Live Chair Health: Scaling from local concept to national healthcare product

The 1501 Health cohort has supported Andrew Suggs, founder and CEO of Live Chair Health, on his journey of scaling his company from a local concept to a national healthcare product.  

At the start of the program, Suggs’ utilization of neighborhood influencers like barber shops and churches to improve minority health outcomes was making an impact but needed a clear roadmap to scale. Suggs knew how to connect with local neighborhoods, had figured out his initial tech stack, and 28152C4C-18EE-44CF-AE87-1F8D247C6B6Fwas at the same time, navigating his father’s failing health. “I had never worked in healthcare and jumped into it two years ago because of a passion,” he said. 

“The biggest challenge was understanding our long-term business model,” Suggs said. While the business was designed to provide health interventions in community settings, “the true application of our technology was scheduling and booking for barbers.” 

The cohort and the supporting Cabinet members have provided Suggs with valuable context about how healthcare works. “The education on the health system and health plan sides has allowed me to accelerate a lot faster than I would have otherwise.” 

Cabinet members meet formally with each startup on a quarterly basis as a part of the program. Those members are like-minded entrepreneurs and industry experts. “I think it is very unique,” Suggs said. “I’m hearing directly from people who could be customers and have deep long-term relationships with the industry experts.” 

Suggs founded Live Chair with a mission to save the lives of African American men and women by addressing chronic health conditions through the trusted relationships established between hair professionals and their clients. This seemingly simple idea is growing rapidly and becoming its own movement, with plans to expand beyond the barber shop or salon to engage people in healthcare.

[1501 Health Co-Manager] “Emily Durfee has been instrumental in the evolution and growth journey of Live Chair Health within the program. Based on Emily’s insights, we did an exhaustive analysis of business models we’ve observed in the healthcare field,” said Suggs.

“This exercise was fruitful because it allowed us to look at ourselves with questions regarding scalability. As a direct result of Emily’s leadership, caring and expertise, we were able to identify gaps in our consumer offerings and business model. I’d describe it as a major business model transformation for Live Chair Health. We’ve also had the opportunity to provide additional value to the customers we’re serving. She tangibly and materially helped us get further along and we're now sharing with a managed care organization.”  

Suggs cited working with a healthcare plan president as a key example of the value 1501 cohort. “He honed in on some of the things that we should be doing and how we should be thinking about the next five to 10 years,” Suggs said. “That was a very existential conversation with someone who could become a friend and a potential customer as well.” 

“Our product has evolved to fit and be optimized for the metrics of health plans and health systems,” Suggs said.  

Live Chair Health is now serving four major markets: Maryland (Baltimore City and county, PG and Montgomery County), Los Angeles, Atlanta, and North Carolina. The company plans to launch several new markets in 2022. As they have scaled, the cohort has been a partner in those processes.  

During the bi-weekly calls, the cohort members share challenges and expertise. “There’s so much overlap because a lot of us are in the same stage with our company. We can confide in each other.” 

“There are a myriad of start-up accelerators and incubators out there,” Suggs said. “I would say the difference between 1501 Health and the other competing products or services is the inside knowledge that you get from real customers [in healthcare].”

“So, if you're in digital health, if you're in healthcare, being able to talk to actual customers means you don't have to pontificate and hypothesize about what you should be building,” he added. Through the 1501 Health program, Live Chair Health has clarified new ideas, pressure tested concepts and determined relevancy in the wider healthcare market. 

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