When the stock market crashed in 2008, Aras Toker, a Turkish immigrant on a work visa for his Wall Street job, was terrified. While some worried about their portfolios dwindling, Toker feared for his ability to stay in the US, an experience that affected him both mentally and physically. 

Toker, who was already dealing with burnout from his job, was also diagnosed with Crohn’s, a chronic gastrointestinal disease.

“It changed the way I look at life,” he recalls of the experience. “The biggest nut to crack was the mental part — the anxious thoughts and the depressive moods.”

Toker says he ultimately recovered from Crohn’s by making lifestyle changes, from nutrition and sleep habits to meditation and mindfulness exercises. After healing himself through a holistic approach, he wanted to help others do the same.

In 2020, Toker launched Peace of Mind with naturopathic doctor Antonella Aguilera-Ruiz. The startup partners with companies to bring 6-week resiliency programs to employees. The programs, focused on fighting workplace stress and burnout, include interactive group experiences, online training, and a dedicated health coach who guides workers through the training. 

The program centers around nutritional psychiatry, exercise and movement, healthy sleep routines, and growth mindset teachings to treat each individual holistically. 

aras (2)

Co-founders Antonella Aguilera-Ruiz (left) and Aras Toker (right).

Group coaching allows small groups to share thoughts, have open conversations, and grow closer as a team. Toker says the mix of remote activities and live facilitation — which the company calls “unwind hour” — can reduce burnout, reduce stress, and give workers time to relax and build camaraderie. 

Toker says existing mental health options for corporations, such as subscriptions to mental health apps, show low employee utilization — sometimes as low as 2%. Peace of Mind’s pilot cohort had a 75% weekly active participant rate and a 71% completion rate. 

“The missing link is the human connection,” Toker says of traditional employee mental health options. The results from the pilot program showed 66% of participants reported an improved mindset score after completing the 6-week program. 

Plus, Peace of Mind provides human resources departments the opportunity to measure employee well-being in a concrete way, a valuable proposition for corporate clients. Data from each cohort is anonymized before being shared with employers, but offers insights into the mindset of the workforce. 

“They can actually measure the assessment of the employee before and after to see what their resilience levels are at the moment or at the end of the program,” says Toker. 

The company offers 2 pricing models: a 6-week program that charges $500 per participant, and a maintenance program that includes the 6-week course as well as additional coaching sessions that run for another 6 months, for which the company charges $900 per participant. 

The startup began with accelerator program NEC X, and has more recently worked with Alchemist Accelerator, which provides 6 months of workshops on topics including enterprise sales, angel investing, and marketing that culminate in a demo day presentation to 300 VCs. 

Toker, who will finish the program this September, is hoping the experience will secure investments that help the company grow in 2022. The co-founders are aiming to sign on 12 new corporate clients this fall, and already have 2 in the works (one of which has 100k employees). 

“I’m excited about the trends I’m seeing,” says Toker of the modern workplace. “Hybrid workforces, leaders reshaping the environment physically and virtually. How can we play into this future of work and truly add value?”


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Originally published May 3, 2022 6:00:00 AM, updated May 03 2022