — what you’re trying to accomplish that viscerally connects with some part of each team member’s purpose — is vital. That means you need to hire the right people off the bat, but it also means you need to be open to each team member’s own values, desires, and propensities because they may be representative of your market in ways you hadn’t ever thought about before. Let them know you are adaptable, while still making sure the core driver and purpose of your business remains consistent.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
I’m lucky that the pragmatic side of my business is directly related to the emotional side of it. Meaning, my business is about allowing people to take time to feel what they need on a more soulful level and then filling those needs with real and actionable services. But I think there’s a truth to that for all businesses — it’s addressing what someone wants, but it’s also addressing why they want it.
Based on your experience, can you share 3 or 4 strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
My company is still relatively small, so it’s easy for me to be the “face” of the company, and by that, I mean I’m personally available to my customers. The practitioners that work for ALTYR are the heart and soul of the business in that they are the ones who personal cater each session to the client with whom they are booked. But I will take every call and answer every email and allow all of my customers to get to know me as a person, because I think that translates into a level of trust and security that leads to brand loyalty.
Another important thing is soliciting feedback. There’s a follow-up to every ALTYR session in which we ask what the client liked, but more so, what they didn’t or what they would’ve liked to have happen in their session. And everyone is different. What works for one person will be a turn-off to another person. Some people want a practitioner who is more open to talking about their own experiences. Others find that takes the focus off of them. I keep a confidential database of all my client’s feedback, what practitioners they’ve had, and which practitioner may best serve their own needs. Individual catering is big. And as my company grows, I’m mindful that this will be harder to do, but it will be important.
Lastly, take a moment on a somewhat frequent basis to ask yourself: If I was starting this business from scratch today, what would it look like? If there are any significant differences, implement them!
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
Again, I think it’s about being personally accessible. Being your own brand ambassador. One thing that everyone wants is consideration. To feel that they, personally, are important. That their thoughts are important. That their time is important. That they matter in their best and worst forms. Because I feel that I matter in my best and worst forms. It’s connecting — and I mean, personally connecting with personalized correspondence — over this fundamental belief that can allow any business to recognize the value of its customers, and vice versa.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful tech company? Please share a story or an example for each.
One, find the whitespace. Healing services existed long before ALTYR and they will continue to pop up commercially in various ways. But catering each service we have to the individual client and that client’s needs at a precise point in time is what makes it feel special to me. It’s also recognizing that those needs are fluid and can change from one session to the next.
Second, the company you create should be an extension of your own personality, priorities, and desires to be better as a complete person on a holistic level — double entendre intended.
Third, be aware of upcoming advancements in the tech space and find opportunities to fold those into your own business.
Fourth, pick a niche and go both deep and wide. For a company to grow, it needs to have a fundamental purpose. But execution against that purpose can take on more forms than one. I originally wanted to start a brick-and-mortar acupuncture-only business. Now I have a tech based business that caters to a myriad of different wellness practices.
Fifth, keep your eyes open to things that are in no way related to what you are doing. Be curious of the world. It’s easy to get myopic about what other companies are doing in your space. But it will limit the ways you find potential opportunities. I’m currently talking with a few psychologists who offer different services and products that fit within the ALTYR brand while having nothing to do with the services I currently offer.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
At ALTYR we say, “reconnect with yourself to reconnect with the world”. We believe that spending a little time on the inside exponentially effects how you show up on the outside. Let’s spread the healing movement. When I take 10 minutes for myself, I am a better, calmer, and centered version of myself and I show up better for my kids, the person who is next to me in traffic, the person in front of me at the check-out line at the grocery store, my colleagues, my family, everyone I interact with that day. And those people can take our positive interaction into their days, hopefully spreading positivity. Good energy is contagious.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Easy. Gwyneth Paltrow. Goop is such a specific yet expansive brand. It has a personality that is so non-apologetic, in the best sense of the word. So, Gwyneth, call me!
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!