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Season 8
Episode 4
Duration 32:33
Hafeezah Muhammad

Rallying Support – Hafeezah Muhammad and Backpack Healthcare

When Hafeezah's son approached her with a mental health crisis, she struggled to find care for him. Formerly an executive in a large mental health company, she often got calls from Medicaid parents like herself, searching for pediatric mental health care. A mother of three, she quit her job and founded a digital health company focusing on pediatric mental health, especially for children of color. Today Backpack Healthcare offers a first of its kind certification program for pediatric mental health counseling, a network for certified counselors, and a gamification app. On National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, Backpack announced that they've raised $9M in venture capital to expand their reach. Hafeezah discusses the surprises along the way, and how she plans to reach more people more effectively with humans at the forefront and AI in the background.


Teresa Chahine: Welcome back, everyone. We have a very special guest today, Hafeezah Muhammad, who came in from Maryland, from the D.C. area, to talk to our students. And it’s a very special occasion also because a while back you celebrated your three-year anniversary at Backpack Health, which you founded in 2021, I’m guessing.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yes.

Teresa Chahine: And finished raising Series A. So recently you raised $9 million, so congratulations on all these milestones.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Thank you so much.

Teresa Chahine: I’m so excited to discuss lots of aspects of your work. So I want to ask first, if you can just share with us the basic tenets of what Backpack Health does, your startup, and also how it all started.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. And I started Backpack in 2021 from a personal story. In October of 2020, my son, who was six, came to me and told me that he wanted to kill himself. My heart broke. I didn’t see it coming, and I struggled to find care because of his disability. My son is on Medicaid, and at the time I was an executive for a large mental health company, and we had thousands of therapists. And as I kept looking for care, I saw there was data that were thousands of family calling in, looking for care for those kids, for their kids. And I said, “I can’t move forward anymore. I need to make a difference.”

And I left and I started Backpack Healthcare. So we are a pediatric virtual clinic for mental health. We provide therapy, psychiatry, and we also have an app that helps kids through bibliotherapy to help them have sessions and be able to get education throughout their sessions to help them improve their mental health. And that’s Backpack Healthcare.

Teresa Chahine: That’s a lot.

Hafeezah Muhammad: It’s a lot.

Teresa Chahine: First of all, thank you for sharing, because a lot of entrepreneurs come and they talk about the technical aspects of their jobs and their success and their challenges, but they also, they don’t often talk about themselves as a person and their lived experience, and everyone’s walking around carrying everything they have to go through and everything they have to deal with on top of the stresses of a startup. So I really appreciate that and you sharing your full true self with us.

And that also ties so closely to why you’re doing this and why you’re the right person to be doing this and why people should be investing in you, so I really appreciate that.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, thank you so much. And you’re right, people carry on a lot, and that’s the concept of Backpack. Our job is to help lighten the load. Everyone carries around an emotional backpack. I like to say it’s invisible, and no one knows what’s in someone’s backpack, but backpack is something that we can put tools in, we can take stresses out, and help people lighten their load.

Teresa Chahine: I wish we could see what was in different people’s backpack.

Hafeezah Muhammad: I know. That would be amazing.

Teresa Chahine: And maybe we can. I’m just going to go a little bit for one second, okay?

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah.

Teresa Chahine: But it’s not actually off-topic. But my teaching assistant from the fall semester gifted me a book called All About Love by bell hooks, who used to be a professor here at Yale. And bell hooks talked about how the root cause of a lot of the problems we face today, which social entrepreneurs are working on solving, is that we as a society have lost the ability to love as a society. And how this is the root cause of a lot of the isolation, mental health challenges that a lot of people feel. And it plays out in big moments like the pandemic, when this all started.

And the reason I bring that up is because as I was reading the book, I don’t know what made me think this, but I found myself wondering, what if instead of putting all this work into healing, because everyone’s on a “healing journey,” but maybe healing doesn’t necessarily mean stitching up your wounds and making them invisible and closing them. Maybe the work is to actually, maybe “healing” is to be able to walk around with our wounds wide open. I don’t know what made me think this, but it kind of is like, “What if we could let each other see what’s in our backpacks? And what if we could learn to see what’s in other people’s backpacks?” And not let that be mutually exclusive from doing work and making money, but just being able to see the whole person and work with the whole person.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, I agree with that because there’s a lot of stigma around mental health and people are afraid to speak up, people are afraid to talk about their struggles. And if we’re able to let people be themselves, we can help each other. And through love. If you love your neighbor or you love your person, you want the best for them, you want to support them, but also respect them, respect that people do go through certain things. Like Confucius say, “Respect is the foundation of a healthy society.” And if we can respect and love people, then we can help each other overcome everything, and no one ever have to feel like they’re alone. And it’s a very lonely world, even though we have so many people around us, so many access to tech, so many access to resources, but it’s still very lonely.

