Honeybee: Redefining the Health-driven Community
People play a critical role in offering the insights needed to develop the next breakthrough health breakthrough discoveries.
People's involvement in health research is the key to bringing new ideas to fruition. However, barely 10% of the world's population engages in health research projects on a regular basis. Finding the necessary participants for health studies have shown to be quite a challenge.
This is what caught the curious eye of Catherine Chan, an expert in nutritional sciences, who decided to revolutionize health research studies.
Catherine created the Honeybee platform where researchers and study participants come to work together for improving the quality of life. It offers various health research studies for participants of all ages.
The platform enables people to contribute to health research studies - and get paid for it while doing so!
Stay with us as we unravel Catherine’s blueprint for building a successful enterprise while making a change for the better.
Making the Most out of Undergrad Life
Towards the end of high school, Catherine didn’t really know what she wanted to do. But, she did know that she wanted something really hands-on. So, she went to the university fair in Guelph and set up to find out what was she going to apply for.
It wasn't long before she figured out that she wanted to go into food science right after she went to the food science booth at the university fair. They told her that she’ll get to make ice cream in a lab, her dream job, and possibly even in her co-op jobs. She went to the University of Guelph for food science with a minor in business.
Catherine was a huge keener. She literally was the kind of person to go knocking on professors’ doors in the first year to ask to be a volunteer in their labs. And that actually opened a lot of doors for her.
She got to do a couple of co-op terms, including a short one with Maple Leaf Foods, and a one-year term with Yum! as a menu developer for KFC Canada. Both of these jobs focused on working extensively with poultry, but she also got to live her dream of making ice cream pretty quickly.
Catherine never had a semester off. Any chance she got she either took a course, worked, or traveled. Usually combining the three.
Through her travels, she got the chance to explore the east and west coast of Canada, go around Europe and the U.K., and also explore China and Japan in Asia. Most of these trips were through student programs.
Catherine didn’t really make money, but she made the most of her money at the time.
She got connected to some of the scholarships through a fantastic mentor and professor who remembered her when she knocked at his door in her first year.
Building a Wealthy Portfolio
For most of her undergrad studies, Catherine spent quite the time in labs, and test kitchens. She did this between school and part-time jobs, working both in Canada and abroad.
Catherine made chicken nuggets for Maple Leaf Foods, developing nutritious grain products with Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada government projects. She also worked on launching menu items for KFC, as well as a concept restaurant in Toronto called KFC Fresh, which actually failed a couple of years later. She was also doing research in a lab in Germany on increasing the stability of oil and water emulsions in milk.
One of the great things about dipping her toes into various work settings, including industry, government, and academia, was the opportunity to learn about things she liked and didn’t like. She always points out that discovering what you don’t like is something that gets you another step closer to finding out what it is that you love to do.
An Epiphany for Success
In the events leading to her final year in undergraduate studies, Catherine actually decided that she wanted to work at the interface of food science and nutrition. She started to get an understanding of what were her favorite and least favorite parts of her work experience.
Catherine decided that she wanted to be a consultant in the food industry. She got connected through a mentor, and a former teaching assistant at the University of Toronto and applied only to the master's research program in nutritional sciences at the university.
During her master’s thesis project, she looked at the effects of fava bean pasta on metabolic control. Catherine developed a bean pasta with a food company and ran a human trial. For the study, she recruited some 60 young adult males, who would come in five lunch periods, and eat pasta. She measured their blood sugar levels and other hormones, and at the end of that, she would pay them almost $300 per person.
Through that project, she concluded that in young adult males, when regular pasta is substituted with fava bean protein, it helps to reduce blood sugar levels after the second meal.
But really, the biggest takeaway she got from this project, was how challenging it was to recruit participants.
She used a paper post on a bulletin board where she posted an ad to recruit people. What she did learn is that it was extremely challenging, expensive, and it took most of her graduate student life.
Catherine teamed up with Weiwei Li, a software engineer from the University of Toronto, and started Honeybee Hub in 2019. She actually had no plans to be an entrepreneur.
Catherine went on two out-of-country grad trips planned and already paid for but canceled them to join a couple of incubators at the University of Toronto. Then, after graduating, Catherine started working on it full-time.
Because of her previous work in business, academics, hospitals, and government research initiatives, Catherine was familiar with the difficulties of recruiting new participants. During his time working in the industry, Weiwei was exposed to the sluggishness of the healthcare system.
The two fellow students from the University of Toronto teamed up and decided to step up and try to make a positive change in the healthcare sector.
Honeybee provides a friendly approach to research - they easily connect researchers and study participants.
The hub helps researchers, including undergrad and research assistants, and grad students recruit faster, for their health studies. The company’s goal is to make research participation much more accessible and simple for the public.
Honeybee has thousands of participant users signed up. Many of them are students, and the company supported over 500 labs and institutions across Canada, the US, and the UK.
Starting the company was super challenging, and Catherine stumbled upon some pretty heavy roadblocks along the way, which were rude awakenings for her. She states that every day continues to be a challenge even though she got the hang of things.
The Future Tastes Sweet for Honeybee
The story of Catherine’s journey in the entrepreneurship waters is the motivation every student needs. University isn’t only about gaining knowledge, but about traveling and gaining experience too.
Catherine advises students to make the most out of their college life. They should use all of the university’s student programs, which are the best way to both travel the world and work different jobs. Students shouldn’t allow failures to overcome them, since they are blessing in disguise and will get them closer to the things they actually love.
The company’s headquarters are in Toronto, Canada and Catherine is still the co-founder and CEO of Honeybee. There are 19 more fellow coworkers working together with her and co-founder Weiwei Li.
Catherine’s plans for the future are to grow the Honeybee team and to expand to even more cities in different countries. Having successfully fended off the competition coming from companies like Key@Work, and Koppr Fintech Solutions among others, Honeybee Hub is happy to stand head-to-head with seasoned professionals in the business.
With such an innovative and success-driven woman like Catherin behind Honeybee, we can only wait and see what great idea will sprout out of Catherine next.