Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse stories with the mission to inspire kids and youth around the world to become entrepreneurs with empathy. This series features interviews of LGBT founders by a character named Spiffy to help young readers observe Pride Month with a renewed commitment to building a more equitable world for all.
Welcome back! My name is Spiffy, the interplanetary journalist. I’m interviewing a few of the many inspiring LGBTQ+ founders here on planet earth, today I’m talking to Derrick Reyes (they/them) the founder of Queerly Health. Let’s go see how they’re doing!
SPIFFY: Hey Derrick, how’re you doing?
Derrick: Hi there, Spiffy! I’m doing as well as I can 😀
SPIFFY: Could you tell me about the challenge that Queerly Health addresses?
Derrick: Of course I can. The LGBTQ+ community faces many gaps and barriers to access when it comes to receiving affirming healthcare and wellness services. Over 56% of us experience discrimination in healthcare settings, many of us live in areas where there aren’t LGBTQ+ affirming practitioners, and our access is constantly under attack by anti-LGBTQ+ health legislation at the state and federal levels. Earlier this month, the current administration stripped Obama-era health protections from transgender individuals so that healthcare professionals are safe to refuse treatment to transgender people just because they’re transgender. When it comes to our health and wellness, we’re shifting the power back to the people.
SPIFFY: Yes! Power to the people. What prompted you to start this service?
Derrick: In 2015, I wrapped up my MA from NYU in Human Development & Social Intervention along with an Advanced Certification in LGBTQ+ Health, Education, and Social Services. Transitioning out of the student health center, it was time for me to find a new primary care practitioner. A process that even with my background in a leading city for LGBTQ+ affirming care, I still found difficult to navigate. After being turned away from an LGBTQ+ clinic, because they were at capacity, I knew there had to be a better way for us. At the time, I saw how digital health was booming, but seemed to be glossing over the LGBTQ+ community. Like much of the traditional healthcare system. I decided that was not going to happen on my watch. If the future of health was to be digital health, then it must be LGBTQ+ inclusive.
Image courtesy of Bryan Kyed on Unsplash
SPIFFY: You’re not alone, I’ve spoken to other LGBTQ+ Founders who started companies to address a challenge they faced. How do you intend to turn this disparity into an opportunity for a more equitable world?
Derrick: Our moonshot goal is to completely eliminate LGBTQ+ health disparities by 2030. We’re building a marketplace of vetted and trained LGBTQ+ affirming health and wellness practitioners, products, and services. We’re also leveraging digital health and concierge health to bridge that gap, a canyon really, between us (the LGBTQ+ community) and safe, comprehensive, and LGBTQ+ affirming health and wellness.
SPIFFY: Oh I’ve been to the moon, it’s lovely! What benchmarks have you hit on the way to completely eliminating the LGBTQ+ health disparity?
Derrick: In addition to continued interest from individual practitioners and multi-practitioner clinics, we recently started receiving an influx of interest from enterprise clients that would like to offer their health and wellness products and services to the LGBTQ+ community. This puts us in a Business to Enterprise (B2E) space in addition to being Business to Business (B2B). We’re really grateful to have reached this milestone.
SPIFFY: Some well-deserved attention. What’s a failure you’ve learned from recently?
Derrick: Early on, when we were a very new company, we were rejected by a few startup accelerator programs. In the summer of 2019, we were really fortunate to have been accepted into a startup program at Samsung NEXT NY. Persistence really is key and what’s meant for you will present itself.
SPIFFY: What’s something you’ve learned unexpectedly during this time?
Derrick: A few weeks ago, I was on a group call with Founder Gym’s CEO, Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon, and I expressed as someone leading a digital health company, during a pandemic, in the epicenter (NYC at the time) I didn’t have good feelings about charging practitioners to be on our platform during this time.
She was very real with me bringing me back to the truth. That a business costs money to run and that fuels the impact a business can have. She also clocked me on how I may have been projecting my personal relationship with money onto my business. Through that experience, I unexpectedly learned about myself through someone else. That was a blind spot for me that I’m now working on and I’m able to support others in uncovering that blind spot for them.
SPIFFY: Do you have any parting wisdom for our readers who are looking to become social entrepreneurs like you?
Derrick: People often say they want to become founders because they don’t want to work for anyone else, they don’t want to answer to someone, and they don’t want anyone to tell them what to do. If you start a company with this mindset, you have a big storm coming. I hire people to tell me what to do. I work for them. I work for our customers and people who’ll be using our platform. I work in service to our broader goal to end LGBTQ+ health disparities.
Thanks for the conversation Spiffy, let me know next time you’re going to the moon. 🙂
SPIFFY: No, thank you for all the insight. Have a fantastic day, Derrick! I’ll be sure to hit you up.
Derrick Reyes (they/them) is the CEO and Co-Founder of Queerly Health, an NYC based company leveraging digital health to bridge the gap between the LGBTQ+ community and safe, comprehensive, and culturally competent health and wellness practitioners. Derrick is Afro-Latinx, queer, gender non-binary, first-generation, and a skincare enthusiast. They hold an MA in Human Development & Social Intervention from NYU along with an Advanced Certification in LGBTQ+ Health, Education, and Social Services. (Nominated by Out in Tech)
© 2020 Ladderworks LLC. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co
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