Teresa Chahine: Yeah. And this year, so I come up from a public health background, the theme of the annual American Public Health Association conference this year was loneliness. It is one of the most pressing epidemics that we’re facing today. I have talked about it in the past few episodes. Like for example, the physiological effect of loneliness can be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Someone made that calculation somehow, I don’t know how, but it has physiological consequences and health consequences on top of the societal consequences. So I totally agree with you.

And what gives me confidence to talk about these things is that you are a venture-backed entrepreneur that just made $9 million. So it’s not like, oh, people are gonna look at us and say, “Look at these wishy-washy softie people talking about love.” It’s like they can’t really say anything because you just did this huge raise. And so I don’t know, it’s an opportunity to lead by example and invite people to just put their full true selves out there. So thanks for doing that.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing. Wow. When I started this company in the beginning, I struggled to raise funding for those same reason, people think that social impact equals charitable organization. And I like to say instead of saying “social impact,” “altruistic capitalism”—how do we do good and make money by doing good? And I feel like that’s where the gap is.

I was really surprised that Warren Buffett recently spoke about the impacts of loneliness and suicide ideation and how it impacts one of his businesses, the real-world businesses where people are committing suicide every day. And because we need to address the true societal issues. So you can see where loneliness, mental health, suicidal ideation, is making it towards into Wall Street conversations because of the impact it has on society today. So even though it took us three years to be able to get significant funding, it just goes to show that it’s a need that’s there and it’s more than social impact. It’s about doing good and making money by doing good as well.

Teresa Chahine: Yeah. And also removing the taboo and the shame off the individual that there’s something wrong with them, but also recognizing that we as a society have failed them. And Backpack Health is changing that.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, absolutely. You are you, not your condition.

Teresa Chahine: Yeah, exactly. I have a follow-up question before I ask you about funding. You mentioned something, a lot of the terms you used, our listeners will be familiar with them, like “virtual clinic,” “telehealth,” all these things. You also mentioned something you have called bibliotherapy. What is that? Is that the books in your backpack in terms of “biblio,” like books?

Hafeezah Muhammad: So bibliotherapy, I’ll take a little step back.

Teresa Chahine: Okay.

Hafeezah Muhammad: So as I was building Backpack, I think I taught about the massive impact mental health has on you and how it was impacting children, not only in the U.S. but across the world, and what solutions were there where we can reach every child in the world and in the U.S.? Because at the time there was a lot of talk about the therapist shortage. So doing some research, I found the very first therapy out there, this type of therapy was bibliotherapy, which is clinical interactive stories to help patients process their feelings as if they were a therapist.

Teresa Chahine: Okay.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Is the first therapy ever created. And as I reflected, I was like, “Well, if we write these books, it’s actually a modality”—a modality is a type of treatment to help get people better, and is the one that’s scalable, that can be translated in multiple languages and it can reach the world. And that’s the reason why we selected it to be in our app so that it can reach more children and more families across the world.

Teresa Chahine: So bibliotherapy means that the person themself can process their feelings through these—

Hafeezah Muhammad: Narratives, books.

Teresa Chahine: ... through these stories, and then it’s like they are their own therapy. Are people around the world able to access this? I’m from Lebanon and my best friend’s son, is he able to access this?

Hafeezah Muhammad: The app is downloaded anywhere, so we can have download anywhere. So if they want to download it. Right now it’s in English, but we’re working to translate it into top 10 languages in the world. Our first module was anxiety, which is the most prevalent disorder today. And then we have depression; that’s coming up soon. So we have about 12 models that’s written. Right now, we go through a process where we’d go through illustration, animation to be able to put it in there. So it’s a process, but we have Hollywood writers from the strike who writes for Nickelodeon and they write with our clinical writers to make it fun and engaging.

Teresa Chahine: That is so cool.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah. I know, right?

