For folks like Elena Givens (she/her), entrepreneurship is an entryway to unlimited potential.
Elena is a StartOut founder from Atlanta whose company, Healthcare Dollar, is the culmination of a long-term career in healthcare billing and a passion for helping people. Throughout her experiences, Elena’s discovered that patients’ access to information is limited, and through her mobile app, folks can research procedure costs in their area for a better understanding of what they’ll pay.
As an out, Black founder, Elena is paving the way forward for everyone with a startup dream. During Black History Month, we recognize founders – like Elena – that make StartOut the unique community it is.
Elena, how did Healthcare Dollar come to be?
I started the company in 2019 after about 20 years of working in the revenue cycle. Throughout my work, my biggest concern was patients never knowing how much they’d pay out of pocket for procedures and medical practices.
After having a conversation with someone who was having a planned hysterectomy but didn’t know what her insurance would cover, I knew I wanted to do something. Out of that one conversation, Healthcare Dollar was born.
Did you ever think you would pursue a career in entrepreneurship?
I would’ve never thought to go down the road of entrepreneurship in my earlier years. I always wanted to be in healthcare, and I was good at numbers, so the financial side of things came naturally to me.
Launching a startup came from the desire to help people struggle less. In finances and healthcare, there’s a structure that’s helpful to entrepreneurship but can be a hindrance. Every day I’m learning new things, and it’s a struggle but also something free and energizing.
It’s a beautifully validating thing that often gives me peace.
What sets Healthcare Dollar apart?
Healthcare Dollar is consumer-based and consumer-driven to help people be informed.
We launched a mobile app in July of 2021 and are actively working on getting more data and information. Doctors and nurses don’t always know what something will cost on the back end, so we help people make decisions based on information curated by our network of providers.
I aim to have every CPT code and every procedure readily accessible to give people an understanding of how much their care will cost. Even though I’m based in Atlanta, we have curated data for hospitals across the country.
What challenges have you encountered since launching?
My biggest struggle was hiring three different developers. I learned about the terminology of application development and IT each time, and I appreciate going through that coding education to understand it for myself and my company better.
Networking has also been challenging. Talking about myself and my app is not something I’m used to as a very self-identified introvert, but it’s crucial as an entrepreneur. I’m the only one who can and will tell my story to people, so it’s an insecurity I’ve had to overcome.
90% of the company has been bootstrapped, so funding is always something I’m looking for help and advice with. But regardless of the challenges, the reward for launching Healthcare Dollar on a personal and professional level has far outweighed them.
What has it been like navigating entrepreneurship as a Black and queer woman founder?
I’m aware that in my space, I’m a novelty dealing with the healthcare and finances world. It’s a white, straight, male-dominated arena, and when you speak of a Black woman in this space, the first question I always get is, “well, how did you get the data to develop this?” I’ve often felt like people think I don’t have or shouldn’t have the skill set to be in this space, but here I am.
It’s been a challenge, but I know that putting myself into this conversation is valid because I have the qualifications and expertise to address this real-world issue. I’m empowered by who I am; no one can tell me otherwise.