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Stephiney Foley, founder and CEO of Yuzi, with her husband Harper Foley, who is also a Yuzi co-founder and chief technology officer, and their children.

Amazon leader and Army vet launches Seattle wellness startup to support new moms

  • Publisher: GeekWire
  • Published On: Jan 3, 2024
  • Category: Press Feature

Read the original article on GeekWire here!

Yuzi founder Stephiney Foley graduated from West Point and worked for the U.S. Army for more than seven years, serving as a platoon leader in Afghanistan and Hawaii and a supply chain and operations officer in California.

When it comes to war, Foley said, the expectation is that it’s going to be tough and you need to brace yourself. That’s not the message for new parents.

“With motherhood, the media, movies, everything out there says it’s a rosy, beautiful thing — which it is — but our society doesn’t talk about the messiness of motherhood and parenthood,” Foley said.

Seattle-based Yuzi is a wellness startup aiming to support families during the exhausting, challenging days that follow childbirth. Yuzi launched in September and the team is bootstrapping the effort while starting fundraising. The target customers include some of the parents of the more than 3.6 million babies born in America annually.

Foley is also working at Amazon as president of Asians@Amazon, the tech giant’s largest employee resource group, and was previously head of product for subscription services. She has been with the company since 2018. Foley began thinking about the need for better postpartum care following the birth of her second child. She and her husband were working full time, taking care of a toddler, and their families lived across the country in Texas and Florida.

“With motherhood, the media, movies, everything out there says it’s a rosy, beautiful thing — which it is — but our society doesn’t talk about the messiness of motherhood and parenthood.”

– Stephiney Foley, founder and CEO of Yuzi

“I was really at my wits’ end,” Foley recalled.

The U.S. medical system emphasizes healthcare for expectant mothers and well-baby visits for infants, but does little for women following delivery. America’s maternal death rates are 10-times higher than some other wealthy nations and have increased dramatically in recent years. After delivering a baby, mothers can experience postpartum depression, struggles with nursing, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and damage to their pelvic floor, among other issues.

Yuzi is preparing to release its first product, which is a post-delivery retreat where mothers receive meals, support from specialists in taking care of new babies, and an opportunity to heal. Foley said they’re working to finalize a hotel partner in the Seattle area to host families, and the retreats should launch in May. The experience will include an app to coordinate resources during and after the retreat.

The ultimate goal for Yuzi is to create a platform that will be a clearinghouse for reliable, trusted information on the postpartum experience and create a community for new parents.

The startup is named after “zuo yuezi” — a Chinese practice that translates to “sitting the month,” which is a period of 30-40 days after childbirth when a mother isolates, rests and bonds with her baby.

There are other businesses offering luxury postpartum retreats at hotels in Asian cities and New York City, as well as night nurses who provide care to mothers and their newborns.

The support is expensive across the board. The Yuzi retreat costs from $899 to $1,199 per night depending on the length of stay, with a five-night minimum. It includes a luxury hotel room, three meals per day for mothers, 24-hour care, lactation support, and newborn care educational programming. Partners are also able to attend.

Foley, who worked briefly at Tesla, said her approach is akin to the electric car manufacturer, initially targeting affluent consumers and eventually expanding her product base to reach a wider audience. She hopes that Yuzi can ultimately establish postpartum retreat programs around the country and provide more resources in general to families of newborns.

To reach all new moms in America, “it requires legislation changes in our state and our country as well as employer support,” Foley said, which she would like to advocate for.

In addition to her bachelor’s degree from West Point, Foley has an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and a master’s degree from Norwich University in diplomacy and commerce.

Multiple programs supporting startups have selected Yuzi to participate in their cohorts. That includes the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA), which has a program providing seed-stage founders with coaching on new company basics as well as $10,000 worth of Amazon Web Services credits. Yuzi is also part of the Dartmouth consumer incubator and Bunker Labs, a program benefiting military veterans.

Foley was the co-founder of a gaming-related NFT consulting company that operated until August, and is a board member of Athena Angels, which supports women entrepreneurs from West Point.

The Yuzi team includes Foley’s husband, Harper Foley, who is a co-founder and chief technology officer; co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Michelle Homan; and Chief Wellness Officer Dr. Tiffany Chen.

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