Natalia Lumen, founder and CEO of ThyForLife Health Inc., is building a technology company that has enabled more than 8,000 people globally who are living with a thyroid condition to efficiently manage and optimize their health.
From a young age, Natalia embodied the entrepreneurial spirit. At 14, she and her sister founded her first venture, an English language school that supported Ukrainian students. Natalia went on to have a successful career as a consultant—until her life was flipped upside down. After surviving thyroid cancer, Natalia realized she was not alone in her experiences and set out to develop a solution that could track a user’s thyroid data and help them maintain a healthier life.
We asked Natalia about the personal experiences that influenced her career, the lessons she’s learned throughout her journey, and what’s next for ThyForLife.
Q: Tell us the story behind ThyForLife’s founding: How and why did you start working on ThyForLife?
A: A few years ago, I was pursuing a very successful career as a management consultant at Bain & Co, traveling the world, and enjoying all the good things that life had to offer. Needless to say, being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and having to quit my career to go through multiple surgeries and radioactive iodine treatment caught me by complete surprise.
After surviving thyroid cancer and having the dust settle, I became exhausted by the inconvenience of tracking my thyroid health on an Excel spreadsheet. I ended up posting on a thyroid Facebook group that I was going to develop an app and asked if anyone was interested in testing it for me. I was expecting five to 10 responses. Within 24 hours, more than 200 people had signed up. I realized the “struggle was real,” and that the solution I was about to develop could significantly improve the lives of millions of people. It was this specific and overwhelming response that set the plan in motion for ThyForLife. As a female founder, immigrant, mother, and cancer-survivor, the entrepreneurial road has been far from easy. However, I have still managed to find incredible success in building a solution that is already actively making a difference in thousands of peoples lives each day.
Q: What problem does ThyForLife solve?
A: ThyForLife addresses the major pain-point that thyroid patients face when managing their thyroid health. Enabling patients to track, store, and assess their condition in one streamlined location, the ThyForLife mobile app prevents users from needing to spend hours manually tracking patient data, empowers them to have more informed conversations with physicians, and creates an accessible environment to receive ongoing support – unlike the current reactive and episodic care currently available.
While we are still working to further refine our solution, we already have thousands of users from across the globe and hundreds of emails from our customers providing positive feedback.
Q: In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur?
A: My parents were entrepreneurs and taught me the value of the independence it brings—both in terms of finances and flexibility. Beyond the mission of ThyForLife, this is my “why” behind becoming an entrepreneur.
Part of my leadership style has been influenced by the fact that I have traveled to more than 70 countries and lived in eight different countries throughout my life. Every new school, new country, and new experience has slowly but confidently shaped my outlook that anything is possible if one can dream it. This also led me to build a diverse team that is spread across multiple continents and backgrounds, with flexible working hours as the norm. We are fully decentralized, which is great for attracting talent.
Q: Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
A: I have worked in finance, consulting, and in startups, and over the years I have become somewhat addicted to creating, building, and producing results. Thus, it’s not all that surprising that I launched a global business to address a massive pain point that I personally face. In fact, ThyForLife is actually my third entrepreneurial pursuit.
At 14 years old, my sister and I founded my first venture—an English language school in Ukraine. Over the past 20 years, we have been serving more than 100 students annually. My second venture was in the travel industry, and even though we were growing double digits year-over-year, we were at too early a stage when the pandemic hit. I never imagined I’d be running a health tech startup, but all roads lead to Rome, and for me that is ThyForLife.
Q: What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting ThyForLife?
A: It takes longer to grow a company than one may initially project. Pivots, failures, and mistakes are inevitable and part of the due course of being an entrepreneur. That being said, it’s one thing knowing this, but it’s totally different when you’re living through it. It’s best to get used to living outside of your comfort zone. The moment you are in your comfort zone, it’s time to step out of it and do something that scares you!
Q: What’s been the most unexpected part of your entrepreneurial journey?
A: The people you think may be your biggest champions may not actually be. It can be gut crushing, but also a major relief to know where someone actually stands. I’ve been grateful to have had acquaintances turn into our biggest supporters, including our very first investor at ThyForLife. It is that unwavering support through peaks and valleys that makes the job of an entrepreneur more sustainable. This experience has also taught me to go into every conversation with an open mind. After all, you never know if a new acquaintance will end up becoming your biggest champion.
Q:Has your definition of success evolved throughout your journey as a founder?
A: Absolutely. In the past, I celebrated primarily my big wins. But as an entrepreneur, I celebrate every win, big or small, and take the time to think of a win at the end of each day. Defining success as major milestones is quite daunting, especially if it takes months to get there. Entrepreneurship became my lifestyle, and celebrating small wins every day is my secret sauce to fueling my energy.
Q: What have you learned about building a team and a support network around yourself?
A: Entrepreneurship is as much of a team effort as it is one’s own. We have made major pivots thanks to the incredible support I received from mentors, old and new. Having a close mentor to run ideas by or discuss challenges has been a real blessing and a major breakthrough for me in running our company. Having access to diverse perspectives goes a really long way and helps to get us unstuck much more quickly. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have to do it alone. Having someone I can text anytime to use as a sounding board is probably the single most important reason why we’ve been able to get to where we are today.
Q: What would you tell your younger self if you were to start your entrepreneurial journey all over again?
A: Entrepreneurship is not as easy as it may seem, but you can still do it by holding on to that greater purpose and the “why” behind starting your company in the first place. It’s that purpose and seeing the difference you’re making when speaking with customers that will help you go through the low valleys in between high peaks. Expect and disregard the nay-sayers. By surrounding yourself with individuals as ambitious as you are, you will find a community that will elevate you. Your whole outlook will change the moment you build out the support system around you. You got this!
Q: What’s next for you and ThyForLife?
A: We’re onto building big things!
We aim to revolutionize the thyroid care industry by simplifying patients’ lives and giving those living with this lifelong condition all the tools they need to live healthier, happier lives. While we do not get to choose the cards we are dealt with, we can do what’s in our power to improve the quality of our lives and those around us.