SAN FRANCISCO, United States — Coa, a $3 million-backed wellness startup has launched what it calls “the world’s first gym for mental health”.
The online studio, designed to build mental health and emotional fitness skills is the brainchild of Co-Founder and CEO Alexa Meyer, and it’s already won the backing of several angel investors including Neil Parikh, Founder of Casper, and professional basketball player and mental health advocate Kevin Love.
Having completed a $3 million Seed investment round last year, the startup is now focused on shaking up the mental health space by creating a more proactive and engaging model, similar to that of the boutique fitness industry.
“Coa is the first of its kind and the only studio dedicated to mental fitness,” explains Meyer.
“Logging in is like walking into your favourite gym. You’ll be able to see a schedule of live group classes, join a digital classroom, and participate in weekly exercises as you begin building mental health skills that will serve you throughout your life. In a time when people are prioritising their mental health more than ever, our classes create an approachable, fun, and proactive place to begin building community and your emotional fitness.”
Like leading boutique fitness brands Barry’s and SoulCycle, Coa’s online studio features group classes that anyone in the US can drop into for $25, along with 8-week programs priced at $30 per class. Therapist matchmaking and one-on-one therapy are also available for community members based in California — a service the company plans to expand to New York later in the year.
Initial studio offerings focus on introducing people to emotional fitness — an introduction similar to a “yoga foundations class”, aimed at introducing the seven traits of emotional fitness, emotional fitness for mental wellness and emotionally fit leadership.
Its drop-in classes, meanwhile, will focus on issues top-of-mind for the community, such as deep dives into how to manage imposter syndrome, living solo during a pandemic, how to manage anxiety in an uncertain world, and more.
Here, Alexa Meyer sheds more light on the company’s mission, how it plans on shaking up the $121 billion mental wellness market and why she believes Coa will become the Nike of mental health……..
Tell us more about Coa’s mission, and the concept of ‘mental fitness’
Coa is your gym for mental health. Our mission is to help people work on their mental fitness as proactively as their physical fitness. We offer therapist-led group classes and 1:1 therapy — all grounded in community.
Common mental health challenges like stress, burnout, and anxiety impact every one of us, yet accessing support is incredibly hard and often reactive. We believe the best work of your life will be the work you do on yourself. We offer a proactive and effective “workout class” for your mental health that builds skills you can use for life.
How does Coa draw inspiration from other wellness brands and sectors?
You walk down the street and you see brands like Lululemon, SoulCycle, Equinox, and
One Medical Group all making physical fitness, health and wellness accessible and visible.
Before we founded Coa, a big question on our minds was: why do we not have visible spaces and communities like that for working on our mental health?
We’ve seen a dramatic shift to community and group-based approaches to fitness, like Peloton. No one can lift your weights for you, but there’s accountability and fun when others are sweating alongside you. We believe the same is true for mental fitness — bringing a community-based approach helps people grow together while feeling less alone in their mental fitness journey.
Coa is one-of-a-kind. We’re the first company to design a therapist-led “mental fitness workout” class that teaches you core skills like resilience, self-awareness, and communication.
Who is Coa for?
Our vision is to be the first line of defence for proactive mental health with classes catering to and segmented for every life stage. Parents, college students, athletes, teens, and new couples (imagine taking emotional fitness classes as part of your pre-wedding to-dos!). We’re building a more mentally healthy world by arming people with the skills needed to feel their best and get through life’s inevitable challenges.
You’ve garnered the attention of some pretty high-profile backers, why do you think that is?
Many of the investors we spoke to resonated with the problem we’re solving, either through their personal experience or that of a loved one.
We’re living in a new era where our mental wellbeing is an important part of how we show up: at work and in our personal relationships. With stress as a leading health concern, people are actively seeking solutions to live and feel better.
Our investors loved our unique approach of combining the group model with quality therapist-led care, and believe in our path to destigmatise the practice of working on your mental health by framing it as a daily or weekly regimen, just like physical fitness.
How does Coa cater to the real-time and relevant needs of individuals?
Our programming meets people where they are by offering support in a few different ways. The foundation of the curriculum, the 7 Traits of Emotional Fitness, is based on the idea that you can teach people skills that can later be built upon for specific needs of the moment. This means that our classes can be easily modified based on the challenges that are top of mind.
In the early days of COVID that meant adding classes for living alone, managing the stress of the pandemic, or finding ways to process racial injustice and become a better ally. One of my favourite stories is from the beginning of the pandemic, where two women who attended our “living solo during a pandemic” class stayed in touch and continue to be friends today. And in the year ahead, we’ll continue to build on the core curriculum to address the real-time needs of our community.
And what about the role of community, how does Coa tap into that?
Loneliness is one of the top contributors to poor mental health, with Millenials and
Gen Z reporting dramatic increases in feelings of loneliness. That’s why community was a major focus when we opened our digital studio and launched our 8-week series. Each class is 85-minutes long and follows a proprietary “learn, exercise, discuss” method that involves a number of breakout sessions where participants get to work 1-1 with someone else in the class.
It builds rapport, accountability, and a sense of togetherness that helps people along their mental fitness journey while reinforcing the most important thing: we are not alone.
We know that working on yourself isn’t always easy but it can be more enjoyable when others are doing the work too.
What does the Coa customer journey look like?
Many people start by signing up for an Intro to Emotional Fitness class. From there, they choose which series they want to join: leadership or mental wellness. In addition to the live classes, they’re given tools, worksheets and frameworks they can use to practice what they’ve learned in class and apply it to their own life.
After the series, they can jump into more live classes on specific issues like burnout, imposter syndrome and anxiety to deepen their practice and stay connected with the community.
We also have 1:1 therapy. Many of our class goers decide to jump into deeper individualised work alongside their classes.
What does the future hold for Coa and the mental fitness movement?
I believe the mental fitness movement will be as big or bigger than the physical fitness movement.
There is Nike for physical fitness, and Coa will be the go-to brand for mental health. Whether you’re going through a breakup, working on your self-awareness, or are entering into a stressful leadership position for the first time, Coa will have a class and community for you.
In addition to our online offering and community, we will also have physical “gyms for mental health” to serve as a home base for in-person therapy, classes and community in every major city around the world.
We’re building a home for mental health, where everyone has access to the skills, support, and community to live and feel their best. Our hope is that as a result of our mental fitness movement, we’ll see rates of depression, stress and anxiety decline dramatically, resulting in a more mentally healthy world.