When entrepreneur Lennie Carter was faced with the challenge of finding a suitable grief counselor after the passing of his mother, he realized “the value of timely information and access to people with resources.”
The experience served as the inspiration behind the launch of his digital health platform, TruCircle, which “connects those with mental health and social therapy needs to providers that can help families and individuals make safe, informed, and affordable choices.”
Here, Carter tells TNJ.com a bit about TruCircle and the rigors of starting and maintaining a business.
TNJ.com: What inspired you to launch TruCircle and when did it launch?
L.C.: While speaking on the phone with my brother after he lost his best friend to gun violence I realized that there was no simple solution to connect him with a mental health professional that looked like us. After countless hours of research there were not any solutions that would allow me to seamless connect with a provider in-person or through video-chat.
This was a tool that would have helped me as well when I lost my mother in 2008. We launched the public beta version of our product at the beginning of 2018 to begin getting feedback from our users.
TNJ.com: How has the feedback been?
L.C.: The feedback since launch has been insightful. We received a lot of awesome and some feedback that will help us improve our product. As a startup, even the bad feedback is great because it means you are speaking to your users and getting a deeper understanding of your product-market fit.
TNJ.com: Did you encounter any challenges in launching the business?
L.C.: There were a number of challenges we faced when launching TruCircle. TruCircle was founded in November 2015 and did not launch into public beta until January 2018. The journey was an entrepreneur roller coaster. The challenges I faced as a black owned tech business were endless. From team building to getting funded as a black tech entrepreneur there were too many roadblocks to count. The biggest challenge was finding the information needed to succeed.
TNJ.com: What skill set was needed to effectively launch your business, and currently maintain it?
L.C.: Perseverance and networking were the two skill sets that help me effectively launch and maintain TruCircle. I had to use my perseverance to push through some of the toughest days and without my tribe of fellow entrepreneurs I would have not made it this far.
TNJ.com: How did you fund your business?
L.C.: Due to the lack of access to funding for black tech entrepreneurs, I had to bootstrap the company to get to this point. My passion to help others was the only motivation I needed to self-fund TruCircle and solve a problem that I lived through.
TNJ.com: What do you know now about running a business that perhaps you did not know when you first launched?
L.C.: Through the journey to launch TruCircle I learned that investors are not interested about social impact if your business numbers don’t support a return on their investment. If you are only worried about doing social good only becoming a non-profit or benefit corporation may be the best business structures for you but if you are looking to have a business that interest investors it is best to focus on your metrics and not your social impact.
TNJ.com: How has winning the Neighborhood Start Fund award helped your business?
L.C.: Winning the Neighborhood Start Fund competition was the starting point of TruCircle’s mission. The award is a reminder of our purpose. The goal of the competition was to provide a solution that would help people in the neighborhood and have the ability to grow to multi-million dollar business to support future neighborhood initiatives. With these lofty goals in mind the Neighborhood Start Fund was able to introduce me to a few investors in Silicon Valley.
TNJ.com: For TruCircle, are there any short to long-term goals in the works?
L.C.: TruCircle’s short-term goal is to fundraise capital to support our growing platform to allow us to reach the people and populations that need it most. Once we accomplish our short-term goals to get funding for growth, our long-term goal is to become a household name among mental health professionals and communities that need it most.
TNJ.com: What advice do you have for aspiring business owners/entrepreneurs?
L.C.: My advice to aspiring business owners is to find your tribe. Entrepreneurship is not glorious, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is a daily grind that some days you have to dig deeper than others for the motivation to keep going. When you have a tribe they will help you find the motivation that you may lose and remind you that you are not on your journey alone.