Lessonbee Founder Reva McPollom makes health class interactive and thoughtful. Here she also describes the tough realities of building a startup and balancing life.
Lessonbee is one of six Columbia affiliated startups who will be presenting in the 9th annual CVC-NY Demo Night on Wednesday October 16th.
What is Lessonbee?
Lessonbee is health class reinvented. We provide comprehensive, culturally responsive online lessons, a shared content library, and dashboards to track student learning, activities and health goals. We recognize that healthy students behave better, perform better academically and have better health outcomes in life. Yet, health is treated like a throw away class. To address the complex health challenges of today’s youth, health education needs to be a shared responsibility, not just the responsibility of a single teacher. We provide a solution to operationalize a consistent approach to reflective learning, provide culturally responsive lessons that make students feel seen and understood, and deliver comprehensive health education in classes across the curriculum.
What inspired you to create Lessonbee?
I struggled with my identity when I was in school. I was isolated, disconnected, felt like no one could understand what I was going through, and had no resources to figure it out on my own. I don’t want other kids to feel that way. I created Lessonbee so that kids get the education they need to feel confident, connected and worthy of health and success.
What has your experience as a Founder been like so far?
I started this journey 3 years ago. At the same time, my partner and I started trying to have a family. I went through IVF. I got terribly sick and almost died, but I was fortunate enough to get pregnant on the first try. I had a difficult pregnancy; I was sick all the time. I was also working full time, consulting on 4 different projects, and developing the curriculum and technology architecture for Lessonbee. So that was year one. July of 2017, my partner and I got married, bought a home, and welcomed our daughter into the world. I also began development of the platform and adaptive lessons for Lessonbee and was managing contractors across time zones while still working full-time and consulting. I had like 7 jobs, not including breastfeeding. I basically didn’t sleep and don’t know how I survived. So that was year two. Now I’m finishing out year three with two accelerator programs under my belt and I see the world differently than when I started down this path. I have different desires for myself and my family and the impact I want to have in the world. Interestingly, I have an even stronger connection to the mission than when I started. When I started I didn’t really make the connection between health education and my struggles with alienation and low self-esteem when I was younger. But making the connection between culturally responsive education, student health, and outcomes inside and outside of school stems from my personal experiences and I believe its a big part of our competitive advantage.
How has Columbia played into your experience?
I got my master’s degree in instructional technology and media from Teachers College, so you could say that was the beginning of this journey into edtech.
Have you run into any major challenges and how did you answer them?
I’m bootstrapping. My biggest challenge is getting hires up to speed fast enough to be productive before I run out of money. To solve it, I just keep working.
Is there anything you wish you knew in the beginning?
Hindsight is 20:20 but you have to go through things to learn. That’s what life is about. It isn’t about knowing something at the beginning, it’s about putting the knowledge to use once you get it; not pretending like you don’t know any better.
What are some resources or words of advice you’d share with other founders?
It’s all a mind game, really. I’m convinced of that. The biggest challenges are making hard decisions. Sometimes you don’t want to do something that you have to do, like start over, or let someone go, or admit a mistake and fix it. I think too much external influence can make you forget what really matters. The biggest challenge is knowing your priorities and staying true to yourself no matter what obstacles or opportunities come your way. I’ve had some sleepless nights. I’ve had pain in my stomach from anxiety. Now I know that if I’m losing sleep it’s a sign that something needs to change. Change it, don’t think twice.
How are you currently expanding?
Right now I’m bringing on interns. It’s a first for me. I’ve always hired contractors or employees. I’m excited to see what they bring to the table!
Thank you for sharing, we’re looking forward to hearing more about Lessonbee.