8 Qs with a Silicon Prairie Founder: Dana Dyksterhuis of HERE: For You, For Them
Dana Dyksterhuis (above left, next to co-founder Jen Armstrong) is co-founder of HERE: For You, For Them, a mindfulness-based mental health support company with offices in Omaha and London. Dyksterhuis and her company are part of the Startup Collaborative. She gave some insightful responses about working from home during the pandemic in a previous SPN…
Dana Dyksterhuis (above left, next to co-founder Jen Armstrong) is co-founder of HERE: For You, For Them, a mindfulness-based mental health support company with offices in Omaha and London. Dyksterhuis and her company are part of the Startup Collaborative. She gave some insightful responses about working from home during the pandemic in a previous SPN article. Our interest in her entrepreneurial journey led us to ask some further questions about her experience.
How did you get started?
My background is as a news reporter and then in PR and Marketing, but when I moved to Seattle from Omaha almost 14 years ago, I immediately became entrenched in the entrepreneurial spirit of the city and all of the support available to entrepreneurs. I began with a PR job in Seattle, but after layoffs due to an M&A I began my own consulting business, BoastHouse, which remains an ongoing side business to this day. Around the same time I launched BoastHouse, I also had an idea to create an app that united sports fans when they moved or traveled ~ Being in a new city from Nebraska, I was looking to connect with other people from home and found it difficult. I eventually discovered that there were designated “Watch Sites” across the US for Husker fans to go watch the game with other fans. I went to the designated bar in Seattle for the next Husker game, and had the best time!
Long story short, I didn’t know how to code. I put together a Google Docs spreadsheet of dozens and dozens of sports teams in the NCAA, as well as English Premier League and the NFL along with their watch sites in about 20 US cities to hopefully help other fans like me. I began going to startup events in Seattle, took part in Startup Weekend, met with mentors and investors, etc. and had enough positive feedback and momentum to dive right in and see about building it. At one pitch event, I found my co-founder, we began building, went through Techstars (a seed accelerator), raised angel funding, built a team and were off to the races! It was an incredible experience and I’m still very close to my co-founder and our original team. After going in different directions however, I worked on a foodie series and did a pop-up, but was itching to get to London and explore that side of the world. I applied for what was called the UK Government/Tech Nation “Exceptional Talent Visa” at the time and was one of 200 people in the world to get this Visa in digital technology, which allowed my son and I to move there and start something new. That experience is an entire post in itself but was one of the most life-changing, wonderful things I could have ever done and we adore London. It was there where I also began HERE: Here For You, For Them with my brilliant co-founder Jen, and we’ve been bringing mindfulness support to families for a couple of years now with hopes of growing it as big as possible.
Is your job what you thought you would be doing when you were a child?
At one time when I was little I did want to be on TV and that happened! My best childhood friend Tina and I would do “cooking shows” with her mom in the kitchen, pretending like it was our own show and I really did want my own show some day! (Those pretend cooking shows are such a great memory of mine.) But beyond that, various personality exams in my younger years placed me as an Advertising Executive as well as a Funeral Director, neither of which happened. Did I ever imagine I would be building HERE? No… But I love the path it’s taken to get here and so grateful for everyone who’s been a part of the journey along the way. There are many, many people who have believed in me. Even through all of the risks, so many have been here for the ups and downs and have just trusted me that I’ll figure things out. I’m humbled by the faith people have had in me, even when at my lowest, and no way could I be doing startups without the support of so many around me.
What are you building right now? Why is it important to you?
I am building HERE with my co-founder Jen Armstrong, and our mission is “Building strong, peaceful, resilient hearts through the magic of being here.” Our focus is on families and bringing mindful support to help relieve feelings of being overloaded, stress and anxiety, by integrating simple tools and techniques into your daily routine. It all begins with the breath and being in the moment, which can be so hard to do.
