Shanna Traphoner-Liu on her experience at The Garage

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On October 13 Shanna Traphoner-Liu, Co-Founder and CEO of bekome, a startup focusing on delivering integrative mental health to reduce anxiety daily and naturally, sat down with Will Grant of The Road to the Top Podcast to discuss her professional experiences that led to the creation of the brand. Over the course of the episode, Shanna emphasized one large component of her entrepreneurial journey – The Garage at Northwestern.

Shanna highlighted a few key learnings stemming from her time in The Garage’s programs. The first being that “anybody can be a founder. The Garage was really inclusive in elevating that message and making sure that there was an opportunity for entrepreneurial minded-folks across campus to gather – whether you were an undergrad, grad student or even a PhD student.”

She also shared that it was at The Garage where she learned that it’s okay to fail, as long as you’re moving forward. “One of the nice things about how The Garage operates is there’s a variety of different programs throughout the year that helps entrepreneurs get to where they need to be with their ideas. But they also give you avenues to talk with mentors to then iterate on your ideas and come up with new ones if the prior ideas didn’t work,” Shanna said. 

Shanna participated in the Propel Program during her first quarter as an MBA student at the Kellogg School of Management. The Propel Program is designed to support women entrepreneurs through funding, networking, and mentorship. She entered the program looking to build a fintech startup but by the end of the quarter, she knew that she needed to pivot. She brainstormed new ideas with her Propel cohort and mentors, ultimately uncovering her true passion – mental health. 

With a new and exciting idea to explore, Shanna was introduced to Vanessa Gottleib, a fellow Kellogg MBA student who had previously founded and operated a mental health non-profit named Bright Strides. The two ultimately became co-founders of bekome – the first iteration being a therapy-matching platform. They were able to match 3-dozen users with a therapist that they still use to this day, but the co-founders eventually realized it would be a struggle to scale the platform. 

While the pair tested different business models, they leveraged the many resources available to them at The Garage. Working towards the main objective of helping people find and access mental health care on a daily basis in a more natural way, they participated in the Residency Program as well as The Garage’s summer pre-accelerator program, Jumpstart. It was during this time that Shanna said she completely fell in love with entrepreneurship.

Eventually, bekome’s mission began to take form: create a world where mental wellbeing is core to the human experience. In order to do this, they looked toward the science of natural remedies for maintaining mental wellbeing, which pointed them in the direction of nutritional psychiatry and harnessing the power of the gut. Labeled the ‘second brain,’ the gut influences much of the signals the brain receives and plays a key role in regulating mood. Using a three pronged approach, bekome provides anxiety management through supplementation, education, and consultation – putting people back in control of their mental wellbeing. 

Shanna closed the episode by offering the following advice to young entrepreneurs: make sure you find a support system before you embark on your entrepreneurial journey, and of course, dive in head first.

Listen to this episode of The Road to the Top Podcast.

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