Tell someone every day why you are thankful for them. It could be a family member, friend, co-worker, favorite fitness instructor or local barista. People need to feel appreciated. Not only will this give them an emotional boost, but they will spread that energy to everyone else they encounter that day which means even more positive energy all around.
I had the pleasure interviewing Erika Zauner. Erika is the Founder & CEO of HealthKick, a corporate health and wellness platform that provides employees with access to over 500 leading consumer health, fitness and wellness brands, personalized to their individual interests and goals. Erika started HealthKick after spending the majority of her career in the corporate world working in finance, where she experienced firsthand the challenges of maintaining a healthy lifestyle while managing a demanding work schedule. Erika graduated from Princeton University and earned an MBA from Columbia Business School. She is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and is fortunate to share her passion for helping people thrive through wellbeing with HealthKick.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Igrew up as an athlete, so being active was always part of my lifestyle. As an athlete, I learned that performance is just as much a function of how you’re fueling your body as it is how you’re recovering and managing your mental state. This shaped how I think about overall wellbeing as having physical, mental and emotional components. At one of my first jobs, the CEO started doing triathlons, and before long many of us were inspired to train for a race and share training tips over lunch. Even our colleagues who were less active got on a “health kick”- it showed me how powerful office culture can be in promoting healthy lifestyles. After business school, I worked at a much larger company with a formal wellness program, but we struggled with participation. I was part of the employee committee leading the program and it became clear to me that our corporate program, which offered a discount to Weight Watchers, on-site fitness classes, and an annual health fair, was disconnected from the health and fitness brands that my peers and I were actively engaging with in our personal lives. Brands like Barry’s Bootcamp, Crossfit, Blue Apron and Calm resonated more and conveniently fit into our already busy lifestyles, meeting our unique interests and wellbeing needs. Friends at other companies shared the same frustrations with their companies’ wellness programs, and that is how HealthKick was born. Providing the best-in-class consumer experience for corporate programs connected employees with the resources they wanted and needed to make healthy living convenient, accessible and fun.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
When I was working at GE after business school a friend introduced me to Joanne Wilson, who invited me to a women’s entrepreneur’s conference she ran every year. That was my first real introduction into the start-up world, and I had never felt that energized before. I knew I wanted to be part of it, although given my professional background in finance I always thought I would be on the investing side. After the We Festival, I got involved with advising fitness start-ups on the side, and that experience led me to see the gap and need in the corporate wellness market for an offering like HealthKick. Here we are a few years later. The takeaway and lesson in my experience is that every encounter is a building block that leads you on your path. You may not know exactly where that path is taking you in this moment, but if you continue to follow what feels right, the opportunities will present themselves.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I spent a lot of time looking for a web developer to bring the vision for the HealthKick platform to life. Once I found that person they told me they could build whatever I wanted, they just needed the wireframes and mock-ups. I didn’t even know what that was at the time! I went to work on it and ended up building the first version of the site myself in Squarespace, which we used at launch. Once we had paying customers we re-built the site informed by user feedback from our customers. It showed me the value of being scrappy to get something out there even if it’s not perfect and pivoting from there, applying lessons learned along the way.
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?
Hands down, my mom. She has been my rock through all of this!
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Showing up at your best for others really starts with taking care of yourself. By helping people prioritize their own wellbeing they are able to be better parents, siblings, friends and co-workers. That has a ripple effect for all of the lives they touch.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
1) Move every day. You don’t need an hour of exercise every day, consistency is more important. Use the 10, 15 or 20-minutes you have to get your heart rate up or even just take a walk and get fresh air.
2) Don’t deprive yourself, but be smart with your choices. Every time I want to indulge, I do a quick check — what else did I eat that day already? What are my dinner plans that night? That way, I can still balance eating everything I want with making healthy choices most of the time.
3) Start the day with 3 things you are grateful for. No matter what you have to tackle that day, it focuses our thoughts on all that we have instead of what we are lacking.
4) Talk to yourself like you would a close friend. Would you scold your friend for missing a day at the gym or eating the chocolate chip cookie? No, you would say you’re being too hard on yourself, tomorrow is a new day. When we treat ourselves with loving kindness we give ourselves permission to slip up here and there…we are only human after all!
5) Do a 2 second “check in” throughout the day — you don’t need to meditate for hours to be mindful. The more you get used to tuning into your body, the more you are in touch with what you need. Is it sleep, a nutritious meal, a talk with a friend? Instead of shutting down emotions you can acknowledge them, sit with them and release them.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Tell someone every day why you are thankful for them. It could be a family member, friend, co-worker, favorite fitness instructor or local barista. People need to feel appreciated. Not only will this give them an emotional boost, but they will spread that energy to everyone else they encounter that day which means even more positive energy all around!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1) Not only is it okay, but it’s important to ask for help
2) That I’d have to focus on prioritizing my own health and wellbeing even more than before I started a wellness company
3) How important it is to build a trusted group of other founder friends also going through many of the same challenges and experiences
4) Expect the unexpected; many of the things that used to stress me out wouldn’t even phase me now
5) There may never be enough hours in a day, but don’t compromise on sleep
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health. Our mental wellbeing is the foundation of setting us up to achieve what we’re capable of, enabling us to realize our full potential and make the biggest impact on the world.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
@my_healthkick or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/healthkick/