I’d been tinkering with my idea for a new business for more than a year. It wasn’t until I was furloughed from my job in April due to COVID-19, though, that I had the time and energy I needed to turn my idea into reality.


As a speech-language pathologist, I work with people over the age of 50 who have suffered from strokes or other brain injuries. Increasingly, however, patients who do not have a specific neurological diagnosis have come to me because they are concerned about common, age-related memory issues such as forgetting words or losing keys. Invariably, they would end up asking me to recommend an app they should use to “strengthen” their memory.


The fact is that relying solely on an app for improving your brain will produce only limited results. A growing body of research shows that to effectively maintain and improve cognitive function as you age, mental workouts need to be coupled with physical movement. While there are a lot of online exercise classes out there—and dozens of memory-boosting apps to choose from—I thought it would be cool to build a resource that combines the two.


The timing was particularly important as many older adults feel stuck at home during the pandemic and need more physical and mental stimulation. That’s how Cardiomelon was born.


Starting from scratch

The first challenge in getting my business launched was overcoming my own limitations. I’m not a fitness trainer, nor a videographer, nor a web developer. With so many do-it-yourself web hosting platforms out there, though, I wasn’t too worried about figuring out how to build my own website. I ended up building my site on WordPress and using Vimeo to host my videos.


The tricky part was finding trainers who could work with me to create combined physical and mental workouts for an older audience. Eventually, I found three terrific professionals to collaborate with me on developing 20-to-30-minute mind + body workout videos.


Each workout session is designed around high-intensity interval training techniques. The trainer leads 45-to-60-second exercise intervals, and I give a mental exercise for viewers to work on both during and between exercises.


My site currently has more than 50 pre-recorded videos, and users sign up for a subscription package. The basic package is $10 a month, which allows them to view three videos a week, with no limit on how many times they can watch each one. For $15 a month, subscribers get unlimited access to the complete library.


Getting help

One thing people don’t tell you when you launch a new business is that having a great idea or product won’t get you off the ground. You need someone to bounce ideas off. There are so many behind-the-scenes details that you don’t necessarily think about when you’re first starting out, such as insurance, branding, marketing and customer service.


My dad suggested I reach out to SCORE, the nation’s largest volunteer, expert business mentoring network, which partners with the Small Business Administration to provide free counseling and mentors to startups like mine.


I started working with a mentor who is in his 70s and has experience starting a small business. He checked out my website, reviewed my marketing strategies and pointed out areas I needed to improve to engage his age group. I also took a class at a local Small Business Development Center on the basics of starting a business, and they assigned me a mentor who has also been very helpful.


At the end of the day, though, 95% of launching a new business is marketing. Since I also have no background in marketing, I got an assist from two college interns over the summer. They called community centers, senior apartment buildings and retirement communities to distribute information and flyers. Then they helped me build up Cardiomelon’s social media presence by posting on Facebook and lining up Instagram influencers to talk about my site.


I’ve also been working to get coverage in magazines and websites by contacting publications that might be interested in Cardiomelon. I had a sponsored article published in Healthy Aging Magazine—which I paid a small fee for—and it’s been picked up by other aging-related publications. At this point I’m just trying to cast the net as wide as possible.


I’m on track to have 100 subscribers within six months of launching the business. My next goal is to have 500 subscribers within two years.


Balancing priorities

Now that I’m back at work full time as a speech pathologist, I’m still figuring out how to manage my job while growing my business and raising two young children with my husband. I’m continually putting up new content, and I’m working to bring new trainers on board to keep things fresh.


I love working with patients, though, so even as my business grows, I don’t want to give that up. Ideally, I’ll still be able to work part time while managing the business. Like everyone else, I’m seeking balance in my life.

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