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Elain Younn became an entrepreneur by accident, and it’s something that she’s since made a habit of doing.
Before setting up her therapy and wellness platform, SoulAdvisor in 2020, Ms Younn had started four other businesses. Each one brought to existence as a result of a problem that she had to solve.
SoulAdvisor founder Elain Younn became a global entrepreneur by accident.
In 1997, Cambodia-born Ms Younn had just returned to her homeland from Sydney and had her first child, but found there were very few good schools available.
So, she started her own. “From 2003, I started a kindergarten with 16 children, and after a year we had 100,” Ms Younn told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
She added a grade every year her child grew older. The kindergarten quickly grew to a primary and then a high school. It eventually became one of the top three schools in the area.
Then Ms Younn got stuck into property development, and built a luxury apartment block that serviced predominantly affluent clients. In 2011, her love of singing led her to create a not-for-profit organisation designed to give children and local communities a safe environment to sing, after observing that Cambodian school curriculums did not encourage the arts or extracurriculars. Two years later, Ms Younn was unexpectedly handed the keys to BraveHearts Program, a centre for children with special needs.
“It’s important to do something that is from your heart, that you’re passionate about. I think, then, everything works out well. It becomes effortless,” she said. “That’s always been my philosophy … you don’t have to try so hard and struggle. If it was meant to be, it should be effortless.”
The idea for SoulAdvisor came to her fully formed after she signed up to a two-week sound healing practitioners’ retreat in Bali in 2014, having mistaken it as a two-week retreat for consumers.
“I thought it was Bali – you know, I like Bali,” Ms Younn said. “I joined and then realised later that it was a one-year practitioner’s course.” She ended up completing the entire year. “‘Okay, well, it’s too late now,’” she told herself at the time. “I’ll just go with what the universe has sent me.”
Over the two weeks, Ms Younn got to know her fellow practitioners, and their hopes and dreams. “There was always anxiety around livelihood as a practitioner.” If they didn’t get enough clients, they struggled to pay rent. “I realised they’re not very business savvy or IT-savvy, or how to do marketing … how would [anyone] know about these practitioners?”
“I felt compelled to try and create a way to bring this community of practitioners to the world.”
At the same time, Ms Younn was immensely enjoying being on the other side of the therapist’s table. The qualified practitioner’s love for wellness comes from her experiences of therapy she sought to heal the trauma of escaping the Khmer Rouge regime when she was five years old. Ms Younn and her family spent two years in a refugee camp before settling in Australia.
“Personally, I needed a lot of healing in my life to deal with all the things that happened to me. I’ve always been drawn to complementary therapy.” She names sound healing, voice movement and reiki therapies as having had the greatest impact on her. “So it’s through my own healing journey that I experienced the difference it makes in my life.“
SoulAdvisor was her first foray into creating a purely digital platform. She made multiple attempts to engage various web design agencies, but none of them were building quite what she had in mind. In the end, she decided to hire a team of web designers to build the platform from scratch.
The startup is now a multimillion-dollar business with a team of 12, and is as true to the 52-year-old’s vision today as what she had from the very beginning: a website that allows you to find practitioners from dozens and dozens of different therapy types (there are 17 different types of yoga alone), according to your location, or even your symptoms.
“If you have a headache, you just type in the symptom, and a list of practitioners offering therpaies that can assist you with those symptoms show up,” she said.
When the pandemic hit and everyone’s mental health plummeted, SoulAdvisor was up for the challenge; three quarters of the practitioners of the platform offer online services. A relatively new player in the $2.14 trillion global wellness industry, Ms Younn has set her sights on expanding into the US and the UK in the next 12 months – but with an unrelenting global purpose in mind.
“I would like that as many people as possible will be able to nourish themselves, and heal the world.”
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