💊hi gray: Chronicon, Elevating Those Living With Chronic Illnesses
hi gray Q&A #9
March 7, 2021
Hi, it’s Janine. hi gray is a newsletter about those creating human-first digital health companies. Today, we’re diving into Behave, a direct to consumer startup disrupting the candy space.
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Chronicon is a New York City-based community and event space that’s dedicated to bringing together and elevating people living with chronic illnesses. It does so by hosting a number of workshops and fostering a tight-knit community. Studies show that 45 percent of the United States population has at least one chronic illness today, and the rates are expected to rise to 49 percent by 2030, the website describes.
We spoke with Founder Nitika Chopra about where she got the idea to create Chronicon, how the COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020 inspired a new version of Chronicon, and what’s the focus going forward.
Hi Gray: Tell me how you first got the idea for Chronicon.
Nitika Chopra: I have had chronic illnesses for the last 30 years. I am a patient, that’s the first thing that inspired me, there’s no space for the type of patient I am. I am a full person I have a lot of interests and I happen to have two autoimmune diseases. There’s a lot of trauma sharing, just really focusing on the sadness and the hardship and the specific condition you have. I do think with Chronicon specifically we’re talking to the person who is excited in learning how to thrive, learning to embrace how to thrive with a chronic illness.
We stay away from giving medical advice, chronic illness is so nuanced, we don’t pretend to have the answers. We help people feel empowered. The way I always describe it is Chronicon is a platform that’s dedicated to elevating the lives of those living with a chronic illness. We do that through workshops, community, etc.
HG: When did you start? What were those early days like?
NC: We started off in 2019 as a live, in-person event. We sold out our first conference a month before it happened. We have thousands of people live stream the event online. We expected to have another event in 2020 but of course the pandemic happened. I pulled my audience and asked what they wanted and the feedback was they don’t get a lot out of the long conferences, they’re mentally draining. What I decided to do was to create the Chronicon community, just $25 a month, workshops every week. It’s really ideal because members can come and join, but it’s an hour or two and it’s at your own pace.
People become friends, they are actually reaching out, you can’t force people to do that. What I’ve seen over the last few months is, people will come to he workshops, and they will then message someone on the app afterwards. Supporting each other’s work, feeling like they have a real community. It’s so fulfilling to see that. It just happens organically.
HG: Tell me a little bit about your background.
NC: I started my entrepreneurial career 11 years ago today actually. I’ve never done an actual startup but I have been a content creator, host, etc. for the last 11 years. I have brought all of those skills to this community.
HG: How many people are working this community?
NC: It’s just me. Sometimes I’m a little shocked when I say that. Of course I get help with someone who designs my website, but I am hosting all of the workshops and curating all of the content, doing the social media, …
It’s meant to be big. As founders, entrepreneurs sometimes you have to show people how big it can be before it can happen. This community deserves us to be loud. That’s my intention behind how I present everything. I know that will make someone with a chronic illness think, ‘Wow, they invested all of this time and energy into creating something for me.’
HG: What is the competition in the space like? Do you have any direct competitors?
NC: I wouldn’t say we have direct competitors, but there are a lot of communities popping up focused on chronic illnesses. Chronicon is about elevating and celebrating chronic illnesses. It’s not to say they are doing anything negative, oftentimes when people come together it’s to solve a problem, it’s going to help you heal. And it’s understandable, it’s a normal thing to want to create a community for that. What we are doing is radical. We’re not saying that you’re going to have this joy with just one workshop, it’s to find joy in the face of your chronic illness.
HG: Can you tell me about any funding you’ve done.
NC: The first year I didn’t raise money, but the second year, I did a tiny friends and family round to get us a little boost and support. That’s it. I don’t have any major plans for becoming a trillion-dollar company, that’s great, but my metric for success is really helping people.
HG: In all the conversations I’ve had, branding always seems to be at the center of a company. How has branding guided your language, image, etc.?
NC: Branding has always been important to me. I think that everything has energy, when you go to a website and you don’t see that energy, you feel that. With everything I create, I want this feeling of rich filled, dynamic experience for people. I think that’s possible to portray through branding, it really makes a difference. Pink and green has always been my personal branding, and the colors have evolved; with Chronicon, there is a more serious, richness that is more prominent. My goal is always to create a heartbeat to my brand.
HG: What are the next growth opportunities for Chronicon?
NC: Right now my main goal is to get as many people to sign up for our community as possible because I think that is where real change can happen. We have a little more than a 100 members. People are a little bit still unsure about community so I’m trying really hard to have as many conversations as possible. Growth right now looks like getting more members. We allow allies, too, people that don’t have chronic illnesses but their partner does or they treat people with it. It’s supportive and helpful for them to be in that environment.
👋 Curious about Chronicon? Read and interact with them here.
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