Rise’s Radical Renegade is a monthly series featuring interviews with trailblazing career mavens. Meet Dr. Shari Auth and Michelle Larivee, co-founders of WTHN – a brand new acupuncture and herbal experience that is ultra-modern, personalized and convenient for your life.
Shari is a licensed acupuncturist and a board certified herbalist with a doctorate in Chinese medicine. With a background in ayurvedic medicine, she is also a panchakarma therapist, massage therapist and certified shaman. During the decades of her work in healing, she has studied all over the world including China, Thailand, and India.
Michelle started out in the field of investment banking and private equity but has spent the last 15 years in the healthcare industry. She began experiencing chronic neck pain due to a ski accident. Following her doctor’s suggestion,she attempted acupuncture, almost as a last resort after Western medicine had failed her. Immediately, her pain subsided and she experienced other side benefits including less stress, better sleep, and increased immunity. Because of her life changing experience, she wanted to share this practice with others, thus inspiring her to co-found WTHN.
[Shari] Why did you start your company?
Having dedicated my life to healing, I have tested a wide range of modalities and have a profound understanding of the benefits of acupuncture and herbs. For the last few years, I have been in private practice and noticed some of the biggest obstacles faced. First and foremost, the price point of acupuncture is relatively high, which limits the overall access for individuals. This also affects the way this practice is traditionally done, which is a system of prevention and maintenance. In private practice, customers seek this form of alternative medicine when they are experiencing stress, tension, or pain. However, in ancient China, you visit a doctor when you are feeling well. Your doctors have failed you if you fall sick.
The basis of WTHN stems from the desire to make acupuncture and herbal medicine accessible. We want to create a model that is simple enough for people to integrate it into their general wellness routines. That way, it acts as a form of treatment that will ultimately boost immunity as a whole by preventing stress, keeping hormone levels balanced, optimizing sleep, and helping digestion.
[Michelle] Why did you start your company?
She believed that there was a demand for WTHN in today’s society after seeing trends amongst millennials where there is a focus on maintaining one’s health more proactively and preventatively. More people realize how broken our healthcare system is, and many are looking for alternative and natural, non-toxic wellness solutions. In line with Shari’s point earlier, we wanted to make something that was accessible for all, and demystify the stigma surrounding acupuncture. To achieve this, we had to simplify the procedure of ancient healing. For instance, we blended the all-organic Chinese herbs and created a tablet form for it.
My experience with acupuncture was also frustrating, in part because of the high price point, as well as the difficulty in finding a trustworthy source and getting appointments. Everything felt outdated so we also wanted to modernize the process, to help make this available for the modern customer. WTHN is now open seven days a week from 9am to 9pm. We take online booking, and we have membership models subscription for the herbs we produce.
How did you guys come up with the name WTHN and what was the process like starting it?
We wanted our name to represent the basis of how acupuncture and herbal medicine works. It revolves around the process of activating the body’s own natural defences and strengthening from within.
It took us about two years to translate your idea in our heads into the company we have today. During the two years, we had goals and milestones that we were constantly tracking. A lot of our planning and devising is steered by our market research to help guide us in which direction to go, in the cases of price points, consumers needs, and how best to reach our audience.
What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting their own business?
[Michelle] For me, one of the most important parts about making this journey work is to have a supportive network. Having worked at large corporations where there are built-in networks with bosses, colleagues, and mentors, being an entrepreneur and starting your own business is very different. You are now the one making all of the decisions with no guidance or need to seek approval. Without a supportive network, whether it be your friends or family or whoever it may be, it becomes much harder. With all the highs and lows with beginning a company, it is extremely beneficial to have people who support you and I am lucky to have a few friends who are also entrepreneurs, so we learn from each other and build a support system.
How do you bring awareness about acupuncture to a New Yorker who doesn’t know much or is afraid to try acupuncture?
[Shari] There are three main questions many people ask regarding our practice which are: how does acupuncture work? What is acupuncture good for? Does it hurt? Luckily in 2019, there is a lot of information from scientific research that examines how it works. Acupuncture works in a variety of ways; it increases blood circulation within the body, which relaxes tight muscles, lowers cortisol levels, which are the primary stress hormones, and increases serotonin and dopamine levels, which are the happy hormones. It also helps engage their parasympathetic nervous system which activates rest and digest responses and relaxes their body.
As for whether acupuncture is painful, the needle is no larger than the size of a human hair and is a painless technique. Acupuncturists have at least three to five years of experience and are all well trained to know exactly how and where to place the needles. Trust is a major component which is why at WTHN, we emphasize the reliability of our certified and experienced acupuncturists.
What is a lesson that you have practiced in life that relates to WTHN?
[Michelle] Throughout my life, I have always tried to make a positive impact in whatever career I chose to pursue. I was inspired to start WTHN because I could have a direct and tangible influence in helping people. Many of our clients at WTHN suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, and being able to heal their pain is so rewarding and fulfilling.
[Shari] I am a healer and have dedicated my life to healing. By owning my life and doing what I am passionate about, I am helping others to own their lives. It is my way of leaving an impact on this world.