Mindfulness and Mental Health Innovation with Livia Han

Introducing the Startup Women Advocacy Network 2023

Two years ago, we created the Startup Women Advocacy Network (SWAN), a network of 11 early stage, woman-identifying founders from each province and territory to champion the needs of women entrepreneurs across the country. 

SWAN members have the opportunity to amplify their business across our platforms, are given a seat at important government roundtables aimed at policy creation and decision-making, and are invited to be speakers and panelists at key entrepreneurial events such as Startup Canada Tour to showcase their stories.

This is just the beginning. The hope behind SWAN is to create an ever-growing network of champions in each Canadian province and territory to ultimately increase the visibility and voices of early-stage, woman-identifying entrepreneurs.

In the spirit of amplifying women entrepreneurs, we sat down with each of our SWAN members to learn more about their founder journeys. Our fifth interview is with Livia Han, Founder of Compass, from Ontario.

Meet Livia Han, our SWAN Member from Ontario

Livia is dedicated to reshaping health discussions by integrating ancient wisdom, modern science, and accessible language. Livia is a mindfulness advocate, she enjoys nature, travel, and runs the inspirational podcast “Liv to Share.” Liv is also the Co-Founder of Compass, a holistic mental health platform for institutions to seamlessly connect students to resources on and off campus in a personalized way. Compass’s personalized assessment tool was developed alongside clinical psychologists and has helped thousands of students learn about new mental health resources and connect with personalized mental health support.

We’d love to learn a little bit about your entrepreneurial journey toward founding Compass.

In my last year of university, our campus tragically lost five students to suicide. Since then, we’ve been on a mission to connect young people to preventative and holistic mental health support.

My background comes from working on corporate innovation with Fortune 500 companies in Shanghai, China. Here, I got first-hand experience in learning how to innovate in large, traditional corporations.

After experiencing the energy of possibility that exists within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, I knew I wanted more of that. I wanted to be around people who truly believed that they could be the change they wished to see in the world, and I trusted that I could learn what I needed to and figure it out. 

What has been the most challenging obstacle for you in starting your business? And how did you overcome it?

I believe that the most challenging obstacle in starting a business is honing your voice and learning to trust your intuition. There are countless opinions, advice, and learnings out there, which is amazing, and there is so much to learn from people who have walked before you. 

However, the more you hear stories, the more you realize that everyone’s path is truly unique. To learn to stand on your own, to be ok not to have people agree with you, and to trust your intuition is essential. I’m lucky that I have mentors in my life who have been a constant reminder of that for me.Second to that would be the discipline. From what I’ve witnessed so far, hard work really does beat talent. The discipline to show up every day and keep pushing forward, every moment compounds.

What brings you the most joy or excitement in working in your business?

There are so many things that light me up at work. I love working with our team and seeing how connected they feel with our mission. It’s amazing that we get to wake up every day knowing our priority is to help others. I love having conversations with the people we get to serve and understanding their unique needs and problems and solving them for them. I love getting to connect with industry experts who are so open to sharing their wisdom in the space to help us succeed.

What advice do you have for someone looking to inject more wellness into their day-to-day lives?

My advice is to practice self-compassion. There’s a famous Buddhist story called The Second Arrow of Suffering that has always resonated with me.

When something painful or “negative” happens to us, we get struck with the first arrow that represents the pain – the actual physical pain – and then we get struck with the second arrow which represents what we call “suffering.” Pain is something that’s inevitable as we all experience it, but suffering is something that we actually create. To create suffering takes a lot of energy. Energy that could be directed somewhere more productive.

What I’m trying to say is, be kind to yourself. Plan for what you know your mind and body needs to support you in having an energetic day, but if you miss your morning journal, meditation or workout, then try again tomorrow. Instead of taking the energy and shooting yourself with a second arrow, plan for how you will be successful tomorrow or explore what adjustments need to be made to find time later in the day.

What does being a part of the Startup Women Advocacy Network mean to you?

Being a part of the Startup Women Advocacy Network, to me, means being a part of an incredible community of women who share the same mission of elevating and supporting other women. It means creating opportunities and helping to identify gaps that exist within our existing ecosystem, and leveraging the strength of community to bring light or resources together to support a common mission.

In the spirit of advocacy, is there a woman-identifying, early-stage entrepreneur in Ontario that you admire or are following along their entrepreneurial journey?

​​Yes, there are so many that I’d love to shout out! To name a few, I’d love to give shout outs to:

  • Nadia, Simone, Harit & Kiara, Co-Founders of Marlow 
  • Inara Lalani, Co-Founder and CEO of FemTheraputics
  • Lauren DeSouza, Co-Founder and CEO of ACE 

All of these women have taught me perseverance, dedication, passion, and the power of supporting other women. We wouldn’t be here without our community.

When founders talk about their journey and their business, they often talk about their “why” – why they do what they do. So, we’re interested to know – what is your “why”?

My “why” has always been that I care deeply about people. I believe we are so much more capable than we sometimes let ourselves believe.

After navigating my own mental health challenges throughout my youth, supporting friends going through their mental health journeys, and then witnessing the crisis happening at my university, it was something that I couldn’t ignore. I feel so passionate about the fact that if we can support people at the right time, with the right resources, we could change and possibly save their lives. I knew there was a better way to support people than what currently exists, and if I don’t do something about it, then who will? 

Thank you for joining us! If someone wants to connect with you, where is the best place for them to go?

You can reach out to me on LinkedIn, Instagram, or by e-mail at livia@checkcompass.ca.


You can learn more about our 2023 Startup Women Advocacy Network at https://www.startupcan.ca/startup-women-advocacy-network-2023/