Q&A with Reid and Heidi Rasmussen of freshbenies | Innovators

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The Conversations with Innovators blog discusses new innovations, big ideas, disruptive technologies, and the thought leaders, innovators, rebels, entrepreneurs, and trailblazers that make all of this possible.


This week, we’re talking to Reid and Heidi Rasmussen, founders of freshbenies. They help employers save on healthcare costs and employees save on out-of-pocket costs. They were blissfully married in 2004. It was always Reid’s dream to own a business together. Heidi doesn’t really remember that part. After a combined 50+ years in corporate America, could it really happen?

At 15 years old, Heidi started working at JCPenney where she went from a sales floor associate to Divisional Vice President at the corporate office.

Reid grew up in Canada, where he received a Health Administration degree. Early in his career, he escaped to America to work in the health insurance industry.

Turns out, the partnership was not only a fantastic marriage, their combined strengths created rocket fuel for their own business. freshbenies was named to the Inc. 5000 fastest growing companies in America for two consecutive years (#117 in 2015 and #255 in 2016).

Most people don’t think of employee benefits and innovation. But freshbenies has some great innovations to how employers provide benefits for their employees. What are a few?

First, the price is very affordable, which isn’t typical in the healthcare industry. Second, the services that we bundle together into one membership are innovative. For as little as $9-12/month for a family, members have access to multiple services such as:

  • Telehealth: no cost doctor visits by phone (including getting a prescription written, if medically necessary)

  • Doctors Online: no cost specialist visits by email

  • Advocacy: expert health advisors who help navigate “the system” including medical price transparency and billing issues

  • Rx Savings: members save on prescriptions and can use the member app or portal to search their drug and find the best price at local participating pharmacies

Third, Reid and Heidi built a member-focused brand in the healthcare landscape. They knew the end member – the employee – needed to understand, use and love the services. Otherwise, the employer would stop paying and insurance brokers would stop suggesting freshbenies as an idea to their employer clients. Heidi didn’t understand why other healthcare brands were so sterile, technical, complicated and unfriendly. She thought, “If the world’s largest P&C insurance agencies can market their product using a gecko, cavemen, Flo, the Mayhem Guy and ‘bum ba dum bum bum bum bum,’ then gosh darn it, we can be memorable, too.” All of this adds up to a turnkey experience for the employer and a suite of services that REALLY get used by members.

What inspired freshbenies?

The light bulb came on for Reid as he noticed some Canadian healthcare trends, in the form of skyrocketing costs, find their way into American healthcare.

On Labor Day 2009, he mentioned to Heidi his idea to bundle multiple small non-insurance products into one membership. Reid wanted to build the idea for his employer, but they didn’t see it as a priority.

Frustrated, he turned to Heidi. She asked if he truly believed the numbers he’d compiled and if Americans would need the services. “Yes!” Then, why wouldn’t he quit his job and start his own company? “No!” Yet, by Monday, he had written his resignation letter. As Reid puts it, “In the face of the Affordable Care Act, nobody was quitting their job in the health insurance industry.”

Heidi continued working her job, and was the acting “Chief Sugar Mama Officer” for freshbenies. Reid produced $8,000 in sales, NOT $8,000 in profit - $8,000 in sales. He says, “I probably could’ve sold more standing on a corner.”

 

Do you see health insurance and out-of-pocket expenses going down any time soon? How can freshbenies help?

Unfortunately, the answer is “no.” Medical costs continue to skyrocket, so even with changes to the ACA, there will be more out-of-pocket costs for Americans. There will be a shift to consumerism, meaning that Americans will have to get as good at navigating their healthcare costs as they are with every other line on their budget.

freshbenies not only helps members save hundreds to thousands on their families’ healthcare each year – it also helps navigate “the system” when simple or in-depth issues pop up: medical bill negotiation, second opinions, finding in-network doctors/specialists, simple illnesses that can be diagnosed over the phone or email, mental health questions, help with Rx costs, and more.

Does freshbenies have anything new on the horizon?

freshbenies launched a new Member App and Portal last year – this was a game changer for their business because it made the services easier to access and use. This year, freshbenies is about to launch new client Portals that include a utilization dashboard, which shows how much employees are using each service.

If you could describe the freshbenies brand in a few words, what would it be?

Fun, simple, kitschy, engaging. Someone once told Heidi that she should be sure to trademark the tagline, “freshbenies takes the headache out of healthcare.” Heidi replied, “Why? No one will steal it because no one actually does that.” (P.S. they still did it!)

What piece of advice would you give to a first-time entrepreneur starting out?

Plan ahead! Reid and Heidi lived well below their means for years, so they were in a position to boot strap their business and…

Stick with it! A lot of people quit or are forced to quit before they learn the necessary lessons to success. It can take years of planting seeds before the harvest from the first years after start up. Many people don’t have the stamina or finances to ride it out.

What’s your “one thing” that most drives your professional success?

A commitment to excellence with a strong work ethic and faith in God’s promise from Proverbs 3:5-6…

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.


For Conversations with other thought leaders and innovators, see innovator Jim Chester of Venue and innovator Jennifer Green of Burns360 .

For more information about related legal issues, read our Professional Services industry page.  


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