Sonia Kahlon built and scaled her own orthodontist practice over the course of 6 years, experiencing explosive growth along the way. But just as her career was booming, her mental health spiraled out of control, and she developed an addiction to alcohol. When her life became unsustainable, she decided to sell her practice and get sober. Fast forward to 2022, when the end of a long-term relationship saw her struggling with her sobriety once more, and seeking out meetings to avoid self-medicating. Kahlon found that many of the existing meetings deprived her of feedback, advice or individualized support – which was what she truly needed. Kahlon decided it was time to become a certified recovery coach and launch an organization that would more directly help women struggling with alcohol. That’s how she became the founder of EverBlume, which hosts intimate, online group recovery meetings where individuals are matched according to the specific challenges they are currently facing.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
Other online group recovery meetings have anywhere from 50 to 200 people in the meetings. Maybe 5% of the other people shared their stories in these groups and over time I noticed those same few shared at every meeting. It just became a passive style of recovery; like listening to a podcast. It wasn’t building a support system.
Plus, sobriety is at the center of regular meetings. But then, we must look at other challenges: self esteem, imposter syndrome, job burnout, divorce, parenting young children, parenting adolescents, being a caretaker to an ailing relative. All this is the other stuff we need support with – the stuff we’re too embarrassed to admit is taking a toll on us. This is not demographic or social-economic matching; it’s matching based on experiences, struggles and successes. Not everyone is the same age or at the same point in their journey. But they understand each other’s specific challenges.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
We went viral on TikTok! We posted for months without much traffic, until a fairly typical post for us received over 650,000 views. What was most incredible was the comments. The post was about my past struggle as a high-functioning alcoholic, and so many people commented about their own difficulties. They encouraged each other, offered advice, and truly formed a comment-based support system for a few amazing days.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Developing trust with our customers. We offer free meetings to give people a chance to check it out before committing. We work hard on proof of concept by staying active on social media and appearing on podcasts.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
With my first business, I worked so much that my mental health and drinking spiraled out of control. Ironically it was because the business was experiencing rapid growth that I wasn’t willing to stop and deal with it. The lesson is that your health is the most important thing. You have to prioritize sleeping, exercising, minding what you are putting in your body and fostering connections with people close to you. I completely let all these things slide while I was building my last company.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Delegate. There are people that can do certain tasks better and faster than you.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
When I started this business, my goal was to help one person change their relationship with alcohol – whatever that looked like for them. On days when I’m tired, or struggling with my own sobriety, I remind myself that if I do something like write a post, host a group meeting, coach a client – I am working towards that goal with every second that I stay focused on EverBlume.
What is your go to song to get motivated on tough days?
“Forever” by Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem
Who is your most important role model?
When Kamala Harris won the Vice Presidency, it was a pivotal moment in my life. My initial thought was of my three nieces that would finally see a person that looked like them in the White House. Then I realized that it was just as inspiring for me to see another educated woman, childless by choice, achieve an enormous level of success. I had always felt “less than” in comparison to my friends who had children. But to see Kamala Harris as a doting step-mom and aunt, living the life she had dreamed about – it was reassuring. ◼
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