You may recognize Yunha Kim ’07 from her appearance on Season 9 of Shark Tank in October 2017. Or perhaps you saw her listed on Forbes Magazine's 2017 30 Under 30: Consumer Technology. Maybe you read about her newest company, Simple Habit, in The New York Times. But only a lucky few at OES can say “I knew her when . . .”
Bonnie Brennan, current OES Admissions Associate for Middle School and former Dorm Parent, remembers Kim from her time in the dorms: “Yunha had a can-do attitude. She brought positive energy to everything she did, from mock fire drills to “Pump it Up”; from our annual Intercultural Retreat at Menucha to look at identity and make masks, to all-dorm trips to the local ice rink. Her response was always, ‘Let’s go!’”
What are you currently working on professionally?
I’m founder and CEO of Simple Habit, working to build Simple Habit into your go-to mental health and wellness platform.
What has your path been from OES to where you are now?
I went to Duke for undergrad. After graduating, I moved to New York where I took my first job as an investment banker on Wall Street. I started my first company, Locket, shortly after. When I sold Locket, I moved to California to attend Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB). The stress of building my first startup led me to build a meditation habit. While attending GSB, the idea came to me to build the "Spotify of meditation." I used my own savings to bootstrap the project. When I saw the business model was successful, I dropped out of grad school to focus full-time on building Simple Habit. Simple Habit went through Y Combinator in April 2016 and is now backed by YC, NEA, and prominent investors like CEOs of Dropbox and Gusto.
How has OES played a role in your approach to learning and work, and what do you carry with you from OES today?
I was 14 when I left home in Korea to join the boarding school program at OES. Being away from family at such a young age was very difficult, but I learned a lot through that process and got a lot of support and guidance from school and faculty. I learned how to work hard, and how to be proactive in planning my future. But of all the impact OES had on me, I'm most grateful for the lifelong friends I've made at OES. I roomed with Qingyuan Ma ’07 for two to three years and she's my best friend to this day.
Simple Habit is a great success. What do you attribute that to?
A strong team that is also passionate about meditation and mental health. Our commitment to being data-driven.
Meditation and mindfulness are gaining popularity. Here at OES, Pre-K students are learning mindfulness techniques and the athletics program has formed over a dozen Basketball and Mindfulness teams to meet student demand. What makes that important today?
That’s awesome! Meditation and mindfulness can benefit any person at any time in life. Science shows meditation can help people reduce stress, improve focus, sleep better, boost energy and creativity, strengthen relationships, plus more. Students are more stressed than ever before. Meditation is a great resource to help young people learn not only to better manage stress but also to cope with any life challenge, like studying for a big school exam, dealing with family stress, dealing with failure (like not getting into a certain school or making a certain team), big life changes like moving to college, or not being able to sleep. Luckily, Simple Habit offers meditations for all of those situations, plus more!
What role does meditation play in your life?
Meditation has transformed my life. As a CEO, friend, and daughter, I am more focused, more compassionate, and more energized than I’ve ever been. Meditation helps me think clearly and respond to problems with better solutions. Therapists and exercise are amazing resources for managing stress, but they’re time-intensive and can be expensive. For me, meditation is a more accessible resource for my mental health. Contrary to what many people think, you don’t have to sit for 30 minutes with your eyes closed to meditate. I meditate wherever and whenever I have a spare one to five minutes—before a meeting, in a Lyft on my way to an investor pitch, on my walk home from work—and yes, we have meditations for all of these! This allows me to take advantage of the downtime to reset mentally and physically.
Where do you and Simple Habit go from here?
We continue to grow to help millions of people improve mental health, reduce stress, and feel happier.
What advice do you have for current students interested in entrepreneurship?
If you have an idea you are passionate about, you should pursue it to the best of your ability.
What advice would you give young alumni on finding balance and satisfaction in their work and life?
Self-care is critical. Meditation, seeing a therapist, taking a bath, going for a run. You will work long days, and stress is inevitable, so it’s important to take a little time each day to step away, breathe, and reset. I learned this the hard way with my first startup when I experienced burnout. Now, I meditate at least once every day. As a boss, leader, and team member, I am more alert, focused, and equipped to handle the hundreds of unexpected things that happen at a startup. Learn to prioritize and check in with yourself and how you're feeling. Find the right tools that work for you.
You can learn more about Kim’s current venture, Simple Habit, at simplehabit.com.