Monday Motivation with Kerranna Williamson and Amy Dye Domangue, Co-Founders of ALIS Health
Mondays can be rough, and sometimes we can use some motivation. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from industry leaders and some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there.
Kerranna Williamson and Amy Dye Domangue are Co-Founders of ALIS Health, a healthcare and technology company that delivers women’s health diagnostic services, including genetic testing. Kerranna and Amy sat down with PE to discuss the challenges of running a healthcare company, the big mistake they made early on, and how they’re working to make genetic testing accessible and affordable for everyone.
What inspired you to start your business?
We’d been working out a few ideas for how we could leverage our existing network of laboratories to bring value to physicians and patients. When we found the right opportunity, we didn’t hesitate to start ALIS Health. We’d both started businesses on our own before, which made it that much easier to run ahead with starting ALIS Health.
Knowing that it was possible for us to build a business that could really scale, which meant we could make an important impact in healthcare, was very motivating for us. We are continually inspired by the improvements in health outcomes resulting from making genetic testing more affordable and more accessible.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The biggest challenge we’ve faced is dealing with all the unknowns in healthcare. Reimbursements from insurance companies vary from test to test, making it difficult for us to project revenue and difficult for providers to know what costs patients may incur. In addition, physicians don’t always know what tests are available on the market or how they should best use test results to help their patients.
To overcome these challenges, we prioritize providing transparency as best we can and training our sales team to be the frontline for educating physicians on the benefits of specialized genetic testing.
What’s been the greatest reward?
Seeing the impact the genetic tests we provide have on patients’ lives. We’ve worked with plenty of women and men who have benefitted from knowing their genetic predisposition for developing certain types of cancers, their risk of passing on a genetic mutation to a child, and from knowing exactly what type of pathogen is causing an illness—all through genetic testing. It’s also been extremely rewarding to work with other entrepreneurial healthcare professionals who make up our sales team.
Can you describe a problem you’ve solved in your business and how other early-stage founders can repeat your success?
Early on, we committed a significant amount of time and money to developing resources and processes that we thought we needed in order to attract both employees and customers. Turns out that most of it wasn’t necessary at all. After a year in operation, we are continuing to learn how to better sift out the distractions and remain laser-focused on activities that lead directly to increasing our bottom line.
We have found that welcoming critique and advice from business mentors, making evidence-based decisions when possible, and leveraging our pre-existing network in the industry help us most as we grow. We tapped into our pre-existing network of providers that we had developed through personal and professional relationships over the past 10-15 years. Early on we reached out to these providers to have an honest dialogue about how to best provide value to both physicians and patients.
The biggest needs were for tools to support physicians in knowing what to do with genetic test results and for assurance that patients could access the tests regardless of their ability to pay. We used this feedback to create a marketplace of affordable genetic tests (tests are never more than $350 out-of-pocket) and streamlined access to licensed genetic counselors who can assist physicians and their patients with interpreting results and determining best next steps.
What changes would you most like to see in your industry, and how are you working to make those changes happen?
We would like to continue to see improved access [to genetic testing]we still have a long way to go before genetic testing is standard practice. The more we know about our genetic makeup, the more we can do to improve the well-being of patients today and into the future. Health economics studies are demonstrating that the value of genetic testing is significant, which hopefully will support efforts to improve insurance coverage of genetic tests.
To [further] support the adoption of genetic testing in clinical settings, we provide education to providers and patients through a team of genetic counselors who offer additional insights for next steps to take after knowing a patient’s results. In addition, we offer affordable options to patients who are uninsured.
Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
Having a business partner who is equally committed to a vision for success is a major motivator. A shared vision allows us to make quick decisions, which is imperative to growing a business.
Can you provide a few updates on what’s new with your business or what you’ve accomplished since you attended the PE Intensive in April 2017?
In the past year, we have grown our business as far North as Washington D.C. and as far West as Austin, Texas. We have also grown our portfolio of genetics tests through new laboratory partnerships; we currently represent genetic testing laboratories in California, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. We remain a bootstrapped business and reached positive cash flow in 2017.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out?
Find a partner who has better work ethic than you do, who has complementary skills to your own, and who shares the same end goals. In addition, accept that you actually know very little and get creative about (and ready for) learning all that you do need to know.
What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?
We start every Monday morning with a healthy dose of caffeine and a meeting to check-in, define new tasks, and laugh. It’s important to remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be all business. Take the time to insert fun into the process.
For more #MondayMotivation, check out our interview with Ale Breuer is the Co-Founder and CEO of ezza nails, a Chicago-based nail salon determined to deliver an unmatched manicure experience that leaves guests feeling polished, confident and ready to conquer the day. Ale shares her favorite way to stay motivated when things get tough, plus the inspiration behind launching ezza and how she found a way to get male investors interested in women’s manicures.