Teresa Chahine: Oh, my gosh. Okay, excellent. So anyone can download this app and use bibliotherapy.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Anyone can download it. Yes.

Teresa Chahine: Okay. So thanks for that background. So now I want to get to the part I was really excited to ask you about. How on earth did you raise $9 million in the current climate? Tell us about the synergies that happened that allowed the money to flow and also any challenges you faced.

Hafeezah Muhammad: So I’m a first-time funder, and I look back at my first pitch deck; it was horrible by the way, so probably that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t get any funding. But it was really horrible. And as I looked, everything I said that I wanted to do on that first pitch deck, 90% of it we accomplished. So what happened is that as time went by, as a first-time funder, I think people took notice that we were doing what we’d say we were going to do. We were capital-efficient where we were not able to raise significant amount of capital, and then we were able to maintain, where some startups who raised a lot of money in times when we couldn’t raise, we are still alive.

And I see that when you start to show that you can stay alive in difficult times, without capital, it makes it easier when times go bad, you become a company where people can see that can sustain itself and just a little bit of capital or a lot, I guess, can fuel you to the next level. And I feel that that’s one of the reasons why we were successful is that we weathered a storm of time with not much funding.

Teresa Chahine: You started at a really difficult time, like coming right out of the pandemic. And even now, all my students are really worried about getting jobs in this economy and everything. So you’ve clearly been able to navigate it in a positive way.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah. So when you think about the mental health crisis and the patient population that we serve, we focus on children on Medicaid. And when you think about taking care of children on Medicaid, the federal government covers 100% of their mental health care, so they pay no out of pocket for their care. But there’s 40-plus million children on Medicaid. So when you think about the massive market and that many competitors service in this population, you can build a strong business because of just the need that’s out there. And the government funding, it’s guaranteed, which is a little bit different than sometimes if you had to pay out of pocket as a mom. So those are some things that kept us going is that the patient population that we service and the stickability of knowing that there’s just so many of them, unfortunately, that need help.

Teresa Chahine: And we’re releasing this episode during National Children’s Mental Health Week, which is aiming to raise awareness about children’s mental health, which I think it’s not an area that people focus in. Even when you’re training therapists, a lot of them are not trained in pediatric mental health.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, that’s correct. And it’s something that really needs to change because when you think about the children’s mental health, more than 60% of mental health issues start before age 14, and 75% by the time you’re age 26. When you see that there’s so many mental health professionals focused on adult population, it’s primarily because it was not treated when there were children. And it’s just an escalating thing. And that’s why my personal story says that a lot of parents I’ve spoken to now have been able to share, almost all of them have told me one of their children has said that or had that type of feeling, or they’re struggling with their children’s mental health, but they’re afraid to talk about it because they don’t know where to go.

And that’s why it’s really critical that Children’s Mental Health Week should be the biggest week, because hunger. It’s like people know when a child is hungry, people know about hunger, but children’s mental health is a big deal.

Teresa Chahine: It’s so much easier to talk about helping someone get a meal than about helping them address mental health needs.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Exactly. Because you can sometimes physically see when someone is, they’re starving or they’re hungry, but you can’t see mental illness or the struggles that they’re feeling.

Teresa Chahine: Yeah. So how are you able to convey this to, so you mentioned that you weren’t a naturally gifted pitcher, which is fine, most entrepreneurs don’t get training in pitching. So how are you able to convey the need and the opportunity to funders? How did you eventually win people over?

Hafeezah Muhammad: I feel the consistency of being able to craft the story, and also learning about what make investors excited, what makes them open their why to exist to help them support you. And I feel that I was able, as time went by, I got better at it because just like anything that when you learn something new, like riding a bike, you fall quite a bit. And I fell a lot, and I got back up. And I think that’s the difference is that every time you fall down, which I fell a lot of times, I have a lot of bruises right now from being a funder over the last three years, that no one can see the scars on the inside, on my elbows, my knees, everywhere, that I just kept going. And if you keep going, once you don’t give up, you’re going to find a way because it’s just a relentlessness, and you get better.

Understanding that you’re not good at something, but you need to be better because there’s a life on the line if I don’t get better at it. And that was my mindset.

Teresa Chahine: So it sounds like you faced a lot of challenges in terms of it was a long road to funding. Tell us, were there any moments that were turning points where you felt like, “Okay, I’ve reached the tipping point where now the doors are opening to receive this funding”?

