“Why you should stick to a sleeping schedule.” With Dr. William Seeds & Kathryn Fantauzzi

First, try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This sounds really hard to do, especially on the weekends, but trust me you will start sleeping better if you set a routine. As a part of my series about the women in wellness, […]

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First, try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This sounds really hard to do, especially on the weekends, but trust me you will start sleeping better if you set a routine.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Fantauzzi.

Kathryn is the CEO & Co-Founder of Apollo Neuroscience, a startup that just launched Apollo, the first wearable that actually helps you change how you feel — for better energy, focus, and sleep. At Apollo, Kathryn builds cohesive, cross-functional teams to launch cutting edge projects. Kathryn is an entrepreneur experienced in early commercialization, fundraising, product development, tech transfer, strategic planning, fund management, and business development.

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?

Absolutely. My background is technology transfer — which in short, is the practice of getting new technologies out of the lab and into hands of people faster. Often brilliant scientists, doctors, engineers or researchers will discover or create something new that could have wide-reaching benefits for lots of people, but they don’t know how to move forward. That’s where I come in.

I’ve always loved simplifying the seemingly complex and making it beautiful and easy for anyone to use, because what good is a discovery if it sits on a shelf collecting dust?

Apollo Neuroscience started in a neuroscience lab at the University of Pittsburgh. My husband, Dr. David Rabin, a board-certified psychiatrist and neuroscientist, and his colleagues at the University had a new and novel idea — to create a wearable that actually changes your mood through your sense of touch. They wanted to prove that it worked. That’s where it all began.

I joined the team early on helping the research team raise funding for their clinical trials and develop the early versions of the product. When I saw the clinical trial results come back, I was astounded. I’ve never seen a technology that can help people feel better so quickly and was backed up by real science.

When I saw that what Apollo technology could do, I dropped my other projects and started Apollo Neuroscience, went out and got funding, hired David and the rest of our team and now, we’ve launched Apollo!

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?

Yes. I had always known that stress was an issue, but I never really understood what it did to our health until I got involved with Apollo. I discovered that almost everyone I knew either suffered from or knew someone suffering from poor sleep, trouble focusing, exhaustion, pain, anxious feelings, and the list went on. I thought to myself, is this normal? What is going on? No matter how many results you see from a clinical study, seeing how impactful Apollo was in real life made my jaw drop. I’ve had marines and combat Veterans who after putting on the Apollo for just a few minutes looked at me with tears in their eyes and thanked me. They told me that they hadn’t felt relief in so long that they had forgotten what safety and calm felt like. I’ve seen children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and other developmental challenges relax and engage in conversation that their parents and therapists say they have never seen them do. I never expected anything like that. Since then, there have been countless stories of how this simple device has made such a big impact in people’s lives. It honestly astounds me every single time. And, no matter how hectic things are in startup life, it always keeps me motivated.

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?

Oh absolutely. One of my strengths is that I know what I don’t know. I always surround myself with experienced people who have done what I am trying to do before or who have important skillsets outside of my area of expertise because that’s how you grow and learn. It’s always important to have someone watching your blind spots and vice versa. The challenge, however, is to never forget what you know and what you are capable of. There were times, especially in the beginning, where I looked to other people for answers because they had more experience. In the end though, if you’re going to lead, you need to be comfortable making the call. There will always be times when you don’t know something or when something is new and intimidating. I learned early on to get comfortable with that feeling. Absolutely nothing in life is certain. The best you can do is surround yourself with a smart and capable team, plan out what you will need to get the job done, and to treat your team like gold. The rest will follow.

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?

Yes. I’ve been in male-dominated fields my whole life. I started out in emerging tech and finance in the clean energy sector and then moved into neuroscience. Despite this, I have been lucky for two very critical mentors. This first was my first boss and the other was a corporate attorney, both named Peter. The most important thing about each of these mentors is that they never watered anything down for me and they never underestimated me. Instead, each expected me to rise to whatever occasion was before me, no matter how new or daunting, or hard. Of course, they also had my back when I needed them. This faith from someone older, wiser and more experienced, was extraordinary for establishing a solid foundation of confidence. It is truly amazing what someone believing in you does. It helps you grow. It gives you the faith in yourself to jump. I will forever be grateful to both of the Peters.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

We’ve built a wearable that measurably reduces stress within 5 minutes, without drugs, is safe and effective, is scientifically-validated and best of all — feels good. Apollo uses our natural sense of touch to relax us. It is soothing, like someone you like holding your hand or giving you a hug when you’re stressed out or like the right song to boost your mood. Apollo can be used to help you fall asleep, it facilitates meditation, improves focus, and can help you wake up. The best part about Apollo is that it works fast, is safe for children, adults and the elderly, and it is very easy to use. I’m very excited about the impact this simple but powerful wearable is going to have on health.

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.

First, try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This sounds really hard to do, especially on the weekends, but trust me you will start sleeping better if you set a routine.

Second, when you feel stressed — breathe. There are all sorts of breathing exercises, but I learned a really easy one that I can share. Purse your lips like you’re breathing through a straw and breathe in slowly until your lungs are full of air and then slowly breathe out the same way. Honestly, it works.

Third, you need to exercise. I know that we’re not all athletes but moving is so critical for mental and physical health. Even going out to take a walk and stretching will help to boost your mood.

Fourth, take breaks. We all have so much to do all of the time but taking even a few minutes for a break throughout the day keeps you fresh and alert.

Fifth, listen to your body, especially about how food makes you feel. Everyone is different and what the experts say is constantly changing. I think the most important thing to do is to listen. Food should make you feel good. If it doesn’t, that’s a sign.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

If I could start a movement, it would be one that acknowledges that wellness comes from caring for both our mind and body to truly be well. There is an illusion that mental health and physical health are separate. The truth is that they are not. I think many of us forget that rest is crucial. Whenever you get a chance, rest. Sleep and relaxation are critical to be able to do good work. We forget that a lot.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. A new business is like building an airplane while you’re flying it.
  2. No start-up will end up exactly as it was planned in the very beginning.
  3. The world changes quickly, grace is in how you adapt.
  4. There’s a lot of money in the world, find the people who get what you’re doing and focus your attention there.
  5. Always remember your why. There are often many paths you can take, consider what’s most important to you and what you’re good at, and then choose.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Honestly, sustainability and mental health are both extraordinarily dear to me and I think they are very connected. Sustainability is about maintaining the balance of humanity with the planet so that we can sustain our way of life. Connecting with your mental health is a way of sustaining yourself so that you can be physical and mentally resilient in an ever-changing world.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

You can follow Apollo at @apolloneuro on Instagram. You can follow me on Linkedin — Kathryn Fantauzzi.

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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