Mental wellness company DiveThru to open a studio

· The Pulse

In a space just south of Whyte Avenue, a storefront with a sign saying "you can cry here" may not look like much right now. But in February, the space will become home to DiveThru Studio, the brick-and-mortar location of Edmonton-based mental wellness company DiveThru.

It won't be a traditional therapist's office with a leather chaise longue and a clinical feel. Instead, DiveThru is aiming to create a space that is bright, cheery, and Instagrammable.

"(We want) to make this a more enjoyable experience, where you're not ashamed, and you want to show off that you're in therapy, because DiveThru makes it approachable, makes it fun, makes it cool, if we want to use that word," DiveThru CEO Sophie Gray told Taproot.

"We want to change the perception of mental health, and we're looking to do that through this unique model of creating these really stunning spaces and a better experience overall."

The company first started as a journaling app, which now has more than 50,000 downloads. The company's weekly newsletter has 40,000 subscribers. But DiveThru customers have asked for in-person therapy, Gray says. They want a space to meet as a community to get through their struggles.

That's what she's trying to accomplish with DiveThru Studio. And when someone is in between sessions, Gray says they can access the resources or do the homework assigned by their therapist on the app.

"DiveThru started as a journaling app, but I always had this larger version of creating in-person spaces. This dream … where you can go to therapy, drop in on a class on burnout, (attend) yoga class. So we're now fully realizing that vision," she says.

Sophie Gray stands in an empty space with construction materials in the background

DiveThru Studio is slated to open in February 2023 at 10151 81 Ave. (Sophie Gray/LinkedIn)

Gray knows what it's like to be at your breaking point and needing help. Her business idea came to her after she had a panic attack on an airplane and ended up driving from Toronto back to Edmonton.

"I arrived home and was like 'OK, I need to step back and work on my mental health.'"

She did, but became frustrated by how difficult it was to access support and that "everything was so fragmented." She also found many mental health resources were unrelatable.

So she came up with a business plan and tried to find investors. Many investors declined to help and told her these types of resources already exist.

"I was having a really hard time communicating our positioning, our experience. The brand we've built is really what makes us different," she says.

She remained undeterred and raised $800,000 in pre-seed funding as well as government grants.

Recently, DiveThru was the only Canadian company to be accepted into the U.S.-based Techstars Anywhere summer program for new businesses to learn important business skills and receive investor funding.

"I think as a Canadian company, a company from Edmonton, you can build a great company here. But I think it's also important to rub shoulders with the calibre of U.S. founders to really see what you're up against so the rejection you're facing makes a little more sense," she says.

@sophiegray Edmonton, something very very cool is coming! #edmonton ♬ Miss You - Oliver Tree & Robin Schulz

The DiveThru Studio space is set to open to the public in February, with appointments opening up in January. From there, Gray hopes to eventually open up 100 spaces across Canada and someday expand into the U.S.

"With that, I think that allows us to bring this more updated and modern experience of working on your mental health. Struggling with your mental health is so difficult, but accessing support shouldn't be."