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This blog post was written by Ellie Gershenwald (Steinhardt '22) based on an interview with August 2022 Founder of the Month Jade Kearney (Steinhardt '20), Co-Founder of She Matters.
She Matters is a digital health platform designed to support Black women who experience postpartum morbidities through community, culturally relevant resources and culturally competent health care professionals.
Jade Kearney never expected to be the founder of a startup. She recognizes now that she has always had an entrepreneurial mindset, but did not associate small businesses with being venture-backed. Her desire to start a company came from her own battle with postpartum anxiety and depression after giving birth to her first daughter. After experiencing first-hand how Black women were treated in the healthcare system, she realized the need for change.
Jade’s background is in diversity and inclusion and education. She received Master’s degrees in Intercultural/Multicultural and Diversity Studies from Georgetown University and in Elementary Education and Teaching from Montclair State University before pursuing another degree from NYU Steinhardt in Digital Media Design for Learning. She Matters was born from her thesis project at Steinhardt, where she built a social media app to connect Black mothers with culturally competent therapists. An important aspect of the business was selling women’s wellness subscription boxes to help cover the cost of the therapy from day one, since she never wanted users to have to pay.
Just before graduating from Steinhardt in 2020, Jade found the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute and took advantage of the entire Startup Accelerator Series, where she gained a valuable community of mentors and fellow entrepreneurs. The Summer Launchpad, in particular, grounded the business because she had the opportunity to dive into customer discovery. “It changed my life,” she emphasized, “I wasn’t looking at She Matters the way I am today.”
After completing these programs, Jade was selected to join the inaugural Female Founders Fellowship cohort, an initiative that provides community support, training, mentorship, networking, and grant opportunities to entrepreneurs at NYU who are committed to advancing gender equity in entrepreneurship. Through the Fellowship, she gained camaraderie with other women experiencing similar struggles. Later that year, Jade was awarded a loan alleviation grant and earned the additional title of Mark & Debra Leslie Fellow.
When Jade was accepted into the Techstars Seattle Accelerator program in November 2021, she had a leg up compared to other participants and was well-prepared because of the rigorous programs she participated in at the Entrepreneurial Institute. Since She Matters was never intended to be an e-commerce business, during Techstars, she decided to stop selling the subscription boxes. She also recognized the need for She Matters to extend beyond therapy and started to make her culturally competent training program available for all healthcare practitioners. This decision to focus on all postpartum comorbidities was based on the fact that a lot of the mental illness stems from preeclampsia or hemorrhaging, which Black women are more inclined to experience. Also, 89% of Black women are likely to undergo procedures for which they did not consent. She Matters took off when she made this shift to provide culturally competent training and certifications for a larger network of providers, including both hospitals and individual healthcare practitioners.
Since making this pivot, Jade has faced challenges with hospitals not taking their diversity efforts seriously. She noted that it sounds good to want to be culturally competent, but it is another thing to actually take the necessary steps, especially to help protect Black women who have the highest instance of maternal morbidity. Earlier on, she had trouble getting practitioners to meet with her, but now the obstacle is getting them to put their money where their mouth is. She explained the frustration of needing to make the business case for providing culturally competent healthcare to Black women, when statistics clearly show how they are grossly mistreated.
Despite these challenges, She Matters has seen significant success and recently announced a $1.5 million pre-seed investment. Jade has big plans for growth, including rebranding to We Matter and expanding the platform to support other marginalized groups including “Ella Importa” for Latina women, “Native Her” for Native American women, and “They Matter” for the LGBTQ community. Jade’s goal is for all marginalized people to know that they can feel safe when they see the company’s logo in hospitals and doctors’ offices. In 3 years, she plans to have She Matters in 80% of hospitals.
Jade has continued to stay involved at the Entrepreneurial Institute as a Founder in Residence, sharing her experience with and offering advice to a diverse group of women building their own ventures. Through speaking with these founders, she is able to take a step back and reflect on the impact she has made throughout her own journey. Especially in light of National Wellness Month, she noted how important it is for entrepreneurs to take care of themselves because “if you’re not healthy, your company is not healthy.” When asked for a piece of advice for young entrepreneurs, Jade shared that the only thing that will stop you is you, so never let anyone stand in your way.