M.S. in the Management of IT Blog

Hoo-rizons: Alumna Aims for Families to Live “happyly” Ever After, Via Wellness App

Caitlin Iseler, who won an NCAA championship as a member of the 2004 UVA Women’s Lacrosse team and is a 2016 graduate of the M.S. in MIT Program, has created a wellness app that helps parents effectively balance their time with family.

Caitlin Iseler

By Whitelaw Reid, wdr4d@virginia.edu

Most parents know the feeling of staring at their computer, phone, or tablet, Googling away to find that next fun outing or activity for their family.

Sometimes you nail it; sometimes you don’t. Almost always, though, it winds up taking an inordinate amount of time, research, and follow-up inquiries.

And almost always, it winds up costing more money than it probably should.

All of this just to get a respite from the grinds of work and school?

After UVA alumna Caitlin Iseler (A&S ’04, M.S. in MIT ’16) had her daughter, Hanah, six years ago, she came to realize there had to be a better way.

In June, she launched “happyly,” a wellness app that helps parents effectively balance time with family so that they can be happier and more productive at work. The app is available in nearly 100 cities across the country, and just started adding content for Charlottesville.

“We hope to positively impact companies, their employees, and families across the globe, resulting in positive physical and mental health,” Iseler said.

While at UVA, Iseler–then Caitlin Banks–played on the Cavalier Women’s Lacrosse team that won a national championship in 2004. She scored three goals in the Hoos’ 10-4 victory over Princeton University in the title game that season.

After graduating with a degree in Religious Studies, the New York native spent 15 years in the executive search field–which included starting a firm that she eventually sold–and became a Partner in Korn Ferry’s technology practice.

Along the way, Iseler returned to get her master’s degree from the McIntire School of Commerce’s Management of Information Technology Program.

UVA Today caught up with Iseler–who lives in Virginia Beach with her husband, Thomas–to learn more.

How did you come up with the idea for happyly?
I’m an IVF mom and worked hard, alongside amazing doctors, to become a mom. When I had Hanah, I was juggling the dynamics of a rewarding career and family life. I found my physical and mental health outlet in an active, outdoor life, and thought it should be easy for me and for others to do the same. We created happyly to make it easier for people to make healthy choices and to optimize time outside of work without spending their valuable time doing research.

Did you feel too much screen time was a problem for your family?
Yes! I think that screen time has its place, but I’m a big believer in the power of the outdoors to heal and support positive mental and physical health. I find that I’m happier when we spend time outside and that the same is true for my daughter. In our dream world at happyly, access to happyly for families will result in less screen time and, in turn, less depression and health issues for children and their families.

Who are your main competitors in this space, and what specifically do you think makes happyly unique?
Mommy blogs like Red Tricycle would be our testimonial competitors, and then on the wellness side, Calm, Headspace, Virgin Pulse. happyly is the first corporate wellness solution that provides a physical and mental health benefit for the employee and their family. We’re attacking physical and mental health in ways that support both through micro-wins in the everyday. This ranges from finding a great playground or bike path to finding ways to volunteer and serve your community without spending hours doing research.

How, if at all, do you think your UVA experience has helped you in your post-college life?
UVA is the gift that keeps giving. I learned so much in my time in Charlottesville and through the combination of classroom time and lacrosse in undergrad, and grad school, and everything in between. I have met incredible people who have been friends, mentors and more. It’s a special community that I am so deeply grateful for.

What are some of your most memorable moments from your time on Grounds? Any memorable classes or professors who had big impacts on you?
Julie Myers, Colleen Shearer, and Heather Down were my [lacrosse] coaches, and they influenced my life in so many ways. From learning how to be a team player to helping find purpose in the challenges and understanding the value of hard work, they each taught me lessons that will stay with me always.

On the academic side, [Professor] Stefano Grazioli was a personal favorite through the [McIntire Management of Information Technology graduate] program. He’s an amazing teacher, mentor, and human.

Any fond memories from your time as an athlete?
Lacrosse was a huge part of my UVA experience. My favorite memories include the fall Special Olympics race that we ran as a team, and that Julie Myers almost always ran faster than the rest of us even when pregnant; losing in the national championship game my third year; and ultimately winning my fourth year–both the wins and losses have taught me invaluable life lessons. It was a dream come true.

What has been the most gratifying aspect of starting happyly?
Having my daughter be part of the experience of striving to inspire others to get outside and to make service a part of our lives has been incredible, and I hope something that will be a lifetime gift for her, as it has been for me.

Beyond my little family, I get to work with family and friends, old and new, creating a place to work that allows people to feel great at home and in work, with a big focus on being a great place to work for parents.

This story was originally published in UVA Today Jan. 11, 2022.

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