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It’s rare that a startup’s investors include founders from so many of hot brands. But WTHN, the buzzy acupuncture studio which launched late last year, counts SoulCycle’s Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, Sweetgreen’s Nic Jammet, MNDFL’s Elle Burrows Gluck and Heyday’s Michael Pollack, along with By Chloe’s Sam Wasser, SLT’s Amanda Freeman and Inscape’s Khajak Keledjian.
Its membership model is built on bringing the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture to the masses, and making it easier to fit into a busy schedule. Most sessions in New York cost $150 for an hour, cofounder Shari Auth notes. But at WTHN, 45 minutes including a guided meditation voiced by Auth, is $85. For members, it’s $75, and also includes a free cupping or LED light therapy.
Now, five months since opening the doors on its first location in New York City’s Flatiron neighborhood, WTHN is launching a new line of adaptogenic herbs, with the same goal. “We are empowering the consumer to make right choices for their health through by educating and using accessible language,” says Auth, a licensed acupuncturist of 20 years and board-certified herbalist.
The tablets are based on traditional Chinese formulas, but are organic and fully traceable. WTHN tests each for heavy metals, microbes, and more. So far, there’s eight options, with quirky names like Can’t Touch This (for immunity support), Run The World (for stress management) and Clean Slate (for detox). There’s even Oops I Did It Again, which says on the label that it’s for “food coma/party recovery.”
“This is a white space in the market,” says Auth. “And then there’s accessibility. Usually when we go in to a mom and pop health food store or a Whole Foods you’re not really seeing a lot of Chinese herbs. You’re seeing more western herbs, and you’re not seeing these traditional Chinese formulas. Where you get them is either in Chinatown or there are companies that market to acupuncturists, and they’re not available over the counter.”
Auth, who has a doctorate in Chinese Medicine, requires that all of WTHN’s specialists, called Healers, are licensed acupuncturists with graduate degrees in Chinese Medicine as well, in addition to a minimum of three years training.
WTHN started when Auth met cofounder Michelle Larivee. A few years prior, Larivee got into a ski accident which dislocated vertebrae in her neck and caused chronic pain. That led her to acupuncture, at her doctor’s suggestion. The more they talked, the more they both saw the potential for a startup. It didn’t hurt that Larivee had a solid business-sense, having spent 13 years in healthcare finance, first as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch and later at IFC – the private equity arm of the World Bank. In all, she’s structured more than $5 billion worth of deals.
“Our goal is to make eastern medicine, acupuncture and herbs accessible to all and in order to help as many people as we can,” says Larivee. “We really built this business from the beginning to be scalable and with a national vision.”
That means more coastal cities are next. It plans to follow Soulcycle’s geographic footprint, which is mostly centered on the East and West coasts, though it has more recently expanded to states like Texas.
“We definitely see expanding quickly in New York in the near term, and then quickly to other top tier cities on the West Coast and East Coast, and hopefully throughout the country,” adds Larivee. “With the herbs we’re so excited that we are now a national brand, with national reach.”
March 12, 2019 at 08:45AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs