Melissa Blatt - Founder & CEO, Indipop

Melissa Blatt - Founder & CEO, Indipop

After struggling to find healthcare when she became self-employed, Melissa Blatt turned the struggle into an opportunity and created Indipop, a health care company geared toward the independent popluation of self-employed professionals and small business owners.


Troy Schlicker: Today I am grateful to be joined with Melissa Blat of indie Pop. How it going? How's it going today, Melissa? I had you muted. How's it going?

Melissa Blatt: Oh, I said hi. Hi. Hi. Happy November.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah. You have run a company called Indie Pop, which is a healthcare insurance provider. Why don't you give us a quick little rundown of kind of the origin story of what got you started with that company.

Melissa Blatt: Yeah, absolutely. I'll start by saying, cause people ask me all the time, what does indie pop stand for? And it stands for independent population. These are all the people that are on their own trying to find affordable quality healthcare. So they're typically freelancers, 10 99 contractors. Even small businesses, like small groups.

And I'm part of this population, which is. About 57 million and growing. We're seeing more and more people are going out on their own post pandemic. And when you're on your own for healthcare, it can be very frustrating and expensive. And I learned that myself cuz I left corporate and went out on my own and.

I was, I had sticker shock not only for the premiums but for the really high deductibles five to $8,000 for a surgery and, very limited networks. And I got very discouraged with what I was finding and I said, if I can really find something for myself, I think I could help an entire population.

And that's when I discovered the subscription or membership based healthcare plans that differ from traditional insurance. We can go into it if you'd like. Or if you have other questions for me. . Cause I'll go into the weeds. I'll go there. ?

Troy Schlicker: No. If you wanna expound on a little bit. Yeah. Go.

Melissa Blatt: Yeah, so with traditional insurance, you have premiums and you have deductibles. And then you probably have something called a max out of pocket, which can be another amount or fee. And with these, with our plans, they're membership or subscription based, so they, you don't have a premium or deductible.

You become a member of a community or group that shares the cost of medical needs and they work in all 50 states. So you have the same benefits state to state, which is really. They're not based on employment status or earnings. So if you are a small team and you want to hire someone in another city, like I'm in Arizona, if I wanna hire someone in Nashville, it will be the same rate and the same type of healthcare plan that I have in Arizona.

So that's a little different than what people are, I guess used to, and we're not tied to open enrollment. So yes, today started I think today started open enrollment, but we are, we're open enrollment all year long. We never stop. We enroll literally for the upcoming months. So if you do miss this timeframe, don't fear we're here.

a little rhyme there, but yeah, so that's how we came into being.

Troy Schlicker: What so what, was there a specific thing, obviously you mentioned going from the corporate world to independent work. What kind of led to that transition in.

Melissa Blatt: Yeah, so I was working for a tech company and I guess my wheelhouse or forte is business development and marketing, and I wanted to work for several companies, not just one company any longer.

I also wanted to be my own boss and. That meant leaving a corporate environment and being, becoming a 10 99 contractor. And so going out on your own is really, if anybody out there, which I know there's millions of you there's no one really leading you in, taking you by the hand of all the things that you need to launch a business to be, become either an LLC or to do your marketing and your accounting and your cash flow and your he.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah, that's one of the, I say that's one of the things that I think a lot of the general population may not think as much about when they think you. When work for yourself like that, you started a small business. Obviously in the tech world people are more familiar with it, but there's a lot of people who didn't really start their own business per se, but just by being 10 99 and just by being an independent contractor and working at one or multiple places rather than being a part of the company itself full time like that just changes the benefits that you get and all bunch of other factors, which can be really good for.

Contracts and different jobs and positions, but has its own set of challenges as well.

Melissa Blatt: Gone are the days, my father worked for a company for 25 years. I really. I don't know too many people that have stayed longer than five with a company. And so we're seeing this, not only a quicker turnover, but more and more people that are getting hired as a contractor and more companies have to then look at their their team and, what are they doing to attract and retain top talent.

If they are, if they do have con. So that's something that I think they're going to be exploring more in the near future as they hire different types of employment.

Troy Schlicker: So you made the transition to being that 10 99 obviously is where you ran into the challenges on the health insurance side of things.

At what point did you decide how long into that process did it take you to decide, Hey, there's an opportunity here. Let me completely pivot from just this 10, this contractor for companies to running my own business.

Melissa Blatt: It was within the year I. Doing research and asking a lot of my friends that are freelancing and that own small businesses, and I'm like, what do you guys do for healthcare?

And they're like, wow, we pay three times the rates or we go without health insurance. I'm like, wow, I can't believe we've hit this point where it's become still such a huge pain point in a business. So I'd say about a year, and then it didn't just, when you have a new company, a startup I had, I remember it was a Google doc

I planned it out and it. It changed a little bit over the course of the year as I moved forward, but I did a lot of vetting. There are dozens and dozens of different types of healthcare plans out there in the market, but most of us are just privy to the big insurance companies and we're a little hesitant to try anything new.

