Stefanie: We’re in the Business of Mental Health. Therefore I Believe I Have a Role To Play in This Area


Stefanie of Moonbird.

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Stefanie Broes, ceo, and co-founder of moonbird. After studying biomedical sciences, I got a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences and a masters in Law (IP and ICT law).

Before starting moonbird, I worked at two other startup companies, a medical device company, and a consumer brand.

I am passionate about meditation and breathwork, and my mission is to make these tools available to more people.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

Besides a good idea or a product, it’s about hard work.

I think people underestimate the amount of luck you need in order for your business to succeed. Having the right product at the right time is just as important as the right execution of a solid plan.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

We try to make rational decisions based on solid argumentation as much as possible. Never fly blind is one of our company values. It means that we sharpen our senses by marrying intuition with data and facts.

Nevertheless, I think there are a number of business decisions where your gut feeling can be a powerful tool pointing you in a specific direction for a specific reason, especially when it comes to hiring people.

That’s a really complex and tricky thing, but super important!

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

We’re in the business of mental health. Therefore I believe I have a role to play in this area. I think much can be done when it comes to the mental health of (people in general, but especially when it comes to) founders of startups.

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Sometimes there still is a bit of a macho culture of hard work, long hours, and only a little free time, but, in my opinion, that’s not sustainable.

It sounds cliche but only by balancing hard work with exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient time for your brain to relax you will get there in a healthy way.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

As said in the previous question, for me, it’s about a combination of hard work AND sufficient time for myself and my private life.

Although that’s not always possible (e.g. before a board meeting, when you’re fundraising), decompression is important.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

One evening, when Me and my co-founder were at home having dinner together, we talked about the problems some of their friends and relatives struggled with: lots of stress, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. A number of them were prescribed breathing exercises by their psychologist or physiotherapist, but it seemed difficult to actually practice breathing on a regular basis.

We noticed that many people are in fact open to meditation and breathing exercises, but find it difficult to maintain their practice. It’s great to practice together with your coach or therapist, but if you want to continue doing your breathing exercises at home, it becomes more challenging.

If you’re practicing alone and without supervision, the question is often whether you are doing breathing exercises properly, and whether they have the intended effect. You don’t really know. We thought that if we could come up with an idea and develop a tactile tool you can put in your hand, that guides you in a simple way, and gives you feedback about the effect, then we can solve those problems.

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I think we’re blessed with a good portion of healthy naivety. In a year’s time, we went from idea to prototype to working product, an impossible task according to many. Fortunately, we received a lot of great support along the way.

The clinical world turned out to be very interested. They believed in the added value of moonbird in health care and therapy, which resulted in certain subsidies for further development. In addition, we received positive feedback and financial support from the start-up incubator Imec.istart. Thanks to them – along with the drive and enthusiasm to turn the project into a success – we succeeded in developing moonbird in a short amount of time.

Where do you see your business in five years?

We want to create durable products and compelling services that guide people to use the full potential of their own breathing to improve their mental and physical health.

With that, we will be helping millions of people utilize their breathing to live a more conscious, healthier, and happier life.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

Internationalisation, competition, growing a business/team, going through the next (financial) crisis.

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

We sold 10,000 devices in less than 12 months’ time, which I find pretty amazing for such a short time period.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

We have a combination of different marketing channels, mainly focusing on PR, online ads, influencers, and an affiliate network.

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I am heavily involved in the marketing stuff, and I obviously do sales from the heart, which works as well because I am truly convinced of the benefits of our product (I use it myself every night to fall asleep!), but I am not a sales person pur sang.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

Surround yourself with (a select number of) people who are wiser and more experienced than you, and reach out to them when you have questions.

Let them challenge you, listen to them, and them come to your own conclusions to move forward.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

Our breath is such a powerful tool, and we are not aware of this.

Through moonbird, I hope we can create this awareness and hopefully enable more people to use their breathing when they need it, when they are stressed, anxious, or can’t fall asleep.

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