Alinea Engage is a startup supported by Northwestern Mutual Cream City Venture Capital.

Company: Alinea Engage

Founder and CEO: Carol Vance

Year Founded: 2016

Carol Vance began her professional career in corporate finance, where she worked with entrepreneurial clients who gave her firsthand insight into how individuals can effect real change.

Inspired to pursue a different path, she enrolled in grad school at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee to study the psychology of health behavior. She juggled her classes with her duties as a single mom, all while working as a research assistant at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where the idea for Alinea was born.

Alinea is a cloud-based technology platform that automates administrative processes primarily for rehabilitation therapists who work in senior communities, which enables them to spend more time on patient care and less time on paperwork. Below, Vance shares why she launched her business, why she thinks entrepreneurs should take time to create a healthy work-life balance and advice for those who want to strike out on their own.

How did you get the idea for your business?

I had one foot in the ivory tower of brilliant teams who were applying for National Institutes of Health grants and making a difference. Then I had another foot in the homes of trial participants who were living day-to-day with comorbid conditions. We were using technology to support self-management of diabetes and other chronic conditions in seniors. While health care providers and individual participants would start off on the same page, communications would often break down; there was a clear disconnect. There needed to be a way to help them understand each other, without adding to the workload of providers. I knew technology could help because it can be personalized. Nowadays, many of us may feel even more comfortable with technology than we do with people. You don’t need to be face-to-face to support these relationships.

How does your technology work?

One of our clients coined it perfectly for us: We handle the administrative lifecycle of the patient. The process begins when residents of senior communities appear to require rehabilitation therapy. Alinea streamlines workflows and coordinates cross-functional tasks between therapists working directly with seniors in the field nationwide, and centralized benefit verification and financial teams. Alinea also engages patients and their responsible parties, such as their financial and/or medical powers of attorney. So the platform coordinates the efforts of multiple disciplines. We touch many levels and lives in the process, but it all centers around each patient.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when launching your company?

I was just one person and there were a lot of moving parts. The problem, its solution and the relationships involved are complex. And, being a woman over 50, I would hear from some investors that I don’t fit the profile of the typical entrepreneur.

How do you balance your work life and your personal life as an entrepreneur?

This is something that my team and I talk about a lot: We don’t bring our best selves to work if we’re not taking care of ourselves. COVID-19 hasn’t made this easier because we’re all working from our homes. It’s so easy to immerse yourself in work when you love what you do — and there’s never an end to the to-dos and the feeling that you can make improvements.

So I set small, incremental goals for myself. Am I getting out for exercise? Am I calling friends? Am I taking time to show up and be of service to others? Am I taking time in nature for meditation? Am I eating right? I think, especially as women, we have to take care of ourselves because we’re often out there giving and doing without realizing we’ve left ourselves in the rearview mirror.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Believe in yourself. Take the time to take care of yourself, listen to your instincts, trust yourself and have faith. You need to strike a balance between being confident and not being scared to fail. Before every meeting, with a client or with my team, I remind myself to be present, humble, grateful and willing to listen, learn and change.

I also advise anyone who is just starting out to surround yourself not only with people who inspire you, but also with people who will lift your ideas. Hire the right people, trust your team, have them believe in your vision, and continually clear their paths. And always remember to proactively listen to your clients, ensuring they are a vital part of your team.

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