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah. So I will say that there were multiple times where at different stages there are different doors that open. So I got my first angel, so there’s angel investors who invest smaller check. My first angel check was $10,000. Even though it seemed like it was small, I was able to meet payroll with that small check in my first year. And those continue, those are doors that you don’t really see as opening, but those little doors were the ones that opened for me to continue going.

Then a month later I got a second angel check, which was $10,000; that kept the payroll going. So there were very small, impactful people, and I’ll come around to tell you a story later on when we get to my team about that first angel check and how that came around. But as time went by, a fund out of California called Hopelab, they focus on mental health for children and youth mental health. And at the time we were not ready to be invested in; however, they had an entrepreneurial fellow and they gave me $40,000 to be a part of this fellowship. And I was excited because that $40,000 I used to develop bibliotherapy.

Teresa Chahine: Oh, I love that.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Set the foundation. So that was the first more-than-$10,000-or-$20,000 check. And then at the same time there was a program called headstream. It’s an incubation company that’s supported by Melinda Gates that focuses on new mental health.

Teresa Chahine: Oh, cool.

Hafeezah Muhammad: And they gave me about $50,000. And at that time I combined that money, and I was like, “Well, if this was a big investor check that’s around $90K,” I was able to combine that fund in to be able to build a prototype for our technology—

Teresa Chahine: To build the tech.

Hafeezah Muhammad: And I think those were our turning points is that we were not truly tech-enabled. We had an EHR system that we was leveraging, but it started a turning point of being tech-enabled through capital to get us to where we continue to be at where we’re at today.

Teresa Chahine: A lot of entrepreneurs, especially entrepreneurs of color and women, say that one of the things that’s working against them is that they may not have the network that other entrepreneurs have in terms of people like them who are running venture capital funds. What enabled you to build your network? Because I know that played a huge role, ultimately, in your fundraising.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah. So most people don’t know I’m an introvert. Everyone thinks I’m an extrovert.

Teresa Chahine: You present as an extrovert.

Hafeezah Muhammad: I know. I’m definitely an introvert. So I said, “I’m going to go into this world, and I don’t know anyone. My network is so small, I am not really connected to any high network or any wealthy individuals.” So when I left my company, I joined a program called Chief. So it’s a program for female executives that… it was more of like a startup, but they were doing really well. And I said, “What I’m going to do is say yes to everything. Anything that comes up, I’m just going to show up and just put myself out there.” Of course, 20 minutes before I’m having a panic attack, getting ready to go out there. And I just showed up.

And the second thing I really feel that helped me was there was a female program that helped with individuals in venture called The Fourth Floor. And I went to one of their shows, I met someone and they said, “Hey, does anyone want to lead a focus group or a conversation around mental health?” And I was like, “Yes, I’ll do it.” I was terrified, by the way, because I had never done that.

Teresa Chahine: But you were in the yes already.

Hafeezah Muhammad: I was in the yes. So I was like, “I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it.” I ended up getting a free membership to that program because I did it. I had no money at the time. And there is where I’ve met my first angel investor because I said yes.

Teresa Chahine: It all comes together.

Hafeezah Muhammad: It comes together. So being open, taking risk, and saying yes, you’re going to get rejected nine out of 10 times, maybe nine and a half out of the 10, but it’s just that one yes that you know will do.

Teresa Chahine: And I know that you recently shared a press release about your Series A and who the funders were, and most people don’t have access to and only dream of getting funding from them. Can you share a little bit more about how that happened?

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, so being in the right place at the right time of saying yes, I’m going to take back to that. So I was at a behavioral health conference, and they asked me to speak on youth mental health and I was like, “Yes.”

Teresa Chahine: There’s only one answer.

Hafeezah Muhammad: And there’s only one answer. I was like, “Yes.” And after the conference, someone who was at the conference connected me with this one guy and they said, “Hey, you should meet Backpack. They’re a really good company. You should get to know them in the mental health field” and so forth. His name was Charlie. And I was like, “Okay.” We connected, we spoke, we had a follow-up conversation. I had no clue who this guy was. And it turned out that he was a part of a collective of high-net individuals that get together and invest in mental health. And as they did due diligence, was checking the background of Backpack and our company, this is how we got some of those investors to invest in our company.

