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Building out a company that redefines health and wellness for the queer community.
If you dream of starting a company and wonder what it’s like running the day-to-day of a business, you've come to the right place. In our series Startup Diaries, we ask new founders to take us to work for a day, and reflect on what they discovered during the process.
Today’s Startup Diary is with Derrick Reyes, the CEO and co-founder of Queerly Health, an NYC-based digital health startup created by and for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Since founding the startup in 2018, Derrick has worked to build a company that redefines care by facilitating and delivering safe, comprehensive, and culturally competent health and wellness to the LGBTQIA+ community, which has been traditionally marginalized in health spaces. Their moonshot goal? To completely eliminate LGBTQIA+ health disparities by 2030.
Here, we go to work with Derrick to see what it is like to build out a digital health startup.
7:30 AM — My alarm goes off at 7:30am. I raise the shades, drink some water, and check my phone just a little bit. I screen for any urgent messages, calls, emails, or news notifications (everything seems to be on the table in 2020).
7:40 AM — I put on a morning guided meditation by Louise Hays that a friend recommended earlier in the week. I set an intention of peace and clarity for the day. Halfway through the guided meditation, I start to get ready for my morning workout.
8:25 AM — I FaceTime my morning workout partner. We catch up for a few minutes and I say hi to her dog, Nova. We put on a 29 minute cardio video and get to it.
9:00 AM — I step into the shower and put the news on in the background. I go through my skincare routine (that’s a diary for another day), and I get dressed for the day. In between tasks, I check Queerly Health’s social media for messages and I check mine.
10:00 AM — A friend started a Live on social media. He’s working on a graphic design with music in the background. I tune in, start making breakfast, light a peony blossom candle, and open up my inbox. It’s almost like virtual coworking, but not really. I should really get a membership to Ethel’s Club.
10:30 AM — Breakfast is ready. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s all vegetarian and organic for this meal because “that’s my business” as the internet’s beloved Tabitha Brown says. I put on an Architectural Digest video while I eat. Maluma gives us a tour of his house in the hills of Medelliín, Colombia. I miss wide open spaces and greenery.
10:45 AM — Being a founder often requires wearing many different hats. Right now, I’m a business attorney updating a partnership agreement. I’m also a public relations director accepting a media request for Queerly Health. It’s Pride Month and I’m super grateful for all the press and exposure we receive during this time.
1:00 PM — I join a partnership meeting with a non-profit serving the LGBTQIA+ community in their state. Queerly Health is a Benefit Corporation, soon to also be a Certified B Corp, and our social mission is core to everything we do. We’re working with non-profit and corporate partners alike to meet our goals.
1:45 PM — I check social media, head over to Slack, and handle a few small tasks. I also call my mom to have my daily check-in with her.
3:00 PM — I’ve been isolating in NYC alone for months since the start of our curve here 109 days ago. Last week, I went to a #BlackLivesMatter rally. I decided today was a good day to get tested for the COVID-19 virus and the antibody. I put on my mask and head over to the clinic. Testing and the tests, themselves, have significantly improved since the start of the pandemic and are now far more accurate as explained to me by my practitioner. The process was quick and painless. Somewhere in Albany, Governor Cuomo nods in approval. I stop at the grocery store.
4:30 PM — I make a pasta dinner… because that’s my business. I also check my messages across platforms.
6:00 PM — I make a post on Queerly Health’s social media about #BlackLivesMatter and how #AllBlackLivesMatter. Queer and trans Black people have been largely left out of the discussion and we’re done with that. It’s over. Either we all go together or we don’t go at all.
6:10 PM — I told my mom earlier I’d call her back to support her in completing an errand so I gave her a ring. I reply to a few messages on Slack.
7:30 PM — I’m back to emails and Slack simultaneously. I hear protestors outside chanting #BlackLivesMatter. I get a little bit of FOMO. We all resist in our own way and that’s valid. Queerly Health, in and of itself, is an act of resistance. Just last week, the current administration stripped Obama-era healthcare protections for trans people… in 2020. Then this week the Supreme Court ruled LGBTQIA+ workers are now finally protected under federal law from discrimination, starting in 2020. We’re done asking for civil basic human rights. We demand them.
8:00 PM — I take some time to read and write.
10:50 PM — I think about Tony McDade and Oluwatoyin Salau and Breonna Taylor and Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks and the tens of thousands of Black lives lost to COVID-19.
11:00 PM — I browse social media and the internet for a while.
12:00 AM — I start a guided sleep meditation and randomly doze off into a dream featuring my workout partner’s dog, Nova.
I recently have been getting into the routine of incorporating and stacking healthy habits into my day. I’m also too hard on myself sometimes and often feel like I haven’t done enough. Keeping track of my day like this has really illuminated for me what I really do in a day beyond what my calendar details.
The past few weeks have been heavy since George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent, valid, unrest. That was on top of experiencing COVID-19 in what used to be an epicenter of the pandemic, New York City. My days these last few weeks have ebbed and flowed. This day was more of an ideal day and a really good day, in fact. My goal is to use this day as a blueprint and launchpad for more good days.
I usually lean on my calendar and its alerts to keep me organized. I also use services that automate a few simpler tasks for me like Calendly and Airtable. I usually don’t play anything in the background while I’m working except for instrumental music, like lofi hip hop. I find ambient talking in the background or music with lyrics distracting while I’m focusing on tasks.
Yes, I would have liked to go to the park to read. The parks tend to be a little crowded these days as we approach summer. I would have also liked to attend the demo day for the cohort of Startup Boost founders I’ve been mentoring this season. It was scheduled to overlap with one of my standing meetings. Fortunately, there’s usually a recording available.
I really didn’t know what to expect founder life would be like. I know that as an Afro-Latinx, queer, gender non-binary founder that my journey may be different from what I’ve usually seen. Prior to becoming a founder, I wasn’t taught how to be an entrepreneur or how to create a company. Fortunately, I had transferable skills, and I learned how to be a founder by being one. I also had the tremendous support of communities and training like Founder Gym.
Our current business goals at Queerly Health are to bring on practitioners across everything health and wellness, from doctors to acupuncturists, to join our growing network of stellar LGBTQIA+ affirming practitioners. We’re also looking to partner with enterprise clients looking to provide their health and wellness products and services to the LGBTQIA+ community. On this day, I had a few engagements with prospective enterprise clients.
I didn’t initially become a founder to build a company. I became a founder to solve a massive problem for our community that robs us of our health, wellness, joy, wealth, and potential. And that cuts our lives short. I’ve taken on the responsibility of eliminating LGBTQIA+ health disparities by 2030. The method by which I’m doing that is Queerly Health and our team. My advice to other founders would be a question: What is your end goal beyond an exit?