As an undergraduate at St. Thomas, Katrina Anderson ’13, ’17 MBA was a communications major in the College of Arts and Sciences, putting her energy into video production with hopes of developing a TV show in the future.
Then a life-changing event led her down a different path: When she was a junior, Anderson married; just six months later, during her senior year, her husband was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
As he was going through cancer treatments, Anderson took a registrar position at a HealthPartners clinic, acutely aware of how an initial interaction at the front desk of a healthcare facility could affect someone’s overall experience. Through that job, she found an internship for a video role at HealthPartners’ corporate office. It was during this time she also decided to continue her education with an MBA at the Opus College of Business.
In her new position at HealthPartners, she discovered the need for a platform to aid hospitals and students with rotation schedules. While she never had entrepreneurial aspirations, her vision for a service for health systems in schools and hospitals across the globe was something she couldn’t shake. In 2016, Clinician Nexus, a business she described as “LinkedIn meets Airbnb” for clinical rotations, was official incorporated. Now more than 95 hospitals and 145 schools use the system.
“I could not have done this without my co-founders, without our entire team - incredibly smart people, very talented people that are super mission-driven,” Anderson said. “That's been game changing.
“It's been fun to go to hospitals and see Clinician Nexus up on screens and to see it being used on a daily basis to solve real problems,” she added.
We recently caught up with Anderson to talk about her entrepreneurial journey. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
What are the challenges and rewards of running a business?
A big challenge is believing in myself. We have a culture of, "just prove it and then we'll believe that you can do it." A book I read talked about the Industrial Era where everyone was like, ‘I believe you can do it.’ Inventors would pop up and everyone was like, "Yes, go do it! We can't wait to watch!" Right now, I think there’s a bit of disbelief that you can do it, so it was a challenge based on the timing of when we started a company. But then there’s also this feeling of, it’s cool to be in a start-up. It can feel a little bit lonely and confusing about where you fit in among the mix of all of those things. There are a ton more challenges, but they are outweighed by the privilege and opportunity of being able to start something like this.
Do you feel like your experience in the MBA program prepared you for running a business?
I think that it - especially the cohort model where we're all learning from one another – had a huge impact on being able to understand how clinical education - not just through the lens of Clinician Nexus - in general fits in the mix of the entire ecosystem.
Whenever I felt discouraged, John McVea [an associate professor at the Opus College of Business] would show us this image of a hairball up on the projector and say, "You are in the middle of this hairball right now." Just reminding you that it's OK to untangle yourself so you can come to simple solutions to complex problems. I genuinely credit all of my critical thinking skills to St. Thomas teaching me that it's okay to not know the answers to the hard questions and to seek them out.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I always feel like I'm an entrepreneur by accident. Because of that, my advice would be to find real problems that have solutions that you're passionate enough to drive forward. Because the game changer is your tenacity to stick through the hard days when you just want to give up. If you don't love it enough, you won't do it, and then you'll be disappointed that it failed. It won't be a failure; it just maybe wasn’t the right thing for you to start. I consider myself totally blessed that we're one of the few companies that is doing well on our first attempt. That’s not super common. A lot of it is due to the fact we're solving an actual problem that we all care very deeply about.