June Student Spotlight: Mars Hovasse
Life in 2020 is stressful, especially for young adults in the Digital Age. Between rigorous academics, declaring a major, and learning how to function without parental presence, finding balance is an increasingly difficult task. Additionally, with the constant societal pressure to simply do more, caring for one’s mental health is more crucial than ever before. As a recent graduate from the LS&A at the University of Michigan, Mars Hovasse (Class of 2020) understands how these pressures affect college students every day.
In response to the overwhelming business life and the difficulties associated with being a high-achieving college student, Mars decided to take action through the creation of her company, WellNest. Founded in 2019, WellNest seeks to promote mental wellbeing on college campuses across the country, through helping users visualize their thought patterns. With several prestigious partners including Carnegie Mellon and CalPoly, WellNest is taking strides to reimagine student wellness and campus experience.
In addition to her own personal experience with the pressures of being a top university student, her academic background in cognitive science and communications deepend her engagement with the subject of wellness and campus life. Mars has always been deeply interested in how the human mind works, specifically how decision making faculties affect our daily lives.
“As I spent time growing up in both California and Japan, I’ve always been very interested in the role of cultural differences in human thought processes,” she said. “It’s fascinating and inspired me.”
These unique, global experiences have provided inspiration and motivation for Mars and have fueled her desire to make an impact on her community. With her team of co-founders (Thomas Searle, Jack Kornet, and Drew Pilat), she worked to develop a mobile app to help users visualize their thought patterns to improve their mental wellbeing and facilitate reflection.
“WellNest is, essentially, a mindfulness tool,” she explained. “Users receive custom journal prompts tailored to their personal goals and then are able to get real insights from their daily entries.”
WellNest is a guided journaling app designed to help rising seniors and current college students destress and discover their thought patterns in a convenient, modern way. When a user downloads the app, they are met with a series of onboarding questions designed to encourage active reflection. The app then offers a customizable journaling plan to help visualize thought patterns, and identify ways to improve one’s daily life.
“The program identifies common keywords in user entries to identify patterns and generate data,” she said. “This is what helps us identify things like intrinsic motivation, and areas where students struggle.”
Subject areas such as happiness, managing friendships and relationships, and spirituality are just a few of the topics the app is designed to help students reflect upon and target for improvement in their own daily lives. Since its founding, WellNest’s singular goal has always been to help others, and to create a positive impact on communities and college campuses across the nation.
“Ideally, WellNest will become the go-to mindfulness platform for students- from their first day at college orientation to their career and beyond,” Mars said.
After the release of the Beta version, college students would be introduced to WellNest during their campus orientation. From this starting point, WellNest would provide resources to support their wellbeing in everything from discovering personal happiness to identifying subliminal stresses. With these tools, users would have the resources to truly grow, and live the most fulfilling lives possible. Helping others improve their lives aligns perfectly with Mars’ deep-set desire to make a positive impact in the world.
“I felt like there was something lacking in the community, and I just needed to give back,” she said. “And I kept getting encouragement and validation from professors and investors… There was overwhelming support.”
Support for WellNest came in many different forms, ranging from simple words of affirmation from peers, but each moment of praise simply contributed to her determination to succeed. Recently, Mars and her team have reached out to the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship for guidance on sustainable business growth, Business to Business sales, and how to grow professional connections. CFE Entrepreneur in Residence, Brian Hayden, helps the team with the business facet of the app, and has witnessed the WellNest team’s grit and determination firsthand.
“I’m impressed by the WellNest team,” Brian said. “They’ve built and shipped a product that complete strangers are using.
“With customers and a product, they have the foundations of a business. Where they take it next is up to them.”
While WellNest grows, Mars plans to spend the remainder of her first year post-grad devoting her time, attention, and love to her work. With the rest of her team at her back, she’s excited to have the opportunity to bring her vision to life, and to get to share all the thrills and excitement with her team.
To Mars, WellNest is her passion and her career; To America, WellNest is a path to a more balanced, mindful future for us all.
“I live and breathe my app… it’s how I can make a difference.”