Validation and Increased Confidence through Mentorship

Gabrielle Serafini, CEO of WelTel Health participated in the RhyzeUp! Program funded by IRAP and provided by Innovation Guelph. Gabby says the program helped her become a better leader recognizing her strengths, gaining confidence and becoming aware of ways to address things she’d like to improve. She also appreciates the general business knowledge she gained from working with her mentor Jeff Campbell. “I’ve grown tremendously,” Gabby said.

One of the RhyzeUP! components she valued most was the opportunity to be taken seriously as a female leader and entrepreneur in a sector where there has traditionally been underrepresentation and bias. “The IG team has been empowering and validating,” she said.

As a provider of a healthcare short message system (SMS) that connects people with their health care providers to monitor and track their health concerns, WelTel was originally innovated out of the HIV pandemic. WelTel’s executive team quickly recognized the opportunity to address COVID and Gabby’s Rhyze mentor was able to pivot the project to help support WelTel in its endeavours. Since then the demand and attention they’ve received has grown tremendously, sometimes through finding synergies with other companies, as well learning on the fly how to best address the pandemic in real time and exploring ways to navigate the healthcare politics that can be a barrier to implementing digital health innovations.

Additional help with messaging and branding provided by the Rhyze program elevated WelTel’s exposure and created additional positive press. “It gave us added attention for our mission, and Jeff’s street knowledge allowed him to quickly pivot to support us to address the pandemic,” Gabby said. Another mentor, Patricia Muir, enhanced Gabby’s acceptance of her unique leadership style which also contributed to an increased confidence through Patricia’s expression of respect. When interacting with her program mentors, Gabby said she felt comfortable allowing herself to be vulnerable in what she deemed to be a safe place which promoted her personal growth.

In fact, the program helped her gain insight into her leadership style that she had thought to be unconventional. She gained an appreciation of her achievements. “I’ve learned to celebrate my style and accomplishments instead of measuring what isn’t happening.”

While the Canadian procurement system can be the biggest barrier to innovation in healthcare, Gabby said through her work with IG, she is exploring opportunities to work with other companies to deliver combined products and services and create new revenue.

Having access to the level of expertise found in RhyzeUp! has impacted Gabby in her company role. As a woman leading a healthcare technology company, it provided her with extended access to an additional qualified audience. “Access to that level of expertise is not readily available to women who come into leadership unconventionally – who aren’t serial CEOs,” Gabby said.

Gabby encourages women to get involved in the program and she would advise them to make their expectations clear from the beginning, exercise open communications and try to understand why the specific mentors were chosen for them.

Upon reflection, Gabby said initially she thought she had to participate independently as the female founder of her company. She wishes though that she had involved her whole team sooner.  Her team is passionate about delivering better patient care and extending connection and communication to have the widest reach! WelTel is currently deployed in response to COVID in Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, the UK and is expanding services at the BC Children’s hospital, as well as making inroads provincially in BC and Ontario. They are currently negotiating with other provinces to provide Canadians with better access to care. “With WelTel, people feel connected and cared for by a healthcare provider they know and trust, important at any time, but particularly in a time of such uncertainty,” she said.