This Founder Is Advocating For Employees To Take A Mental Health Break
In our final segment of Selfmade Stories — our series with Office Depot OfficeMax where we chat with up-and-coming entrepreneurs from our Selfmade virtual business course about their experiences launching a small business — we turn to Angelica Suarez, founder of MyRest, an early-stage app that assesses and aims to strengthen the mental and physical resiliency of employees. Here, we get into mental health awareness, both as a business concept and as a way to maintain self-care during stressful times.
B + C: If you were at a dinner party describing MyRest to a guest, what would your elevator pitch be?
Angelica Suarez: MyRest App is a simple and smart way to assess and strengthen the mental and physical resiliency of employees. Through personalized recovery plans, we help employees reduce mental and physical exhaustion, improve a state of social disconnectedness, and increase a sense of efficacy.
B + C: Where did the idea come from?
Suarez: I have experienced firsthand the effects of workaholism — I used to believe that my worth was based on my work performance. I was very sick and I almost passed away, actually. After many visits to the hospital, a diagnosis of chronic disease, and an organ removed, I can tell you that I was wrong. The doctors thought I had thyroid cancer so they removed it and it ended up that I didn't have cancer — I had a severe inflammation and apparently, the cells looked just like inflamed cancerous cells. I was crying and praying, thinking, “Why do I have to be so sick?” And the answer was simple. You have to rest. And while I was sick, I started drawing this prototype of what MyRest will look like, especially for people like me who are Type As. Work is not everything — you can have the most amazing job, the most amazing salary. But if you are not healthy, it’s not going to work out. I am committed to sharing my experience to help others reclaim their mental and physical well-being.
B + C: What line of work were you in at the time?
Suarez: I started at a non-profit and I do think that people in the nonprofit field work much harder than people in the public sector because they have to deal with a lot of the emotional burden of their client. So that was really burning me out. I was working for an international nonprofit that helped children who were affected by the conflict in Colombia, and then I was working to help international students adapt to the United States, right when President Trump came into presidency. It was a lot of stress that caught up to me.
B + C: No wonder this is a very personal project for you.
Suarez: Yes, but it’s not just me — I’ve met hundreds of people who were in the same situation, who are just as exhausted and there are no solutions. So that’s when I said, “OK, why don't we talk to employers and ask how we can integrate practices that help their employees become more resilient to cases like this? I have read this crazy fact that $62 million is wasted because of loss of productivity because of how exhausted people are.
B + C: So is MyRest going to be a wellness program specifically designed for companies or is it going to be an app that anyone can download?
Suarez: Most of my research was showing how companies are wasting billions, but many of the people I spoke to were also stay-at-home moms who had part-time jobs, moms who did not work, single moms, and they are all exhausted. You know, women don’t close off their schedules nine to five — from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed they’re just working, working, working. So the women I spoke with told me, “Please think of us, we need this.” But I will say that the first phase will definitely be companies with the hope that eventually [the app will open up to women]. I'm very passionate about helping women.
B + C: What stage are you in your entrepreneurial journey?
Suarez: I'm prototyping the assessment section of the app and I'm working with three organizations where I am assessing the culture of their organizations. I'm asking questions like, “How do you assess the health of your organization? What are the three words you’d describe the environment of the organization? What are the three words of how you’d like to feel after we work together in eliminating or preventing burnout?” I’m in that stage where I'm just gathering a lot of data and prototyping some of the questions that we can ask.
B + C: What are some of the biggest challenges that you're facing at the moment?
Suarez: Bridging the generational gaps. I keep hearing, “Oh, you millennials complain too much.” And I'm saying to the older generation, “We need to stop doing business the way you are doing business.” The challenge that I'm facing is educating this older generation, and even millennials, on the importance of rest. Even defining the word “rest” blows their minds. What is burnout? How does it show up? People tend to focus on just one area of burnout and I'm trying to educate people that it can manifest in different ways. I’m trying to educate them on the language, the terminology, and bringing everyone to a common place.
B + C: How do you practice your own self-care methods as you're embarking on this stressful endeavor?
Suarez: I will tell you the truth. I have cried many times. But I have made a contract with myself. I said I'm going to spend time meditating every day. For me, prayer is a form of my faith so I do that every day for an hour. Then I do my Peloton and my bike. I have a friendly competition with my son, who's nine years old, and we do that for 30 minutes minimum every day. And I always have quality time with my family because they give me strength and the motivation to continue working. So I have those three things — my faith, my health, and my family — and I put them on my schedule every day.
B + C: What's the best piece of professional advice you've ever received that you would pass to a fellow entrepreneur?
Suarez: I was so obsessed with goals and delivering outcomes. As a biracial immigrant, I always felt like I needed to prove myself. And there have been only a few people whom I admire who have said, “You need to rest.” And I never really paid attention to it because I’d think, “Oh, that's so easy for you to say, you're a man, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone.” But those men who have said that to me, they're very awesome people — one of them is my best friend, my partner in life, my husband. You know, everyone needs to rest and I think that has been the best advice I’ve ever received. It’s the inspiration for everything I do.
B + C: What has receiving the scholarship to Selfmade done to help you grow your business?
Suarez: Before I started the program, I was approached by two universities that were offering jobs. At the same time, I was applying for Selfmade and I said to myself, “If I get this scholarship, I will say no to these two universities with great salaries, great benefits, everything, and I’ll go after my dream.” I knew it would be a chance to pursue my idea that I have had for the past seven years if I got this scholarship — and now I’m doing it. I'm very grateful that the program invests in women and offers us these opportunities.
B + C: How have Office Depot OfficeMax services/products helped you accomplish more in your business?
Suarez: The notebooks, pens, and Post-Its notes keep me organized. Even though I can do everything digitally, there’s a side of me that likes to write everything down on sticky notes and color code them in my notebook to figure out what I have to do.
B + C: What's next for you on the journey to launching MyRest?
Suarez: I have to submit a proposal for a company that’s asking me to [outline a pilot program that spans] 12 to 24 months. It would be a really cool opportunity for me to enter a company culture and test this idea and modify it as much as they need me to over 24 months. I'm hoping that they will accept the proposal, which would mean a good salary for me for the next two years, and which would obviously be very good for me financially. And as for the product, it would provide a ton of data that I can work with.
When it comes to launching a business, Office Depot OfficeMax can give you the confidence you need to get your ideas off the ground. From a suite of business services to making it easy to create custom presentations, Office Depot OfficeMax provides the perfect tools to reach your entrepreneurial goals.