HigherDOSE was founded in 2016 by Katie Kaps and Lauren Berlingeri, two female biohackers with a passionate mission of bringing infrared technology to the masses. When they discovered its restorative and detoxifying benefits, they saw its untapped potential and opened the first HigherDose in-person sauna in New York City that became ground zero for "sweaty, sexy sauna selfies." A COVID pivot expedited the expansion into at-home sauna products, and the brand most recently expanded to North Williamsburg, opening a flagship spa and retail showroom location.
HigherDOSE's origin story is rooted in luxury spa experiences at the intersection of wellness and technology, powered by nature and supported by a cult community.
Can you help set the stage by sharing your origin story and how both of you came together to launch HigherDOSE?
Katie Kaps: HigherDOSE's inception was all about bringing I\infrared saunas to yoga studios such as Y7 and Yoga Vida in New York City. But, that idea quickly transformed when we saw infrared sauna spas pop up in Los Angeles and found a major need for a place for New Yorkers to get their sweat on, too. This ultimately led us away from bringing saunas to yoga studios and in the direction of creating sauna spa experiences, and then bringing those experiences home with devices such as the Sauna Blanket and PEMF Mat.
When you launched HigherDose, infrared saunas lived on the fringe of the wellness world. What made you believe you could take the therapy mainstream?
Lauren Berlingeri: We believed in the technology, benefits, and experience of infrared saunas. It had the potential to go mainstream because sweating in the sauna can be so addicting—one session makes you feel totally refreshed and gives you a nice reset. By adding more accessible sauna products such as the Sauna Blanket to the space, we were confident more and more people would get to try and become as obsessed as we are.
The business has undergone tremendous evolution. At the inception what was your vision for the company?
LB: Our original idea was to bring infrared saunas to hot yoga, but we found that it wasn't the best business model, since it's harder to build a B2B brand and studios typically lack the funding required for implanting this technology. With that in mind, we pivoted to spas.
What were the key pillars you built the brand around that allowed the runway to expand the business from a sauna experience to a full-blown wellness brand?
KK: HigherDose is all about access to nature-inspired technologies and wellness rituals that provide holistic healing from the inside out. By focusing on the nature-inspired technologies and practices that elevate the experience with those technologies, we are able to expand our brand into categories beyond devices and create products that deepen the benefits of infrared, red light, and PEMF.
The pandemic was challenging to navigate for everyone, but service-based businesses were hit particularly hard. In a matter of six months, you went from a service business to a product-focused, D2C e-commerce business that proved to be a catalyst for growth. Can you share a bit about how you executed this pivot?
KK: We started HigherDose with a goal of getting more people into an infrared sauna and developed the Sauna Blanket as a means to do so. When the pandemic hit, more and more people looked for ways they could up their wellness regimen at home and found our Sauna Blanket as an accessible way to get their sweat on, without investing (financially and space-wise) in a full-sized sauna.
Customer acquisition for D2C brands has gotten incredibly expensive. What tactics did you use to gain D2C traction with a small five-person team and limited funding?
LB: In order to gain traction, we pulled a few levers, starting with press—we have an amazing PR team who has helped increase awareness of our brands and products. We were also able to gain traction through third-party endorsements, experiential marketing at our spa locations, and activating our online community with more social media engagements and a great “refer a friend” program.
What advice can you offer companies that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank to fuel growth?
KK: Our advice is to look to other debt-financing sources, such as ClearCo or PayPal working capital. Both of these companies have featured success stories in their content to draw inspiration from.
Can you share a bit about the concept and strategy behind the new Biohack-Her YouTube Video series that debuted in November?
LB: The biohacking industry is largely dominated by men. But, as women and biohackers ourselves, we believe that women are natural biohackers. This series is all about discovering new and ancient biohacking health hacks and technologies through a female lens and giving an inside look at what they entail.
How would you describe your current business model?
LB: Our current business model is an omnichannel with DTC, B2B, and experimental channels.
Self -care and DIY treatments at home was a huge trend in the pandemic. Have you seen a shift in behavior since the world has opened up?
KK: The reasons people used our wellness technologies pre-pandemic have only become more heightened as we get closer to a post-pandemic world. People gravitate to HigherDose because they are looking for advanced ways to manage stress, hectic lifestyles, chronic disease, and the toxicity we are exposed to in our daily lives in a way that is convenient, quick, and effective.
Physical service concepts are notoriously expensive to scale because of the real estate needs. What are your plans to scale the service component of the brand?
KK: We plan to scale our physical services through more hotel partnerships that allow guests to experience the benefits of nature-inspired technologies such as infrared heat and red-light therapy.
How have you funded the business to date?
KK: HigherDose has been funded through working capital loans and a small angel investment of $1.2 million.
And the last question for you is, what are the brand's goals for looking into the future?
LB: The future of HigherDose is bright with goals centered around building our own wellness technologies, plus more focus on female biohacking.
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