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Janet Lam: Helping Asians Discover New Wellness Services and Holistic Coaches To Support Their Mental Health Journeys

The Holistic Panda is a Vancouver-based startup aimed at helping Asians discover new wellness services and holistic coaches to support their mental health journeys. We understand there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness and want to help the AAPI community find the resources to optimize their well-being.

Our platform intends to make it easy for users to find what they need. Our users get matched to a curated list of wellness services that are provided by our network of vetted coaches by selecting their health goals and preferences. We hope by making it more accessible and seamless to find mental health support, we can help the AAPI community normalize self-care.

Tell us about yourself?

My background was in finance working with the stock market for 7 years. It was an amazing opportunity, but I left due to extreme burnout. Growing up in an Asian family, mental health was never talked about. There were also certain expectations of me that I began to doubt. I was craving a break, and a moment to think about my path.

In 2020, amid the pandemic, Diana Choi, co-founder of The Holistic Panda and also a mental health advocate, and I connected over zoom, and we saw a need in the wellness space for the Asian community. While the stigma for mental health is a shared experience, it is prevalent in the Asian culture. Very quickly, we asked our friend, Sangsoo Ra, to join as the CTO and we started the business. Today, we are excited to share with everyone from what started with a zoom call to what we have built at The Holistic Panda.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

If I could go back in a time a year or two, I would remind myself to enjoy the journey – it’s not just about the destination. Entrepreneurship is a lot of work, but it’s also an incredible opportunity to learn and grow. So savour every moment, even the challenging ones.

What problem does your business solve?

Based on market research and user interviews, we find that the Asian community is underserved when it comes to mental health. There is a lot of generational stigma around mental wellness in Asian culture, and it’s still considered taboo to share any emotional distress openly. There is also this “model minority” myth where Asians are supposed to be this “smart,” “hardworking,” and “nice” monolithic minority group. It perpetuates the belief that we’re not supposed to have mental health struggles, and if we do, we’re not competent and don’t fit in. Perhaps because of this cultural stigma, there are not many support networks and wellness resources that cater to this group. We hope to build a place where this community can easily find the wellness services and culturally competent coaches who can support them.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

The Holistic Panda was started to fill the gap in mental wellness for the Asian community. We want to make it easy for this group to jump-start their self-care journey by giving them the guidance and resources to take action in managing their mental health. We vet all of our practitioners and look for culturally competent coaches to make our users’ healing journeys more trusted and relatable. By making resources available at their fingertips, we hope we can inspire the desire for internal change and invoke self-healing in this community.

What is your magic sauce?

Our curated list of coaches is our magic sauce. Every coach must undergo a background check and an interview process to ensure that they have the experience and openness needed to work with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds, that there is a fit between their services and our users’ needs, and that they are aligned with our mission. Many of our coaches also offer unique, alternative wellness offerings, such as Human Design, Hypnotherapy, Oracle Reading. Our users come to our platform knowing our coaches are trusted and that they can discover new wellness modalities they might not have heard of otherwise. We also offer free discovery calls to ensure users can find the right practitioner match.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

Our vision is to be a leader and the go-to trusted source for Asian mental health. We have plans to launch campaigns and do outreach to organizations and networks that share a similar mission. We hope through these partnerships we can continue to expand our reach to our target audience and build massive brand awareness.
Mental health matters and we shouldn’t feel guilty about it. That’s why it is our north star to help the Asian community break this generational cycle of neglect and start normalizing self-care.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The idea of getting external help, especially for mental health issues, is foreign to the Asian community and it conflicts with many of the Asian cultural norms and values. It is a challenge to break this stigma. However, due to the pandemic, we have seen a rise in public awareness among mental health, including Asians. We are confident that this increased awareness is here to stay and will only lead to more positive changes down the road.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

If you want to take control of your mental health, sign up at www.theholisticpanda.com. We offer free discovery call and 10% off your first booking. We are also active on socials – follow us on instagram @theholisticpanda for daily mental health content / tune in to our podcast Start Thriving with The Holistic Panda for bi-weekly chats with our coaches.

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