When an unexpected illness hit her daughter, Eva chose to reconsider her path and craft the second half of her life in a way that’s true to her passions. She has launched Indigo, a VIP membership club that connects older adults with opportunities, experiences, and connections that enable them to thrive.
Tell us a little about your background.
My dad, mom, sister, and I emigrated from India to the United States when I was four. We entered the U.S. with four suitcases, a little bit of cash, propelled by my parents’ dream to make a better life for my sister and me. We started out in the Cleveland area and then settled in in the suburbs of Chicago where my parents assimilated us into the culture while continuing to keep our Indian values and customs as an integral part of our upbringing.
I was lucky to spend my growing up years learning and doing many different activities and exploring options. I spent time dancing, in gymnastics, and found an interest in science. I dove into those passions with a great deal of support and encouragement from my parents. I attended the University of Chicago for my undergraduate degree and then went on to pursue a master’s degree in health administration at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Throughout my experience in college and graduate school, I was always the one who was craving to do something just a little different. When my peers in graduate school were becoming hospital administrators, I gravitated to the opportunities that were challenging how the health care system worked and trying new ways of solving the problems being faced by providers, patients, and employers. The entrepreneur flame was definitely sparked and only sparked because people opened doors for me, gave some structure to my thinking, and encouraged me to explore.
I have had some wonderful experiences, met crazy smart people along the way, and have had the opportunity to nurture two kids who helped me grow more than I feel like I have helped them!
When did you start to think about making a change?
Over the last few years, I was with a large company working and learning a great deal about managing and growing a complex business and building teams. While I enjoyed the experience, I was feeling the pull to be part of an entrepreneurial venture.
When I turned 50, my husband and I had a curve ball thrown our way with our daughter. Literally overnight, her health changed and we were navigating doctors, lots of questions, tests, confusion, and uncertainty. We were super fortunate to have support and guidance from so many people to figure out the issue and get to work to help her. It became a time for me to consider what was important and think about how to spend the second half of my adulthood in the most meaningful way possible.
What is your next act?
I am the co-founder of Indigo, a membership club that provides older people with a genuine purpose in their lives—not just something to keep them busy, but opportunities, experiences, and connections that enable them to thrive. You pay a monthly fee for personalized, expert support and guidance, for yourself or as a gift for someone you love. At Indigo, we believe that there is more to retirement than fading away. We reject the traditional narrative about aging and the expectation that we just step aside. Instead, our “Second Adulthood” is a time to thrive.
Recent research tells us that leading a purpose-filled life is a new model to sustain physical and cognitive health. Intuitively, we’ve sensed this for generations, but now the data are confirming that intuition. Indigo is a membership club delivering personalized items to thrive in our Second Adulthood. The collection of items is a survival kit to advance good physical and cognitive health, attend to financial security, and promote independence, fun, and fulfillment.
Each member is matched with an Indigo Insider, who identifies their preferences, style, and priorities. Indigo then delivers a handpicked package of activities, products, and experiences, designed to surprise and delight, delivered to the person’s door. Each month, new additions to our members’ Thrival Kits provide additional insights, tools, opportunities, and connections. The kit contains the “kindling” to spark new interests, reconnect with talents and experience, stay informed, and optimize vitality.
Our Thrival Kits are personalized to our members. To get an idea of what might be in a Thrival Kit, here is the story of Kelly, who worked with one of our Indigo Insiders.
Kelly is getting ready to retire from her work as a teacher. She recently sold the home where she raised her daughter and has moved to a new community. Kelly has been a conservationist her whole life—she’s been involved in lots of environmental projects in her local area. Kelly loves traveling to learn about new places and to contribute to efforts to protect the planet as she explores. She’s always been physically fit, and she’s certainly not too worried about the recent back pain she’s experienced. Her first stop after retirement is the Amazon rainforest. Kelly wants to stay engaged and active once she retires.
Kelly’s first Thrival Kit included:
- Access to a course on sustainability and ecology: An online course exploring the major ecological issues within the rainforest.
- Photo postcard printing package: An online service to make and print 20 postcards with personal photos that can be sent to friends and family.
- Pre-travel mobility assessment: An assessment with a mobility expert and a customized in-home program to optimize mobility and joint performance.
- The book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus— A unique perspective of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus.
Later Thrival kits might include: A package of life coaching sessions, matching Kelly to a volunteer opportunity to teach kids about sustainability and apply lessons learned when she travels, a webinar about writing a blog, and a discount on the Learning Garden Shoe (proceeds go to funding a learning garden for a child via The Kitchen Community)
Why did you choose this next act?
I’ve spent my career at the intersection of healthcare and technology in early-stage and market-leading healthcare companies. I’ve addressed lots of challenging problems related to how healthcare works. And I’ve experienced the limits we all face addressing health and well-being issues as we get older.
These limits have become even clearer as I’ve watched members of my own family (my mom, my father-in-law) navigate the aging process and come to terms with curve-balls that have come their way. And yet I see them on a daily quest to explore new talents and build new skills, to remain curious about the world around them, and to make meaningful contributions. This has been truly inspirational to me.
Now that I’ve seen what is possible, through my family and the amazing individuals we’ve met on the road to developing Indigo, I’m moved to help build a better approach to healthy living and have joined a team to create Indigo. Throughout the transitions in my life, I have benefitted from great support, guidance and role models that showed me where to look and how to approach new directions. There is so much more to do as we age and I want to help people understand where to start and find just the right inspiration to jumpstart their second adulthood.
