Exclusive: How Daniella Pierson's Mental Wellness Journey Bolstered her Career
When The Newsette first launched during Daniella Pierson's time at Boston University, the Colombian American entrepreneur struggled to figure out how to balance her busy student schedule and business.
"It was very hard. I don't like to sugarcoat things," Pierson shared. She would start her day by writing the newsletter at 5 am, running to class at 9 am and using any moment between classes to plan the other newsletters for the week.
"I took every free ounce that I had of time, and dedicated it to The Newsette," the Chica boss explains. The 27-year-old founder has now grown her business to previously unfathomable heights, with her company now valued at $200 million.
Of course, her journey was not without its obstacles.
"I was so embarrassed to ever talk about the fact that I have OCD. I also have ADHD and depression," Pierson reveals.
Led by her passion for helping others overcome their struggles with mental health, the young entrepreneur teamed up with Selena Gomez and her mother Mandy Teefey to create Wondermind, a new digital platform for anyone looking to work on their mental well-being.
In an exclusive interview with People Chica, Pierson shared her unique perspective on entrepreneurship, mental health and her own latinidad.
As an entrepreneur, what was the biggest challenge you've encountered? What's been the most rewarding through it all?
The biggest challenge was trying to raise money for my first business. I was in my early 20s, I was a woman in business, I was Latina and I didn't really have the odds on my side.
I was getting brutal rejections and people were telling me to just give up. I even got laughed out of a room by a very, very big investor, who said I reminded him of his granddaughter, and not in a good way, he added.
Finally, I decided I'd rather spend this time actually making money. Instead of convincing five people to invest in me, I convinced hundreds of people every single day to invest in us with advertising. Thank God that I was able to do that because now I own almost all of my company.
What's the biggest thing that you've learned about yourself as a business owner?
The Newsette made me who I am today. I had zero confidence. I didn't know who I wanted to be. Through creating it I realized I actually am smart and maybe can write something good.
It pushed me out of my comfort zone, having to literally go up to hundreds of people on the street and ask them if they would subscribe to this free daily newsletter. The passion fueled me and almost took away all of those insecurities.
In order to be a respected CEO and boss, you don't have to be a scary, fearful, vile and toxic person—you can lead with kindness. You can have respect and have people work extremely hard, maybe even harder for you, when you are kind to people.
What inspired you to take the leap into your new mental health startup Wondermind?
The Newsette gave me what I had longed for, which was freedom. My second passion is mental health. Something that crippled me and I was so embarrassed to ever talk about was the fact that I have OCD. I also have ADHD and depression.
Before I sat and spoke with Selena Gomez and Mandy Teefey, my business partners, I would have never told anybody. Not only was I a female founder in her 20s and Latina, but let's add this other layer of mental illness and it's like, [let's glue] "do not invest" on my forehead, is what I thought.
We really wanted to change the narrative where hopefully in the next few years and generations, having a mental illness is the same thing as having a health illness.
Wondermind describes itself as a mental fitness ecosystem. What does that entail and how does it help users?
Mental health can be such a triggering, almost clinical term, [...] but mental fitness is like, "Oh, I work out my body, why wouldn't I work out my mind."
[There's] a lower barrier to entry for people who might still be afraid, just like I was, of speaking about mental health and what the repercussions of that could be, personally or professionally.
Everything that we're bringing to the table in terms of content and products and production is all being vetted by our in-house board of licensed therapists, social workers, psychiatrists, etc. So although the mental fitness ecosystem is not clinical, everything that we mention is.
You've had a lot of support from major celebrities who also advocate for mental health, like your co-founder Selena Gomez. How does it feel to have their support?
Selena is our co-founder and chief impact officer, so she is 100% onboard and works so hard on this company, every single day. It feels amazing to be able to have someone like her with such a global impact.
I remember when I was in college, she was basically the first celebrity to ever come out and say, "I'm struggling with my mental health."
Serena Williams is our lead investor and was also [someone that] shared her emotions. It feels incredible for somebody with that much clout to speak out because hopefully millions of people will see that and say, "If this person who literally looks so tough on the court [...] feels these things, why should I be embarrassed about talking about what I feel?"
You've spoken about your own mental health journey and how you overcame those hurdles. What advice do you have for other Latinas who are looking to succeed while going through similar struggles?
My mother [...] is an immigrant. She came to the U.S. when she was 24 and then I grew up with my grandparents. This is just my experience with my family from Colombia, but they aren't the kind of people who talk about mental health.
I think my advice would be for anybody who has a Hispanic family that might have the same old-school mentality—I would just try to help them understand and be patient and empathetic with them. My mom loves me more than anything in the world and apologizes to me almost every day that she didn't take me seriously, but she was just ignorant to the fact that this was actually a problem.
We created Wondermind so that you never feel alone and so that you have resources, places that you can go for free to connect with people and get help. We are creating content that is hopefully going to help you feel like even if your family right now doesn't understand, we understand and we see you.
What's a piece of advice that you would give to any woman that's trying to start their own business?
You are going to have a lot of people say no, and every person who has ever been successful has heard the same thing. Every single person that becomes a maven has had people say that their idea is dumb, that they are not going to make it, that they're not capable.
My advice would be to always listen to feedback [but] with a grain of salt. Make sure that you're not just dismissing it, because there's a lot to learn from feedback, especially from many different kinds of people.
Never give up on being able and capable of [making] your dream come true. Because only you have the power to write your own story and even people with authority have no idea what you're capable of.