Subscription service products are practically a mainstream business model these days, but chances are you probably haven’t heard of meal subscription services like MealPal, which makes lunch-pickup from restaurants both convenient and affordable. Founded in 2016 by co-founder Mary Biggins, the unique subscription service has already garnered up to 3 million reservations, and is currently available in countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. And things are only looking brighter and better for Biggins and MealPal in 2017, as the startup has just announced a $20 million Series B investment.
But before Biggins even thought about launching MealPal, she worked in marketing roles in fairly entrepreneurial settings. This included performing marketing duties for a variety of sports collectibles at MBI, and also working on media buys and marketing campaigns for Vistaprint. These same roles ultimately influenced her future role as co- founder of the new food tech startup.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but, both of these roles gave me the opportunity to test and launch products within the safety of a larger organization,” says Biggins.
And although striking out on your own may seem difficult and frightening, Biggins found the whole start up environment exciting, as she lists creating, building, and testing as some of her strongest assets.
“While I had the opportunity to create and test within larger companies early in my career, I wasn’t always solving problems that I cared about,” she says. “With MealPal, I’ve been able to solve problems or pain points that I’ve personally experienced. I love the motivation that comes from creating solutions to everyday problems.”
Getting the MealPal startup off the ground definitely had some initial challenges, but it didn’t stop Biggins from spurring the business into action. Once she and her co-founder settled on an idea for the subscription service, the duo aimed to launch it as quickly as possible. This included launching an initially shaky version of the site, which eventually evolved in six weeks to a more clearer vision.
“The first version of the site was fairly embarrassing, but, getting it to market quickly (and with some rough edges) was way more valuable than waiting six more weeks to launch a more perfected version,” she adds. “I think you don’t really start learning until you are getting feedback from real users.” MealPal also has had great investors that have aided in the company's successes. David Beisel at NextView Ventures, for example, led the first round of MealPal funding and has been a valuable advisor to the company.
“We’ve raised $35 million since our first round with NextView, and have been lucky to add smart and thoughtful investors from firms like Haystack Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Bessemer Ventures, and, most recently, Menlo Ventures,” she says.
As MealPal continues to boom up it’s user base internationally, Biggins says that the experience has been more than rewarding, as it empowers both consumers and restaurant owners everywhere to create new and meaningful relationships.
“I love that we are working on such a big opportunity,” she says. “Food is a complicated and competitive category. We have the opportunity to fundamentally change how people are eating on a daily basis while also empowering restaurant owners to build better businesses. That’s fun.”
As an entrepreneur in tech, Biggins recognizes the challenges the industry faces, as she states that navigating your business to success is definitely an obstacle many have to overcome.
“Male or female, I think the biggest problems will always be figuring out how to navigate your business to success,” she notes. “I think all entrepreneurs benefit from having a strong support system, ideally some combination of other founders that are going through similar challenges and friends and family that are far-removed from the start-up space.”
But that same road to success often starts with the right pitch, which Biggins stresses usually is best left unscripted.
“I’ve found that pitches that don’t follow a script usually result in the best conversations,” she states. “ It used to really throw me off when people would interrupt or ask a question that I would be addressing in later slides. However, I’ve learned to embrace it -- it’s usually a sign that whoever you are pitching is interested! Some of the best pitches have ended on the second slide and turned into conversations rather than a rehearsed presentation.”
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."