Tech startup Healium was named Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year award in 2021.
DogMaster Distillers, Missouri Business Alert, SOA Architecture, and the Voluntary Action Center were other finalists for the Small Business of the Year award.
To be nominated, companies had to have fewer than 25 full-time employees, which opened before January 2019 and have a good reputation with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Week in 2021 closed with the ceremony on Thursday.
Healium took the award for its tech startup, which CEO and chief storyteller Sarah Hill called “Silicon Prairie”.
The company uses virtual and augmented reality technology to help people manage stress and anxiety. Hill described the virtual reality experience of meditating in a park without being physically in a park.
Healium employees work in a place of understanding for mental health. In her speech at the ceremony, Hill said that each of the mostly female staff members struggle with fear.
Hill herself was a reporter for more than 20 years and experienced the burnout and trauma of her stories.
“As a reporter, you cover rape, murder and suicide and you get up to do it tomorrow,” Hill said. “Failure to have mental hygiene will give you the inability to sleep, to concentrate, and for me it panicked.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, the company saw an increase in users. As users became more trapped in their homes, Healium provided a way to synthetically travel elsewhere.
“This is the Stress Olympics right now,” said Hill. “These are portable digital tools that you can use to walk in the park when you cannot physically walk.”
Sales have increased more than 400% since pre-pandemic numbers, Hill said.
“Holy cow, we are having a virtual vacation to feed people all over the world,” said Hill.