For startup entrepreneurs, it's sometimes a frustrating chicken-and-egg story: in order to be interesting to investors, money is needed to make certain steps. Sonja Nijhuis from Meppel, founder of Breath In Balance, has gone through all phases of this vicious financial circle. Driven by her mission - to bring more air into the lives of people struggling with symptoms caused by disturbed breathing patterns - Sonja managed to accumulate sufficient credit. 'Now it is time to show that we are worth the investment.'
Every entrepreneur believes in his or her own business, otherwise you don't start it. The punch line is: do others believe in it too? Sonja was the first to convince the Rabobank in Meppel, followed by more investors and now the NOM also supports Breath In Balance with funding. We have come so far; our product is completely ready, we are on the eve of flying,' Sonja says. 'The biggest challenge now is the marketing. Because how do you sell something that people all naturally do automatically? Breathing seems so natural, but as a breathing therapist I know how much hidden suffering there is due to disrupted breathing patterns. Stress, anxiety or tension cause people to unconsciously breathe incorrectly, resulting in all kinds of physical and mental complaints. Our BreathBalanz helps to return to natural breathing patterns in 80 days.
Making an impact
The reason Sonja developed the BreathBalanz - a proven digital training program combined with a breathingbelt with sensor - is because the reach of this product is vastly greater than what she could ever manage with her practice in breathing therapy. 'In 2010 I had a companion: Nellie Bontekoe. She suggested making a CD to support clients at home. Because I like digital developments, an app seemed more convenient. Three years later the In-BalanceApp was ready and was downloaded no less than 35,000 times worldwide. Only then did I realize the impact we could make. With this product it became possible for many more people to improve their quality of life, anywhere in the world. That realization was the deciding factor in focusing on product development.
Story is essential
'Our In-BalanceApp was nominated for a Health Award and then the further development began. Because in order to achieve serious success with the training program, accurate measurement of breathing was essential. That battle required a technical feat and a new financial tour de force. Development costs money, and you usually only get money once you have a validated product. But to get to that point, you need that funding. Well, the chicken-and-egg story got in the way, plus underestimating the product. Because breathing comes naturally, doesn't it? That's why the story at 0nce BreathBalanz is essential. Telling about the tens of thousands of people who end up in the emergency room every year because they think they are having a heart attack while hyperventilating. Or the people with phobias and avoidance behavior, for fear of physical reactions that - unconsciously - stem from a disturbed breathing pattern and can be solved perfectly well with breath therapy.'
Tool for professionals
Sonja is amazed at how little attention there is within mainstream care for the breathing process. 'It is the naturalness of breathing that causes the harmful effects of disturbed breathing to be overlooked. Take people who, even at rest, breathe much more often than necessary due to stress; they constantly feel agitated, sleep badly and accumulate all kinds of complaints. Such a process goes very unconsciously and because everyone keeps breathing, the underlying problem is invisible. While breathing is an essential foundation. It is life energy that controls all kinds of physiological processes in our body. That's why we focus BreathBalanz primarily on partners in healthcare. It can be a tremendous support for professionals working with clients who have stress, anxiety, tension complaints. And the BreathBalanz is also an interesting tool for health and safety services that want to support employees with stress complaints.'
Quality of life
The vicious circle that people with disturbed breathing patterns end up in, Sonja has also experienced at times in recent years in entrepreneurship. 'My perseverance sometimes really had to come from my toes. It is logical and understandable that investors ask critical questions and each have their own ideas about what a good business plan is. But what an incredible amount of energy that takes. It literally gave us breathing space when we managed to convince an investor. And that wasn't just about the money; together you are simply stronger and we increase the chance of getting this product to fly. That is necessary to recoup all the investments, but ultimately we are doing it to help all people with disturbed breathing patterns improve their quality of life. The positive stories I get back about that, those give me the energy to keep going.'
Corona offers opportunities
Ultimately, Sonja's passion and perseverance also attracted Investment Manager Klaas Kooistra to invest from the NOM. 'We see the business potential of this product, the large network Sonja has built and the scientific validation that is coming up,' indicates Klaas. 'Moreover, the BreathBalanz can be extra meaningful in these corona times. It appears that corona patients with intensive complaints are at risk of developing a disturbed breathing pattern, so there is a great opportunity there.' Sonja agrees. She is ready to tell her story and - thanks in part to NOM - can be supported by an enthusiastic marketing team. 'We needed a long breath, but I know we have something good on our hands. That man who was in the news at the beginning of October with his self-designed artificial pancreas gave me courage: if something really works, sooner or later there will be a breakthrough. And for the BreathBalanz, the time is now.'
In this white paper:
- What challenges do you face and how do you deal with them?
- Becoming investor ready in four steps!
- An overview of all funding options
Please note that this whitepaper is only available in Dutch at the moment. We are in the process of translating this whitepaper.