This New Platform Is Innovating The Industry With Identity-Specific Therapy

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Did you know: “Women of Color receive mental health care at just ⅓ the rate of their counterparts and have much higher rates of misdiagnosis.” I had the chance to chat with Meghna Kumar, and she told me all about her new teletherapy platform, Menti. Her goal is to connect women of color with therapists specializing in identity-specific therapy and trained in cultural competency. Meghna is also one of our Aussie Business Plan Finalists. Read on to learn more about this issue and her innovative business that is making important changes in this industry.

Her Campus: Tell us about what inspired you to create Menti?
I was inspired to create Menti during a virtual competition coordinated by Stanford BrainStorm, a mental health innovation incubator, which posed the question of how to increase tech uptake by mental health care providers. After the suicide of a close friend, it clicked immediately for me that women of color could really benefit from mental health care online since it can be really challenging for people from this community to find culturally competent providers who are also a good fit for personal needs. 
Meghna Kumar: Through more research, I found that this personal experience was backed by data. Women of Color receive mental health care at just ⅓ the rate of their counterparts and have much higher rates of misdiagnosis. This is coupled with the difficulty in accessing BIPOC therapists who make up just 12% of all therapists. When COVID hit and telehealth usage soared but this gap in care persisted. 

HC: Could you share more detail on your current offerings? 
MK: Currently we want to focus on connecting BIPOC therapists to women of color through our online platform. One of the most important considerations right now is to make sure that we have sizable representation of therapists who can support intersectional identities like LGBTQ+ or non-English speakers. On our platform, we will also offer a community feature where our users can make posts to vent and support one another through identity specific struggles. The aim of this is to help break down the stigmas that our community faces in talking about mental illness. 

HC: How did your mentorship through the Aussie Business Plan Competition help you continue to grow Menti?
MK: My mentor during the competition, Rita Gurevich, was incredibly helpful in shaping my thinking around the importance of data privacy and security for a feature like Menti. She also helped me clarify a long-term vision for Menti based on its mission. After the competition, my mentor Annie, has been incredibly helpful in teaching me how to make decisions for the company. When you’re starting a company, it feels like there are so many decisions to make and Annie helped me prioritize which decisions to focus on. Since then, I’ve been able to find co-founders and prepare for our launch.

HC: What are your one-year goals for Menti? Your five-year goals?
MK: In one year, Menti will have launched at my college campus. We want to support as many students as possible and quality of care is always our aim in addition to expanding access and reach. As our community grows and the women we support graduate from college and enter the workforce and graduate schools, we hope they can bring Menti with them to encourage mental health and well-being for women of color across those diverse sectors and in all stages of life. 

HC: Tell us a little bit about the experience of building your app? Did you hire additional help?
MK: As a Political Science major, I didn’t have a technical background at all. I self-taught myself how to use Adobe XD by competing in Adobe Creative Challenges over the summer and developed a wireframe and basic design for the platform based on this. After building my design prototype, to build out the MVP, I found a technical co-founder who has more experience in Computer Science, but is also passionate about Menti’s mission. We’ve been working together and taking advantage of new no-code tools that allow non-technical users to build out web platforms.

HC: What advice would you share with other entrepreneurs embarking on an app-building journey?
MK: One thing I’ve learned through building Menti is that you don’t have to have a degree in Computer Science to build out a web platform. There are so many tools out there like Adobe XD for design prototyping and even Webflow, which does the coding for you if you design the user interface. I would also recommend reaching out to mentors and advisors early. My mentor Rita was incredibly helpful in helping me keep data privacy central to Menti from the very beginning and she helped me understand more about the specifics. 

Readers will be able to join Menti in January 2021! Keep an eye out for their call for beta users soon. Learn more about the Aussie Business Plan Competition, here.