So I’m very grateful of saying the word yes and being able to put myself out there in a panel to be vulnerable, to be transparent. I’m not afraid to share about my weaknesses because I feel that everyone focuses so much on their strengths, and it makes it feel that there’s a sense of perfection where we’re not perfect, we’re so imperfect, and I just wanted to be myself and say, “I know what I’m good at, but I know what I’m bad at, but I’m not afraid to share my imperfections.”

Teresa Chahine: And mental health is something that touches everyone. I think people are afraid to talk about it, but the fact that this collective of high-net-worth individuals had come together around mental health to invest in it. Also, I would love to hear their origin stories in terms of what got them to connect around this topic, probably because they or someone they love have been affected by mental health as well.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s something that I’m really grateful for that. It’s a global issue, it’s probably one of the biggest global issues right now of our times because it’s one that you don’t see, but it affects everyone no matter where you’re at. And the fact that people are utilizing their voice and their resources to help with this issue is remarkable.

Teresa Chahine: Yeah. Also, I remember you mentioned a lot of your investors were next-gen in the sense that their parents built wealth and they’re investing it and they’re looking to invest in socially impactful startups. And I feel like that gives me a lot of hope for the future in the sense that the next generation of philanthropists and investors is specifically looking to disrupt the status quo. And it might’ve been their parents that created the status quo, like the way things are today, but they’re looking to shift away from it. And I love that you were able to tap into that. I think it’s huge, also.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, I would say I’m very grateful for the people who are supporting me and supporting Backpack. And I feel really proud of our new generation because we really want to make a difference. We really want to make impact in so many ways, and I want us to continue to get better, become brighter so that we can make long-lasting change.

Teresa Chahine: I want to ask you about your team as well, because I think you have such a unique team. I got to meet one of them who came with you today who’s a licensed clinical social worker. That’s the clinical head of the team. And I think you run, there’s 47 therapists now, and a chief of staff, and an admin, and an executive team. And it sounds like you’re able to find the people that can help you build this, can share your vision, and also that you’re invested in them growing within Backpack. Can you tell us a little bit more about your approach for building your team? Because they built all this. The funders wouldn’t have come unless they built it.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah. So there’s some things that I look for is that everyone has had a career in my team. So my chief technology officer was an executive at Meta. Over all the things, you know them for Facebook and—

Teresa Chahine: Oh, you said you were going to share about that first check.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, he was my first angel investor.

Teresa Chahine: And then you actually got him to leave his job and come work for you?

Hafeezah Muhammad: He came to work full-time.

Teresa Chahine: Okay, so now you’re paying him, actually.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Now we were paying him. Definitely not like how much he was making at Meta, but at least he enjoys the work because he’s using tech for good, which is really exciting to see that. And some things I look for is that individuals who want to do good in the world, that are smart, that are innovative. And sometimes if you work for a corporation, well a lot of times, not just sometimes, there’s a lot of bureaucracy, there’s a lot of red tape, which can stifle innovation. And if you can find those gems who work in those environments and you can connect them with a mission, the sky is the limit because they don’t have the red tape to tell them that you can’t do this. The thing is like, “Let’s try it. If we fail, we’ll move on.”

Teresa Chahine: And people want to make a difference. Just like going back to your investors and going back to people who work in tech at Meta, they’re looking for a place where they can make a difference. I think Meta, I don’t know, maybe it started off as wanting to shift the status quo, but now it’s just seen as big tech. It’s propagating the status quo. So I can see how someone would want to leave there and come work for you and build something new.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah. And I feel that a lot of people, like mission-oriented people are older looking for their “why” like, “Why do you exist?” Because in times, money allows you to feed your family, but what brings you joy and happiness sometimes if you can find a balance of, “I can make money and be happy at the same time doing what I love,” is what wakes people up in the morning and get them excited.

Teresa Chahine: I’m seeing a pattern where you’re investing in your people, and that has allowed you to reach a place where people are investing in you.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, I feel that I only hire people who can be my replacements.

Teresa Chahine: That is rare. I think a lot of founders would be would be threatened if people want to rise and grow in the company.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Oh, no. I look around and I’m like, “Can they replace me? Can they be the CEO? Are they better than me?” And if the answer is yes, they’re going to get hired because I want to surround myself up with smart people who I know for sure in their previous roles possibly had bureaucracy, they had red tape that could have stifled them for being the best that they can be. And I want to take that away and give them the environment to be able to shine and to grow and be their best self.

