In 2019, Erica Solis and her newly formed healthcare startup got a major boost. Hoag Hospital, one of the most respected hospital systems in the nation, was searching for a mental health partner that focused on patients with autism.
Hoag targeted Poppy Life Care, which Solis had founded just three months prior. The California native found herself working alongside dozens of nonprofits, all under the Hoag umbrella. She assembled a team to provide one-on-one support for patients, mediation workshops, and yoga classes.
Her vision for a holistic, alternative care solution for those with autism and ADHD, as well as those suffering from anxiety and depression, was being realized at the Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Heathy Living in Newport Beach.
Then the pandemic happened.
Adversity is nothing new to Solis, who has overcome many battles of her own. After getting her MBA, she had a hand in growing two start-ups and founding two of her own. It was rewarding work, but also opened her eyes to the intensity of pain, both in herself and others.
The inspiration for Poppy Life Care was deeply personal, yet she saw a need beyond herself for brain health support. Modern day challenges, whether it’s overworking, burnout, or the high expectations of society and the digital world, impact all of us.
“We’re attached to our phones and Covid has only escalated the problem,” she says.
But when the coronavirus shut down in-person services, technology would ultimately fuel the support programs her team worked so hard to create. Since routines for people with autism are particularly important, they transitioned to tele-health immediately.
“We recognize the disruption to their daily lives and modified our in-person programming to allow for continued access through a virtual platform,” she says.
“We have diversified our fundraising efforts,” Solis says. “We have recently been accepted as part of Newchip, a Startup Accelerator Program, and now we’re opening up to angel investors and venture capitalist, institutional donors, and possibly private equity channels for funding.”
Services like the ones Solis offers are now in high demand. According to the Center for Disease Control, 40% of Americans reported struggling with mental health and substance abuse. Over 30% say they suffer from anxiety and depression, and 11% have considered suicide.
“These are staggering numbers,” she says. “We started in 2018 and are ahead of the curve. Now, it’s just amplified. There’s definitely a need among our teens. There’s a lot more pressure, unfortunately they suffer the most.”
Throughout 2020, Poppy Life Care became a fully digital health clinic with holistic and alternative care solutions. In other words, patients have around-the-clock access to a mix of pre-recorded yoga videos, meditation sessions, mindfulness coaching and other content designed to help patients get comfortable with the virtual environment, plus one-on-one private consultations and live yoga classes. The company also offers a nutritional program that addresses the unique nutritional needs of people with autism and private consultations with a dedicated nutritionist, who can provide guidance and dietary supplement recommendations to address nutritional deficits.
“I’ve seen how holistic services like yoga, nutritional support, meditation and mindfulness programs can transform someone. It’s not a quick fix, but if implemented into a lifestyle, it can radically transform someone’s life.”
Educating and helping patients adopt a healthier lifestyle is at the heart of what Poppy does. Solis’s team works to identify how a patient can implement these lifestyle changes.
“Meditation and mindfulness are practices that helps with every single facet of our being, from nutrition to exercise. We even teach mindful cleaning. There are different ways to include these solutions and they are actually fairly easy. It is all about incorporating a practice in your everyday life. Yoga,” she says, “connects the mind, body, and spirit.”
“At Poppy, we believe it’s all connected. Our goal is to connect these elements organically.”
She says the pandemic’s mandatory shutdowns were a blessing as it helped her reach people struggling with mental health conditions all over the world. Though most of the company’s users are in the U.S. and Canada, it has patients from as far as the Philippines, India and Egypt.
In 2019, Poppy Life Care had only 500 online subscribers. Now it has over 5,000 and have been recognized by organizations like the International Forum on Advancements in Healthcare. The company has won four awards, including two from IFAH, for being one of the Top 50 Healthcare Companies, and for being one of the Top 100 Healthcare Visionaries.
As the company continues to grow, fundraising is now top of mind. By the end of the year, Solis plans to have a presence in school district as well as additional community centers in Orange County.
Despite the lingering effects of the pandemic, Solis is optimistic about the future. They have a revolutionary new music therapy/vocal program scheduled for late summer, and behavioral and psychotherapy programs are in the works.
“We are talking with various partners and physicians that would support both,” she says.
At the end of the day, it’s about helping people take control of their health, and ultimately their lives. While encouraging us all to emerge from the pandemic stronger and ready for what’s next. “I do this because I really care about the mission. Over 90% of people that get involved with Poppy, have a personal connection. That’s the heart behind Poppy: a true love, care and passion.”
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