Holistic at One

Today is Holistic‘s first birthday.

I left 1871 on Friday, April 6, 2018. That Monday, I took the day off and Tiffany and I went to the movies. On Tuesday, April 10, 2018, Holistic began.

Much like a child’s first birthday, the first birthday of a start-up is an opportunity for celebration and remembrance and taking stock. It is an achievement, of sorts. “We survived!” (And, hopefully, are still smiling.) It may mean more to you than anybody else, but that’s okay. Raising a startup is just like raising children; it has to be intensely personal, otherwise you’re doing it wrong.

So as Holistic turns one, we are taking stock, and we wanted to outline four things for which we are grateful, and that give us tremendous optimism as we move into year two.

Grateful for the community support

I was talking with my good buddy Laura Clark the other day about email traffic, and how it ebbs and flows based off of the activity of the organization as well as a number of other factors. I was commenting that for the first time since starting Holistic, I’ve recently have had so much inbound email that it’s been a challenge to keep up with. But that, for the first time in my life, I was really excited about the influx of email because each email was bringing with it opportunity and challenges and the future.

Over the past year, we’ve had so much support from the community. Nearly 20 companies have taken a risk on us and willing to work with us and be a part of our system: YWCA, Shoprunner, Centro, United Way, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, UChicago Urban Labs, Yello and The Executives’ Club of Chicago, to name a few. Dozens of partners have emerged and we are building relationships that are going to pay dividends for companies around the city and the world. Hundreds of people have attended our events and contributed in one fashion or another to the content we are creating and are helping us drive the conversation in this space.

But most importantly, it’s been the daily affirmations that I receive from people as I go about my business. People being genuinely excited about what we’re doing, coming up with great ideas and sharing them with us, extending their networks and helping us build our relationships, giving a supportive thought when we need it. It really does matter. Building a startup takes a village -- it can’t be done by one person or one group of people, and Chicago is without a doubt the best place in the world to undertake this endeavor. Our company reflects our city and our community and we want to say how grateful we are to all of you.

I tell our team sometimes that I wish they could be out there hearing the things that I hear every day about what we’re doing — it’s fuel.

Grateful for our team

Speaking of our team, I’m so grateful for their efforts as well. The team that we’ve assembled thus far in the Holistic experience is reminiscent of a lot of teams that I have been on in the past -- a Motley Crew of folks from all walks of life and backgrounds bound by one commonality: the mission.

Understanding and appreciating this is even easier and more obvious in the start-up scenario. Everybody who works with us could easily be someplace else where they’re served lunch every day or where they have kombucha on tap or where their futures are much more clearly defined, but they’ve chosen to work in our environment, and we’re very grateful for it.

It hasn’t been an easy year either. As with any family, we’ve had more than our fair share of trauma and drama, and enough real life for a few lifetimes. But it has been extremely gratifying to see the way that our team has embraced one another. There’s a line from Jed Bartlet in The West Wing where he comments about the gratification that comes from watching colleagues enjoy one another and I think that’s 100% true.

Matt, Suzanne, Natalie, Bryce, Nicole, Ava, Lauren, and Elda: as we look to the future, I am very excited to see what our team will come up with. The ideas that we’ll have, the innovations that we make, the energy that we’ll bring.

“We are living in the age of inclusion. And it has just started. But we are also living in the age of exclusion. We have to decide together which world we’re going to build.”

Grateful that there is some merit to our idea.

It’s the early days, of course, but there’s real evidence that our idea: you can apply data to challenges in the workplace and life and create a better experience. It seems to have some merit.

People are using our system. It’s creating positive change. We’re finding the things that we thought we could measure are measurable, and we’re finding new things that we can measure every day.

We’re finding willing partners, we’re finding creative solutions, we’re finding a glass is half-full approach. Most importantly, we’re finding that each time through the process or that we engage another client or have another conversation, we get better. As I said, there’s still a ton of work to do, but we are thrilled at the initial results.

Grateful for the future.

At Holistic, we believe that we’re living in the age of inclusion, and that it has just started. We believe that, societally, we are on a collective journey to create a more fair, equitable, consistent world, where people are treated the way that they deserve to be treated, at work and in life. We also acknowledge, though, that we’re living in the age of exclusion. And so it’s left for each one of us to decide which world we want to live in. That is our choice. What world are we going to create together?

That’s probably the most exciting thing about Holistic so far, is that the collective answer that we have perceived is that people want to live in a more inclusive, fair, welcoming and open world. They want consistency of treatment and equality and to be more hopeful tomorrow. On the days when it’s hard to get out of bed and come to work, we can remind ourselves that what we’re trying to do benefits everybody, and that increasingly the world is on our side.

Thanks for everything that you all have done for us and will do for us in the future. Every link you shared, every introduction you made, every encouraging word and chance that you took on us. We are so touched and so grateful.


Tom Alexander