Teresa Chahine: So now as you grow, now that you’ve got your funding and you’re probably going to scale in a big way, how do you keep that culture and how do you avoid bureaucracy starting in your organization?

Hafeezah Muhammad: So I feel that what’s really critical is a foundation that you set. It’s so much easier to build a strong culture than to repair a broken one. So a part of things that we do is that it is in our values of innovation. You don’t say no first. You ask, “How can we do it?” It is not about, “Oh, it can’t be done.” It’s about, “How can it be done?” And I think that equally, we do leadership training. So anyone that comes into the company, no matter what you do, you go through leadership training about what it’s like being a leader. But once you hire people who’s leading and guiding the organization to not have bureaucracy, it allows it to go and it goes down to the front lines because they would bring in people who don’t want to work and have bureaucracy and they’ll kind of fuel what the culture should be.

Teresa Chahine: Yeah, the culture attracts the people who are looking for that space where they can innovate and grow. You said something about how you get irritated when people ask you for permission.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Oh, it literally irritates me more than anything else because then I feel that my why is being threatened like, “You know what? You want to try something, if it fails, it fails.” Like at Backpack, I tell everyone, “Go fail, fail fast. It’s okay.” Because you only learn from your failures. You really don’t learn from when you’re doing well. You learn when you fail.

Teresa Chahine: So now that you’re growing, as you’re kind of maturing as an organization, post–Series A, that’s a milestone that’s seen, I think for startups. And I think what I am seeing that will help you succeed is that you want to stay young and fresh and in that mindset that young startups stay in like, “Fail fast, keep learning, innovate, disrupt.”

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, absolutely. And I think coming from a very large corporation—

Teresa Chahine: You used to work at Verizon, right?

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yeah, I used to work at Verizon. So I started Verizon when it was a hundred-million-dollar company and I left it at hundred-billion-dollar company. So essentially it was a startup, but a startup on steroids. So I see as time went by how things changed, and it became how different it was early versus later. And those are the things I think about every day. As we grow and we scale like, “How do we ensure that we keep the innovation defined at a large scale?” And I feel like it all starts from the top, as always.

Teresa Chahine: And you’re recruiting people from Verizon, from Meta, from of these big established organizations and just letting them play and unleash their genius, I think.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Oh, yeah. It’s been incredible because first, to get to those point into those rooms, you have to have some sense of genius.

Teresa Chahine: So in terms of extracting some themes of what I’m learning from you and kind of like packaging it for readers who are interested in learning some of the success factors, I think what I’m hearing is sharing your story and your why and leading with that and being your full, true self has worked for you. I think a lot of people worry that they don’t, especially when they don’t look like the typical successful entrepreneur. And for you, you’ve been true to yourself, and it’s worked for you, and you’ve built a team where you’ve allowed other people to do that as well. And you actively want them to grow in a way that one day one of them will dethrone you, you want them to do that and to challenge you and to challenge the status quo.

And three, finding like-minded people who get your mission and who care about pediatric mental health and who are also looking to disrupt to be those funders. Is there anything else that you would add?

Hafeezah Muhammad: No, I think you nailed it. That’s what I look at.

Teresa Chahine: Those were some of the things that really stood out to me from our conversations.

Hafeezah Muhammad: You nailed it. Thank you.

Teresa Chahine: What is next for you? What are you most excited about at this phase now that you’re at this turning point of your three-year anniversary and your Series A $9 million fundraising?

Hafeezah Muhammad: What I’m more excited about is more kids are going to get help that they need because Backpack exists and that we can help more kids at scale. And that’s what I’m more excited about because this is our why—why we started, why we exist—and I get to continue living my why. For the first time in my life, I’m not going to age myself, but I’m in my forties, right?

Teresa Chahine: Ditto.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Ditto. And I’ve finally found my happiness and my why to exist. And now I get to live in that for a longer period of time.

Teresa Chahine: And in doing that, helping others, helping the customers and their families find their happiness.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Yes, there’s nothing more remarkable than a mom or a dad or grandma who’s overseeing kids and they’re like, “Thank you. My child is doing so much better.” And that brings me joy because one thing no one wants to see is children in pain.

Teresa Chahine: Thank you, Hafeezah. I’ll end on that note. Thank you for you and for all that you do.

Hafeezah Muhammad: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.