I met Jen in London because she was our nanny! But as it turned out, she also has her Master of Science in Developmental and Educational Psychology, so she would also help me through the fun growth spurts that my son would have (that all children go through)! Her tips and advice, that had a focus on mindfulness, were so simple, yet so powerful and they worked. On top of that, she would give me a lot of advice on how I should take care of myself. And this can be really foreign advice you know? “Take care of myself, what?” But her support in this area worked like magic too. I would talk about the magic of Jen to my friends and they always said, “I want a Jen in my life!” And that’s what made us launch our platform. We’ve been blessed with amazing partners in London as well as here in Omaha, all who know how critical it is to offer mindful support to their families, staff members and loved ones. Right now, we have a team of holistic, mindfulness teachers and yogis in London and in Omaha to help as many families as possible. Even before this pandemic, people were feeling overloaded and in many cases dealing with trauma too.
So, bringing thoughtful, mindful support to them to help ease their burdens, release some tension and tears if needed, bring some happiness and joy to their lives, build their self-confidence and connect to their little ones has been so important. It’s only amplified through these exhausting, uncertain times so it is of the utmost importance that we do our best to triple-down on our mission. It’s also important to bring these mindful techniques to the little ones so they can use their breath, or a yoga pose, or mantra to help them through a tough moment. One of the best things ever is if I’m feeling stressed out and my son says to me, “Mom, let’s take three deep breaths ok?” It’s so pure and beautiful and shows me that along the way, he is picking up on these tools we’re teaching him to help him navigate through life. We need more of this, especially now.
What is your favorite thing that you have ever built? Why was it your favorite?
If I may, I’m going to stray from startup-world for this question, and change “favorite thing you’ve ever built” to “ever created.” It may never see the light of day, but my absolute most favorite thing I’ve created is “Behind The Wheel ~ A Depeche Mode Musical About Trust, Love and Leaping.” I am a massive Depeche Mode fan and many years ago (when I was in Seattle) the idea of a musical with their lyrics popped in my head. I began jotting down notes here and there when they would come to me, what the storyline would be, which song lyrics to use, etc. and this went on for a couple of years. When I got to London I felt more inspired to keep dabbling away at this. I had seen them twice in concert before (Red Rocks and and Minneapolis) but then in London they were touring while I was there and I saw them twice again at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and then at O2… (At that first London show I found myself trying to get home on the tube from North London to West London in the midst of one of the terror attacks happening in Central London). But Depeche Mode… London… the artistry, creativity, all of the emotion, grandeur and beauty of London… At one point living there, finishing the musical just came pouring out of me and I finished it in a couple of weeks after all those years. The style is focused on their Pasadena Rose Bowl 1988 show, I intertwine songs and lyrics from their beginning days to now, it involves being in an outdoor theatre with London parks and neighborhoods as the backdrop, as well as Projection Mapping. Even if it never makes it as an actual production, it is hands down the most creative thing I have ever done and brings me immense happiness.
If you could improve one thing about your job or the place that you live, what would the change be?
At this moment in time, in the place I live being the world, I wish for this pandemic to be gone, for people to feel safe, secure and loved, and for the removal of hatred.
Was there anything looking back that you would do differently?
Hindsight is 20/20. I have certainly made mistakes along the way as we all do as humans, but can we genuinely learn and grow from those mistakes is the question. I have to forgive myself and allow for some grace for things in the past I feel bad about, if I honestly feel I was making the best decision I could at the time. One thing that does come to mind though, is that the “older” me would certainly give more courage to the younger me to let go of toxic people quickly and know that whatever was going on with their toxicity was on them, not on you. Let it go, let it go, let it go. If something feels really wrong and someone is hurting you emotionally (or worse), you have to trust your gut, gather up the strength, ask for help, and let it go as quickly as possible.
What could the SPN community do to help you succeed?
Let’s all continue to be here for each other through these times and beyond. Let’s look out for each other’s health and safety and do our best to bring compassion and caring to those around us, vs judgement and hatred. Let’s just do our best to recognise that we all have our struggles and fears, and that what’s needed is strength and giving from each of us. Even if we don’t have an ounce of energy to “do” anything for someone else, we can offer positive thoughts, prayers and well wishes. We will absolutely stumble yes…. That’s when we can also be gentle on ourselves which is needed now more than ever. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you could ask these questions to anyone, who would it be?
I would love to hear from Miriam Zambrano and Blossom & Wood for this. They are early stages and about to make a big splash with their mission and vision in Omaha. I LOVE what they’re doing and what they have planned.
JOIN THE MOVEMENT!
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