In a region where the stigma surrounding mental health issues often lingers like mist on the hills, Hannah Whitaker’s journey stands as a testament to the transformative power of compassion and understanding.
Rediscover is Eastern Kentucky’s sole eating disorder clinic, a sanctuary for those battling the complex and often misunderstood world of eating disorders. This is not just a facility; it’s a lifeline for a region where such specialized care is sparse. We hope that you will draw inspiration from Hannah’s story and that it will shine a light on the path to recovery that she has paved, offering hope to those who may feel lost in the shadows of their struggles.
Q&A Session with Hannah Whitaker
Founder of Rediscover
Q: Provide an overview of your background and what inspired you to become an entrepreneur and start your own company.
A: I suffered from an eating disorder for 12 years. Once I had fully recovered, I realized that no treatment was available in Central and Eastern KY. After realizing the need, I knew that I had to make treatment accessible. I had no business experience, but I surrounded myself with people who did. I had the passion to see the vision come to life. The right people came along and we opened Rediscover. We became the only eating disorder clinic in our part of the state and are honored to bring recovery.
Q: What was the initial idea or concept behind your business, and how did it come about?
A: Our goal is for people to Rediscover their lives, in the absence of an eating disorder. It truly takes the full comprehensive team to bring recovery. That involves medical professionals, therapists, registered dietitians, and people with lived experience to guide treatment for those struggling. My brother is a PA, who studied eating disorders extensively to help me in my darkest times. He is our medical provider and executive director. Finding the right team was key to the best program. We also wanted to be accessible for all people in the state who struggle with an eating disorder. We made sure we were in network with all KY Medicaid, Medicare, Tricare, and commercial payers.
Q: Can you describe the early days of your startup? What were the biggest challenges you faced during the launch phase?
A: Navigating regulations, licensing, accreditation, and insurance were the biggest hurdles. Finding the right fit for the treatment team was also hard. We always see challenges, but now we know how to navigate them better. No new venture is easy, but you learn to navigate it much better as time passes.
Q: Were there any key moments or experiences that motivated you to take the leap and start your own business?
A: Once I was fully recovered I began speaking at schools on recovery and confidence in my newfound freedom. I realized that so many people were also struggling with the same thoughts and behaviors. It broke my heart that so many struggled, but had no available treatment. I knew that God was calling me to bring recovery to our area.
Q: What were the first steps you took to turn your idea into a reality, and how did you secure funding (if applicable)?
A: I met with mentors of mine in the behavioral health space and they spelled out the process that I needed to go through. I spent a summer writing all of our policies and procedures and our treatment program. I had saved money from working and bought a building for our location. I continue to work my outside job to make treatment possible. Regardless of the work spent, it is worth it to see people truly have a life-changing experience at Rediscover.
Q: Entrepreneurship often involves taking risks, can you share a significant risk you took early in your journey and how it turned out?
A: It was scary purchasing a building and furnishing it for an idea that I had for a clinic. It was a huge risk for me. Interviewing professionals to work for a startup was also a risk. So many people caught the vision and it came to life. The risk was worth it.
Q: What has been your most rewarding accomplishment as a founder so far?
A: Seeing people already fully recovered and free from their eating disorder. If one person found recovery, it would have been worth it.
Q: On the flip-side, can you talk about a specific setback or failure you encountered and how you overcame it?
A: Every time we faced a setback with insurance/reimbursement or treatment approaches, we always met as an executive team and strategized until we figured it out. Sometimes group therapy didn’t go as planned, but we learned from those hard times and drafted new plans. Lots of client/parent feedback goes into our clinic. We want the best experience for our clients and that involves making adjustments and constantly improving. You have to be flexible in your mindset.
Q: Building a business can be mentally and emotionally taxing, how do you manage stress and maintain your motivation during tough times?
A: I started Rediscover because I truly knew God was calling me to bring recovery to our part of the state. Keeping my faith strong and my eyes on Him is extremely important to not burning out. My family and closest friends also play a huge role in this. Surrounding yourself with a strong support system is so important. Your circle should be those that support you in the highs and the lows. Taking time for yourself and prioritizing self-care is also time well spent.
Q: How did you assemble your initial team, and what qualities do you look for in the people you work with?
A: Everyone on our team, from our medical director, therapists, dietitians, and office staff, truly cares about eating disorder recovery. We found people that were passionate and dedicated to the mission. I am biased, but I fully believe we have the best team at Rediscover.
