DIANA LIBERTO // Founder of WalkMyMind App
She went from farmer's daughter to casino cocktail waitress to law school to corporate America to building an app and starting a corporate wellness business
I got a chance to connect with Diana Liberto. She’s the founder of WalkMyMind and I love her story of giving back through creating an app. I hope you find inspiration and motivation through her Founder Story. - Violette
Tell us about your founding story?
"Founding story" is an interesting and apt way to phrase how I started my business. What's interesting is that I believe my business "found" me. I wasn't looking to start a business. I was in-house counsel for a large corporation and secure in my job. However, personal and unexpected tragedy struck my family. I was so devastated and shocked that I was diagnosed with depression and PTSD. Although I continued to work, I stopped doing everything else. I basically sat on the couch. After a year, I paid a personal trainer to take me for a walk. It was marvelous! So we walked again the next day. It was then that I was struck with my "aha moment" and started on my mission to get the world walking.
What was the aha moment that got you to move forward with launching your app?
As stated above, I was walking with a personal trainer on the beach musing about how incredible finally getting up, out and moving was. I realized that I was fortunate in that I could pay someone to drag me outside but that many people who are stuck on the couch for one reason or another may not have the means to actually pay someone to take them on a walk. It was then that I started talking to the trainer about what could motivate people to move and the idea struck me that if you appeal to their interests, they may do it. Being mentally engaged makes moving easier. For example, if someone is interested in wine and a renowned wine expert is leading a walk on the beach, a person may go even if they hate exercise. It literally felt like the idea hit me in the head. From that "aha moment" WalkMyMind was born.
What challenges did you have and how did you overcome them?
Everything was a challenge and I'm still overcoming them! The first challenge was figuring out how to take an idea and turn it into a business. After my "aha moment," I literally walked straight to my mother's house where she was sitting having coffee with my aunt. I couldn't stop bubbling over about my idea and my mother, in her inimitable way, basically said that it couldn't be done. Note however, that she also said I couldn't go to law school as a single mother with two small boys but I did that, and that I couldn't successfully plant and sell a vineyard but I did that, so I figured I could do this too! Also note that she always came around and was my biggest cheerleader!
Once we put a conceptual framework around how to move forward with my idea, the second biggest and most formidable challenge was funding. To get "proof of concept" -- the holy grail to investors -- you need money to develop, market and sell the product so you can show that it "works." To me, this was a catch-22. If I had the money to build, market and sell the product and presumably bring in revenue, why would I need investors? This was the most frustrating, time-consuming and soul-crushing aspect of starting up. Fortunately, we were able to "overcome" this challenge by finding a partner who is a great fit and with whom we share a vision.
What advice would you give to a FEM looking at launching an app and a bit nervous about moving forward?
You are going to be nervous. I think if it weren't for fear, there wouldn't be courage, right? It's staring your own persistence and drive in the face and saying, "hey, what am I made of?" However, I also advise to proceed with caution. I think this entrepreneur/startup culture is a bit like Facebook -- it all looks so beautiful and great but that's not reality. No one posts the photo of themselves worn out, raw and depleted at the end of a crushing day. It's harder than heck to start a business out of whole cloth and can really wear you down. And there's an overwhelming probability that your start-up won't make it. One article I read states that over 90% of startups fail. Those are huge odds stacked against your business. It is imperative that you have the means to sustain yourself through long periods of no revenue and have an exit plan should things not work out.
What’s been your personal mantra that keeps you going?
I truly believe that I was meant to do what I'm doing now -- to help people appreciate the power of walking and what it can do for them. Walking helps in so many ways -- both physical and mental. So that's what keeps me going, the feeling that I'm on a mission.
Final inspiration and guidance for FEMS looking to launch their app?
This is quite a journey. I went from farmer's daughter to casino cocktail waitress to law school to corporate America to building an app and starting a corporate wellness business. Certainly not the usual and expected trajectory. I hope I could be an inspiration for women who feel they don't have the ability to do the things they envision themselves doing. When we are young, we believe we can be anything. And then we lose that vision because we know where we didn't come from and the advantages we didn't have and the schools we didn't attend and everyone is telling us that we can't, that it's impossible. I'm not going to say that any of it was easy or even that it was all worth it in the end -- the final chapter hasn't been written. But I will say that I pushed through a lot of barriers by taking chances, working hard and focusing. Not everything turned out as I had hoped. However, I know that I wouldn't have been happy with myself if I didn't try. My final notes from the battlefield are to be open to well-meaning advice and consultation but also recognize that no one really knows what you are capable of, only you know what you are willing to do to chase (and catch!) a dream.
What’s next for you?
I hope to live the next of my nine lives in Italy working with artisan food producers. I'll be living in a small village with chickens, a garden and my dog. And that will be my last chapter.
How can FEMS follow you?
Diana Liberto is a genius at reinvention. This former attorney left a corporate position to become an entrepreneur, successfully led a wellness app from startup to acquisition, taught law as an adjunct professor, planted a vineyard, sits on several boardsand is now sharing her insights as a speaker and consultant.
After experiencing a series of personal tragedies in 2014, Liberto’s experience as an entrepreneur began. She created an app in 2015 called WalkMyMind,which allowed subscribers to listen and engage their minds with“walkcasts” of educators, thinkers and authors as they pursued their fitness goals. The app’s most distinguishing feature is the“Brand Box,” where customers can create and share their own podcasts for corporate communications, e-learning and compliance modules.
After brokering a partnership with GlobalFit, a technology-driven wellness company, she became President/CEO of WalkMyMind, Inc. as well as Chairman of the Board of WMM Holding Co., LLC in 2018.