Health Hero: Tampa Bay Startup Uses Technology To Encourage Employees To Get Healthy

In today’s “techie” environment where it’s possible to have withdrawal if you go more than an hour or so without checking Facebook, looking at email or sending a text or tweet, the idea behind Health Hero seems fitting: Harness the power of social media to connect people through an online community and use that power to help create long-term, sustainable healthy habits.

“We saw the opportunity to create something fun, exciting and effective that could make a difference for both employees and employers,” says Wally King, a spokesperson for a new Tampa Bay startup company called Health Hero.

King, 34, is the California partner of Health Hero’s founder, a Tampa Bay entrepreneur who asked to remain anonymous for now because he needs his day job to pay the bills while he “bootstraps” his business venture after hours and on weekends until it becomes self sustaining. 

It’s a common dilemma for startups.  How do you go public with a new great idea without endangering your current paycheck?  Even if you’re not spending a minute of company time on your new passion, you don’t want to risk your bread and butter in today’s economy.

For now, King and his Tampa partner are focused on product launch. That means selling their innovative concept to both businesses and the benefits and insurance industry.  For a limited time, they're also inviting nonprofit groups to participate in Health Hero for free -- part of their mission of social responsibility, says King.

“We are really passionate about health and wellness,” says King.  “Both of us have family members who have struggled with health problems.  If only they had taken the right steps early.  That’s the seed of inspiration behind Health Hero.  We are committed to making a difference.”

King, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of California Santa Cruz and a background in holistic health care, is a certified health coach, yoga teacher and hypnotherapist with two businesses: Saucha Life and Evolution Workforce. His Tampa partner has a background in I.T. and human resources. The two of them hope that Health Hero will be the game-changer that takes corporate wellness programs to the next level.

“There are dozens of corporate health and wellness programs out there but it’s hard to engage people for long when the programs are either too complicated or too simple,” says King.  “A lot of employees are hard-pressed to even describe their company’s wellness program.”

But with Health Hero, he says, “we’re making it fun, social and competitive.  Employees are constantly getting rewarded for participating.”

Social Media Tools

The premise for the program is fairly straightforward. Allow companies to set up a secure social network online that allows employees to establish fitness goals and post their results daily using any social media channel of their choosing -- directly on the website; by email; text message; with RunKeeper, a GPS mobile fitness app that can link to Health Hero; using a digital pedometer like Fitbit that also feeds directly to Health Hero; or posting to a private company social network like Yammer.

“We’re providing a social experience; an online fitness network that encourages competition among friends and co-workers,” says King.  

Employees create a Health Hero profile, upload their photo, share their interests and ask others to support them.  Those who meet their monthly workout goals can earn gift cards for retail stores or the gift cards can be donated to charity.

Users receive email reminders to work out daily and they earn points for exercising.  They also get points for posting their results, commenting on other users’ posts, joining online teams, “liking” posts and “friending” other users.  The company can even assign team captains. “It’s all about engagement,” says King. 

Health Hero also borrows from online video games with users playing a sort of “fantasy wellness game.”  As employees earn points, they get badges and jump to the next level. They also can choose to be a character such as superhero or ninja. 

What exactly do companies get when they purchase Health Hero? 

A virtual, private social network that is secure and confidential.  All the marketing required to roll out the program to the workforce.  And what King and his partner refers to as the analytics – a reporting system that provides ongoing feedback and measurable results to the company’s leadership.

Health Hero can be used as a value-added benefit to drive greater participation to a company’s existing wellness program or fitness center or it can be a stand-alone program, says King.  The goal is to help employees stay fit, lose weight, become healthier, be more productive and live longer, while helping companies lower their health care costs.

Janan Talafer is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about interesting businesses, communities and individuals that showcase the creativity, talent and diversity of Tampa Bay. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Janan Talafer.

Janan Talafer enjoys writing for a diverse group of clients, including print and online publications, nonprofit organizations and public relations agencies. One of the highlights of her writing career was flying with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa FL for a feature about this elite military team. A journalism graduate of Bowling Green State University (OH), Janan’s early career was in health care marketing and public relations for hospitals in Connecticut and Tampa Bay. She is an avid gardener, loves East Coast swing dance and enjoys touring around St. Petersburg on the back of her husband’s scooter.
Signup for Email Alerts