Q: As your business grew, what were some critical milestones or turning points that shaped its trajectory?
A: We became CARF accredited 6 months after opening. This is a national accreditation for mental health facilities. We worked so hard to achieve this. We also started doing a lot of presentations with other mental health professionals, as we became more known in the community for experts in the field.
Q: Can you share a few examples of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned as a founder and how they’ve influenced your approach to business?
A: You are going to mess up and every day is not easy. The key is being flexible and asking mentors for help when issues arise. As a leader, it is so important to constantly improve and adapt. Struggles do not mean failure, they are opportunities to fine-tune and grow.
Q: How do you stay innovative and adaptable in an ever-changing business landscape?
A: At Rediscover, we constantly look for the best treatment modalities in the field. Everyone stays up-to-date and well-educated in our niche. As a business owner, I am constantly trying to improve our marketing and bring awareness.
Q: What role has mentorship played in your entrepreneurial journey, and do you have any advice for aspiring founders on seeking mentorship?
A: Two of the first people I told about my business idea were two very important mentors of mine. They both continued to guide me through the process. I also have spiritual mentors that are constantly pouring into me. As a business owner, you will not have all the answers, and mentors who have already crossed the hurdles can be so helpful. All of my mentors were happy to help. Don’t be scared to pursue a mentor. The right ones will truly want to help and give guidance.
Q: Can you talk about your company culture and the values that drive your team’s success?
A: We are a Christian organization and we strive to lead as Christ would lead. As a company, we prioritize teamwork. At Rediscover, we offer a collaborative environment where everyone plays a fundamental role in helping others rediscover their lives. Creativity and unique gifts are cultivated to bring an atmosphere of freedom.
Q: How do you prioritize work-life balance as a founder and what strategies do you use to maintain it?
A: I will say I am not the best at this, however, I have some great people in my life that make sure I take time to enjoy and relax. Realizing that work will be there the next day has been a learning curve. Regardless of how many responsibilities I have as an owner, I still have to make memories and focus on the people around me.
Q: What do you believe sets your business apart from competitors, and what is your long-term vision for the company?
A: At Rediscover, clients are not just numbers. We individualize treatment and we truly care about everyone that we encounter. We want to expand our outreach so more people struggling can get an in-person experience at Rediscover. Our clinic in Richmond is just the beginning. We want to drive the best care and become a model for eating disorder recovery.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic (or any other external factors) impacted your business and how did you adapt to these challenges?
A: Telehealth is an option that we value. Not only does this help clients living far away, but it also helps those with transportation challenges. At Rediscover, all of our group therapy and individual treatment options can be joined virtually or in person.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are just starting their journey?
A: If you have a vision for something that you’re passionate about, pursue it. It may look difficult, but it is possible. As a female in Eastern KY, I was able to open the only eating disorder clinic in the area.
Q: Looking back, is there anything you wish you had known when you first started your business?
A: Don’t rush into big decisions, have a higher standard that patients follow for attendance for the best treatment outcomes, and never turn down a speaking opportunity that can bring awareness.
Q: As a business built in Appalachia, what is your favorite part of being a business in EKY? What barriers have you faced and how did you overcome them?
A: Appalachian people have a work ethic and grit that is unmatched. Hiring in Eastern KY means the best employees. Serving Eastern KY means you are changing lives for generations to come. Eastern KY is where my heart is and always will be. These are my people. The ones that I want to see happy, healthy, and cared for. Providing the best treatment in the country for Eastern Kentuckians is an honor.
Q: What advice would you give to those looking to start a business in Eastern Kentucky?
A: There is no better place to start a business. Eastern KY has the best people.
If you have the dream of entrepreneurship, but you’re just not sure where to start, reach out to our SOAR Innovation Team to help you find out your next steps. They can help you identify opportunities for your business and provide guidance along the way!
Download our Complete Guide to Entrepreneurship in Eastern Kentucky for a step-by-step guide to building and growing your business dreams!
A Note From SOAR Innovation Director of Business and Innovation, Sabrina McWhorter:
Hannah’s story serves as the true embodiment of innovation. Her ability to take a personal experience and use that as motivation to create a business serving others is inspiring. I have full faith that her business will create a lasting ripple effect across Appalachia and beyond.
If you want to learn more about the work our SOAR Innovation team does across the region, contact Sabrina McWhorter, Director of Business and Innovation, at email@example.com.