I have always wanted to try my hand at building a venture from a glimmer of an idea and to work with people who I admire greatly and enjoy being around. Starting a new venture gave me the most flexibility to shape what I was doing and how. I was very passionate about how some transitions in life occur and how they can take over your own health and those of your loved ones as you are trying to overcome/survive/solve the challenges that come along with that transition or event. I considered taking a leadership position in a well-established company as well as doing consulting work as alternatives along the way, but truly believed there was a real need to solve problems for individuals who were going through life transitions as they age.
How hard has it been to get Indigo off the ground?
It was a difficult process to move forward with starting a new venture. There are many stories of how people don’t succeed. One of the greatest lessons I have learned in my life is that success comes from surrounding yourself with people you enjoy combined with a strong belief in your idea and confidence in yourself. While creating a new venture is risky and tumultuous, I have been fortunate to be doing it with friends and colleagues who are incredible.
We prepared carefully by researching the market, talking with as many people as we could, and trying to truly understand the problems that people were having as they age. And, most importantly, testing different iterations of our idea quickly to see what resonated. Through this deliberate (and not so easy) journey, we were able to understand our potential customers in a deeper way.
How supportive have your family and friends been?
My family and friends have been incredibly supportive. They are interested in understanding the venture and contributing their ideas, resources, and time to helping me and my teammates at Indigo be successful. It has been fun to see not only my family, but also my friends, get excited about the business and make connections and want to be involved in advancing our ideas.
What challenges are you encountering?
Along the way, there have been a number of challenges and I anticipate a number more to come! I think the secret is to view each challenge as a way to learn more and dig deeper into understanding the customer.
Business challenges: Since the company is focused on developing a new solution, there are no clear answers and we had to make many mistakes as we went and know we will continue to make many more mistakes. Having a “fail fast, learn and try again” rhythm has been our way of operating and it has not always been easy.
Personal challenges: I have worked in early stage companies throughout my career, but my most recent experience was with a large organization in which I had the benefit of many people working together to divide up tasks and problem-solve as well as easy access to so many talented people and skills. In a start-up, you have to depend on yourself to wear multiple hats, learn new skills quickly, and stretch resources as far as possible. This type of framework has, at times, put a dent in my confidence, but the reward of learning and making things happen with a small team to create something new has been exhilarating.
Were there times when you thought about giving up?
Oh yes! But, I think this is a normal part of the process when you jump into doing something different or new. There are always doubts or questions, which I have bounced against why I am doing what I am doing; this helps me to keep moving forward. And, I would not be able to work through those bumps without the partners I have in the venture and my family to support me along the way.
I have learned that it is never too late to expand your skills and learn something new, and I have found out how energizing it is to take something on that I have not done before.
Looking back, is there anything you’d have done differently?
I like to move rapidly and do not take the time to savor the moments and enjoy the process as much as I should. I need to share more detail and daily progress—no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be—with people in my inner circle (family and friends), as that is what makes the bumps easier to get through and allows you to not only solve the challenging issues more effectively, but enjoy the successes with others.
What advice do you have for women seeking reinvention in midlife?
Find your support team. You have to have people around you who can talk you off the ledge, be a sounding board for your ideas and plans, and make connections for you that you might not have thought about. It is especially important to find those people who advise you on how your ideas/thoughts might be possible versus those individuals who tell you it just will not work.
Discover what makes you tick and start there. Think about what you used to like to do when you were younger, what you always wanted to do, and what areas make you light up.
Try many options before committing to one path. Don’t settle into one path immediately. Experiment with a few opportunities, activities, and experiences and explore. You might learn something new about yourself and your interests along the way.
Operate in shorter time horizons. Sometimes it is difficult to get started if the goal you set is far away. Set your sights on more short-term wins and develop a cadence that helps you celebrate and learn each week.
Be confident and believe in yourself. Once you discover what you are interested in pursuing, jump in all the way and don’t look back. I have seen my sister pursue a new career at the start of her second adulthood. She dove in, made sacrifices, and is now on a path to doing what she really enjoys. My mom spent her first adulthood raising me and my sister and then went to college to become an accountant in her second adulthood. I am now learning from both of them as I have started my new path.
What resources do you recommend?
The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank — A fantastic foundational book on starting a new venture and understanding your customer.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande — A very insightful way to think about end of life and aging in general written by a physician.
What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
Senior Planet — An incredible resource for learning about technology for people in their second adulthood.
This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite — A great summary of issues related to ageism and aging in our culture
The First Round Review — An electronic newsletter highlighting experts and how they address a variety of issues/challenges within their businesses.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris –This was book that I really wanted to put down and not finish, but something about it kept me going. It features helpful thoughts on meditation and staying calm and sane through the chaos of starting something new.
The Family Cooks: 100+ Recipes to Get Your Family Craving Food That’s Simple, Tasty, and Incredibly Good for You by Laurie David — Eating well in times of transition can be hard. This is my favorite recent cookbook to nourish the body.
How can my readers learn more about Indigo?
Please check out our website or call us at 844-463-4466. We’d love to have you on board.
We have a special introductory offer to sign-up with Indigo, available to the first 100 members only! The introductory offer is for 12 weeks at $23 per week and is billed monthly.
And we have a special promotional code, just for Next Act for Women readers. Simply apply the INDIGO25NAFW coupon code at checkout and you’ll receive 25% off your Indigo membership!
And we are pleased to announce a partnership with Hélène Stelian, Life Coach and Founder of Next Act For Women, to offer life coaching to Indigo members who could benefit, based on their goals and interests. These Indigo members will receive a 30-minute complimentary life coaching session and discounted packages on future coaching sessions, available via Thrival Kits.
Contact Eva Vyas at firstname.lastname@example.org