How a Concordia grad is helping to make wellness expertise more accessible
Frustrated with her own experience looking for mental and physical health support, Michelle Velan, BComm (marketing) 04, launched Wondersource, a virtual mental and physical health-care platform, just before the onset of the pandemic.
A graduate of Concordia’s John Molson School of Business, Velan founded the online centralized marketplace to help people find and book vetted experts, coaches and alternative health-care professionals to fill the gaps in the existing mental-health system with accessible, personalized, holistic and preventative action options.
“I felt something needed to be done,” says Velan. “We need to rethink the way health care supports people so they can better manage stress, prevent future health issues and thrive — and Wondersource is focused on doing that.
“There is so much we can do to support our health, but many of us rely on our health-care systems to keep us healthy when we should be taking a more proactive, preventative approach.”
Velan underscores that the old approach of addressing mental-health issues through conventional avenues at a point of crisis was outdated even before the pandemic hit, but the isolation of lockdowns only emphasized the need for more accessible alternatives.
“I realized that there’s so much more that we can do to support ourselves that we just don’t know about and it’s having huge consequences,” she says.
When Velan started Wondersource right before the pandemic, she faced reluctance from experts and coaches as she convinced them to work online, yet "they all acknowledged that it meant they were making their work available to more people who needed the support,” she says. “The pandemic changed everything, and now everyone understands the benefits of working online.”
While she concedes that online therapy may not always be better than in-person sessions, Velan — who now lives in London, England — was keen to launch online as she wanted to create an accessible solution that could support people globally.
A grateful alumna
Velan looks back at her student days at Concordia as fundamental to her professional journey.
“Concordia was a great foundation for my career in business,” she says. “I always knew I wanted to work in business in some capacity, but I didn't know where specifically. I left feeling inspired to pursue marketing and entrepreneurship. Ever since, I've spent most of my career working for startups — initially in marketing roles, later in sales — and most recently as a founder.”
In addition to her role as an entrepreneur, Velan is an angel investor. For the most part, she says, the companies she's invested in were all businesses that she was — or could see herself being — a user of.
“I need to understand the industry and genuinely care about it if I’m going to invest. In most of the cases, I met the founders and felt like they thought critically about things, had a proven track record, were working on something unique and were nice people that I liked.”
Having nurtured a couple of startups, Velan says that having the right attitude and believing in one’s self is critical for anyone who aspires to be an entrepreneur.
“So many people will try to tell you what to do and who to be,” she cautions. “Sometimes there will be valuable insights to consider, but other times they won’t be helpful, and you may feel defeated.
“If you believe in what you’re working on, stay connected to your ‘why’ for having started — and keep going.”