2020 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Brio, Yale SOM


MBA Program: Yale SOM

Industry: Global Mental Health

Founding Student Name(s): Daisy Rosales; co-founder: Aaron Rosales

Brief Description of Solution: Brio enables access to quality mental health care in low-resource contexts through design and collaboration with local community organizations. Through its flagship multi-year partnership program, Brio provides a mental health design process, toolkit, consultation, evaluation and leadership support for building community-owned models of care. Since 2018, Brio has worked with local organizations in Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and India, creating first-ever care and training to address addiction, trauma, burnout, social-emotional learning, and more. Brio’s partnerships enabled access to mental health care or training for more than 2000 people in its first year.

Funding Dollars: $150,000 in grants and donations

What led you to launch this venture? Community leaders and social impact teams all over the world have long inspired us. Local organizations serving vulnerable communities face some of the toughest realities in their work— and the mental health needs of their program participants tend to add to this weight. Having befriended leaders of human service organizations in Latin America and Asia – and hearing their repeated concerns about mental health challenges – we decided to launch Brio. This is why we provide not only a structured mental health design process and toolkit, but also a program that includes accompaniment and leadership support.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Within our first year, we launched two partnerships in Latin America that brought care and training to more than 2,000 individuals. While reaching more people is important to us, this milestone would not have been possible without our diligent process of building trust with local organizations. As we continue to expand our impact through the recent launch of our Mental Health Design Toolkit (funded by Yale, The Rockefeller Foundation, and Acumen Academy), we are perhaps most proud of the way Brio earns the trust of local leaders by supporting them as creators of their own care.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? Yale SOM is an amazing place to be an entrepreneur for several reasons. The Entrepreneurship Program does a fantastic job of helping students access experienced entrepreneurs and funders, while also providing tailored faculty mentorship on a weekly basis. The university’s collaborative culture assists those of us who have interdisciplinary startups; I think it’s especially great for social entrepreneurship because of Yale’s expertise in public health, law, environment, medicine, and the arts. Finally, SOM’s culture is incredibly supportive— there are so many opportunities to share about your startup and receive peer and faculty feedback. Brio would not be where it is today if it weren’t for my time at SOM.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of Equal Justice Initiative, is one of my entrepreneurial heroes. As a young black lawyer, he defended prisoners on death row and founded EJI to expand the field of criminal justice reform and racial reconciliation. He spent years in the trenches facing one of the most challenging issues in the United States, yet continues to lead with immense empathy and thoughtfulness. In his book Just Mercy, an elderly Civil Rights leader encourages him early on to be “brave, brave, brave” in this work. Courage is what we need when all of our qualifications and cleverness run out. Bryan Stevenson reminds me of that.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? The Innovator course with Professor Rodrigo Canales was not only fascinating, but also deeply resonant with the questions I had in the early stages of creating Brio. We had this hilarious session where we were asked to build towers out of raw dried spaghetti strands to support a marshmallow. As it turns out, too much time was spent planning and drawing, and not enough was spent building. Most classmates’ towers toppled. Without that class, I probably would have been slower to get into fieldwork, reach out to potential partners, and to adopt a posture of learning rather than perfection. I’m now much more willing to accept that the work will teach us what we need to know.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Dr. Teresa Chahine served as my faculty mentor for three semesters through the Entrepreneurship Program course and Startup Founder’s Practicum. Her experience in venture philanthropy and health entrepreneurship brought so much richness to my development as a social entrepreneur. Over the past 1.5 years, she has seen the highs and lows of our work, and balanced her insightful advice with frank feedback. I have so much appreciation for faculty who are also practitioners, and Teresa is an exemplar of that.

How did the pandemic impact your startup plans? We work with organizations in numerous global contexts, so the pandemic’s impact has varied greatly across partnerships. Unfortunately, some of our partners’ programs were deeply affected by lockdowns and lack of access to internet and technology; some switched to simply offering food to local neighborhoods, which continues to be of utmost concern. While we continue to support those partners, we chose to focus on the teams that had more capacity to create mental health programs during this time. In fact, our partnership in India launched during lockdown and is bringing support to rural areas through radio. We’ve also tested partnerships and trainings with larger international organizations that are more accustomed to working virtually. So while the pandemic has made us shift our strategy and the future remains uncertain, we’re grateful to continue having an impact at this critical time.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? The need for mental health care and training in low-resource contexts is only increasing, and we exist to help communities close the gap. In addition to our partnership program and our Mental Health Design Toolkit, we plan to offer more types of programming for leaders seeking mental health training and design support. As we build out the range of our offerings, we hope to reach even more communities and global regions, thus making first-ever care and training accessible to low-income individuals within their lifetime.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.