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For Paige Anderson, the reality of becoming a full-time startup founder blossomed out of an all too familiar dilemma facing many young adults: uncertainty about which professional path to take.
Originally from Wisconsin, Anderson attended classes at a few different colleges but remained undecided about which field to enter. Although she knew she had a passion for nutrition and food science, she wasn’t interested in becoming a dietitian or working in a clinical setting. Still on the fence about what to do professionally, Anderson responded to a listing on Craigslist from a businesswoman who was looking for help with hosting wellness events and classes at corporate offices.
Unexpectedly, the gig marked a turning point for Anderson as she was introduced to the corporate health and wellness space — the industry in which she would go on to launch her own startup.
“To sum it all up, I got involved with entrepreneurship because nothing else felt right for me. That opportunity opened the door to the intersection between wellness and business,” Anderson said. “Wellness is very personal, but there’s an angle where you can work in the corporate wellness space rather than one-on-one with individuals.”
From there, Anderson started developing the idea for HealthBoxed, a startup that creates and ships customized employee wellness boxes for companies looking to drive engagement in their wellness initiatives. Each box contains products and memberships following a specific theme selected by the corporate client, such as self care, healthy snacking, open enrollment, stress relief, or mindfulness. Clients can also include custom printed flyers about wellness resources and programs such as EAPs in their HealthBoxes.
After gaining acceptance into NYU and beginning her studies at the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies within the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, Anderson started doing research on entrepreneurship resources at NYU to take her business idea further. This soon led her to the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute and the NYU Stern Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship. Events such as the Entrepreneurs Challenge and VC Pitchfest helped Anderson learn critical skills such as how to put together a pitch deck, present in front of an audience, and answer questions without being caught off guard, she says.
Anderson was also an early member of the Female Founders Fellowship, where she found support and camaraderie from fellow NYU entrepreneurs.
“It’s just really good to have a community of women around you, especially in the beginning, so you know what to be prepared for,” she said. “It’s so important to have other entrepreneurs who can act as your sounding board so you get your ideas out.”
For about 2 ½ years, Anderson worked on HealthBoxed part time while also attending classes, working as an executive assistant, and waitressing and bartending on the side. In June 2021, on what she describes as “the most amazing day of [her] life,” she went full time with the venture.
The company’s list of corporate clients now includes heavyweights such as H&M, The Body Shop, and the Brooklyn Nets. Outside of adding a business partner at the advisory level, Anderson has kept HealthBoxed financially independent without raising capital from investors.
Over the next few years, Anderson says she is focused on growing and diversifying HealthBoxed’s line of products to include additional offerings, such as Fitbits and custom-branded drinkware. As a result of strategically automating systems and outsourcing fulfillment, she says she has been able to successfully streamline workflows and keep overhead cost low.
When it comes to guidance she passes on to young entrepreneurs, Anderson says she advises founders to hold on to their sense of self and not get caught up in the “noise of the startup world.” Additionally, she encourages those who are having difficulty finding the right profession to reframe their outlook on what their future career might look like.
“It can be scary if you don’t see opportunities that speak to you, but for me it was actually an opportunity in disguise,” she said. “Rather than being afraid of that, it’s better to realize that maybe just none of those other paths are for you and there’s another way where you can create something new.”