The goal of Hardly Hustle is to provide inspiration, drive and motivation in a 10 minute read or less. What you see is what you get. This is hot off the press without an editing team. Sara Auld is up.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Sara Auld and I was raised in a small rural village in upstate New York where family, life, and our food was very natural and we were culturally proud of minimal western medication. Growing up on 21 acres of hay fields in the lower to middle socioeconomic class, playing outside, starting paid work at the ripe age of 12, and being diagnosed "learning disabled" in the ninth grade (simply unwilling and unable to fit the mold of societal norm and standard academia), all organically led me to entrepreneurship by the age of 23. After two years as a succeeding and independently living Certified Personal Trainer, in 2017 I founded my first company, a nonprofit, to help people afford fitness as medicine. The help I recruited and I created an algorithm in Microsoft Excel that calculated how much financial aid an applicant would receive based on their income, and then we would navigate and pay for qualified applicants care using a wellness/lifestyle medicine provider network we built on organically over time. After 4+ years of receiving patient referrals from hospital and medical systems, qualifying applicants, and paying for care, I received a LinkedIn friend and meeting request from mega entrepreneur, Matt Straz, in 2021 who came across one of my posts from a mutual connection. After a 45 minute Zoom conversation about business, nonprofits, for profits, automation, mission, scalability, and encouragement, I found myself opening my latest and 2nd company, Upper, which was designed to acquire and scale the provider network services in a for-profit and public marketplace of care, acting as the vehicle for a complete and new virtual healthcare system - a total process and health communication software for independently existing wellness and lifestyle medicine businesses and providers. By our second meeting, Matt offered me my first ever investment of $25,000, which catapulted a total raise of $160,000 from 12 angel investors to date. Upper's mission is to redefine healthcare, with a vision to create the natural healthcare landscape. Our goal is to gain 100% of human participation in natural medicine. We will achieve this by introducing consumers to natural modalities of treatment during life events, times of need, through their primary care providers, and other health companies they come into contact with on a regular basis.
What did it take/how did you get started?
As a former personal trainer who worked hard for everything I had in my own life, I met prospects at work on a daily to weekly basis who reminded me of my own family, unable to afford lifestyle-educational care, but courageously unwilling to submit to drugs and surgeries. I became determined to help the public afford natural modalities of treatment, so I created a nonprofit, which led to navigating wellness care for the entire public as they needed us, which then led to the need to monetize our services, sell and earn on the care we were navigating... to date the deepest need we've discovered is 'how do we make natural medicine unavoidably accessible to all?' and so we are in a place where we develop software to do just that. We build access, navigate and care match (a concierge service), sell the care directly (via our online marketplace / provider network store), operate as a cash-care payor for our members, and build virtual highways for natural medicine and wellness referrals, prescription, EMR, payor integration, and more.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
Upper will be the most trusted and preferred healthcare system on the planet, where the most people on Earth choose to get their healthcare from. Our success at any level will be attributed to our natural definition of healthcare first, and then retain customers through designed convenience.
What drives / motivates you on a daily basis?
The love of humanity.
What advice would you give someone interested in doing what you do?
You either need to already know exactly who you are - have an extremely confident idea of why you're alive - or be 100% ready to find out and prepared to deal with who you really are along the way. Entrepreneurship is only actually fun for those who make an effort to proactively think more often than they allow themselves to feel, which is its own discipline. I feel blessed to have the problems that I am dealt, and create, every day.
What has been the hardest part of your business journey?
Getting out of my own way.
How have you managed burnout thus far?
I'm never burnt out because there is nothing unfulfilling about changing the world. I've realized that if I put the same amount of energy and effort into the less fun parts of life as I do in my own workouts or personal enjoyments, that I'll always feel more rewarded than I ever will feel tired or defeated.
What are a few resources that you'd recommend?
Your own most positive contacts, old or new, who you would aspire to be like, or honored to work for. There is nothing I lean on more than great, real, trustworthy, genuine, loving, hard working, intelligent people and phone calls.
Personally, I'm more likely to message or call the author than I am to read their book. I'm sure the book is great, and maybe I will read it, but I learned how I learn, and conversation and 'doing' is number one for me. I recommend to everyone learning how you learn before you waste time trying.
List the founders
How many hours a week do you work on this hustle?
From the moment my eyes open to the moment they close. I don't clock in/out so I'm not really sure.
# of Employees?
1 FT, 4 on equity (PT)
When did you start?
Upper was legally founded 4/26/2021.
How much did it cost to launch?
Considering our philanthropic origins 6 years ago, about $400. In the for-profit sector with automation and software, we launched with about $80k-$90k raised and deployed.
What were your funding methods and ballpark amount raised?
Relationships and $160k. Matt Straz reached out and offered me $25k to build the company, and not knowing ANYTHING about capital raising or C-Corps, I added Upper to my "experience" section on LinkedIn and week after week for the next 5 consecutive weeks, someone else was calling me with another check and offer. We quickly raised ~$80k and then got to $160k in about one year or so.
We went to market in July of 2022, and we just broke ~$19k in TOTAL revenue YTD, but we also just broke $1,000 in MRR in May 2023.
2023: $26,000 - $50,000
What's the #1 thing you need right now?
I need one or more really strong and long term angel investment partners who believe in our mission and me enough that they are willing to intimately guide me, without judgement, on strong and realistic financial projections and goal setting, while I strategize, execute, and go to market. I struggle to confidently predict the finances of the business to win high value pitches, although I'm so confident in my ability to be creative, pivot, sell, and help people deeply enough that it works. Self teaching accurate/believable financial projections has been my biggest struggle.
@upper.health // @saraauld (these are applicable to almost everything)