It's healthcare that's really scary. We don't want anything to go wrong. And so what Indie Pop did was we were really looking for plans that did what they say they were going to do and no lifetime or annual caps. Pretty much like an open network. So we were looking for it to check the boxes for a lot of things that I wanted in healthcare, and that I felt comfortable and trusting to my friends and family.

So yeah, it wasn't an overnight like. This idea and boom, the next day I'm starting at no, because I had to form relationships. And I think that's the difference between indie pop and a different type of marketplace is we have these really great relationships with our healthcare companies.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah. No. And like you say, any business is gonna take some time as well too to grow, right? Like it's the, even the quote unquote overnight successes in business are really never that, but you just don't see all the work that goes into getting to that launching point kind of thing, right?

Melissa Blatt: It's not, I think an overnight success really means three to five.

Troy Schlicker: Exactly. That's really fast track it. Yes. That's kinda there. And you also mentioned like the how many options as tough there are out there as someone who's been, who has done marketing as well too. Like you realize that in some cases, so many options actually makes it. Because our brains tend to shut down.

We have too many choices available to us. Like when it's oh yeah, you can do anything you want. That's almost too much for us to try to like really then analyze what's best. And so for a lot of people it's part of why they default to the big names or the safe choices in that regard versus, maybe finding better altern.

Melissa Blatt: Oh, there's so much to talk about , because even the, by your age, I've noticed how the younger generation is shopping for healthcare. We have people that are o getting off of their parents' plan at 26, and that's, they're still pretty young. And so they're I love it.

They're like, I'm trying to be, adult adulting, as a verb and get my own health healthcare, and they don't know what to look for. And then you're, you don't know how to weigh. Or even what to ask. If you go into the er, will you have to reach your deductible or will you have a copay?

These are just some things that I go over with plans just so people can have a better idea. And I call myself the worst case scenario person because I'm looking for literally what could go wrong in your life and how much is it going to cost you? And everyone. Their own features or benefits that they're looking for.

Some people are like, I don't even wanna go to the doctor. I don't go, I'm healthy. I just want something in place in case, I break my leg. And you're right with a lot of research comes analysis paralysis. And I hear this a lot and that's with all age groups. People don't want it to.

Research and they don't wanna, they procrastinate because it's not fun to read through all that fine print and also think about what could go wrong. Hey, I just won't think about it until something does go wrong, . And it does happen. So for you, for the younger people out there that are like, Oh, I'm invincible and nothing's going to happen.

I ask you if you have a direct connection to your appendix to know how your appendix is doing, because that is the one thing that I hear more and more for people under 35 is appendicitis and that surgery can run, five to $20,000. So just to give you an idea. But yeah it's interesting how people search for healthcare.

It's interesting about all the opportunities, which is great. I love that there's options out there, but then you have to do some comparing and understand like what you are looking for in the plan. Do you want more technology and more on-demand care, more virtual health? Do you want more preventive care?

There's good there. It's good that there's. And it's not just a one size fits all. Nobody wants that. Nobody wants to be told Here it is. It's a blanket.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah, no, it reminds me as a real estate agent of people that will, like when they're relocating here to Austin, a lot of times they'll come into town for a weekend and be like, oh, we wanna see as many homes as possible, and they'll send me a list of 20 homes to see over a weekend.

I'm like you're probably gonna see about eight of them because as much as you think you can go see 10 homes in a day, by the time we get to home five, you're gonna be like, We're exhausted, and two, you're gonna, all the homes are gonna start running together. I'll be like, so which homes have you liked so far?

The one we really liked was the one with this kitchen, but it and it had this bedroom and this backyard, and I'm like you just named three different homes, not one home.

Melissa Blatt: You just created your own house. Yeah.

Troy Schlicker: That home would be amazing if we could put those two together, but unfortunately that's not really the case.

And again, it's just, there's, there is a finite amount of information that that people can take in and still be. Productive in their reasoning and stuff. And so yeah, it is where it gets, it is where it is super beneficial to have an expert that can help take the take and ask questions about the things that are important to you in your situation, right?

Whether you're 26 with you're 56 family, single, all those kind of things. And then give you a much more condensed list of things to look at to make a decision from versus just having the whole every.

Melissa Blatt: Things available to you, just like you're the expert and you're gonna point out things about a house, especially a first time homeowner might not be aware of.

And that, having the kitchen, being an open kitchen, this is gonna be beneficial when you have the little kids running around. Like you could just point things out that they might not be thinking about. Besides just the price, right? Because that's what I try to do is break down well, what's actually included to create that value of what the plan is.

And just like you want people to fall in love with their home, right? It's probably their biggest expense that they're ever going to have in their life. And healthcare is also not quite as a large ofs. Expense. It could put you in medical debt. But I want to say one of my new like kind of taglines is fall in love with your healthcare plan.

Again, this is your health. Like you should be, excited to move forward and take care of yourself and be opt optimal health or know what's going on. To prevent, get your screenings done. I know that we live in a fast paced environment of life, and we have a lot of things that we have to think about, but don't put healthcare at the bottom of your list, that's how you show up.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah, for sure. Another one of the things that in your, in talking about that it spark or sparks a conversation to me is the, again, the lack of. Real life education that goes on in our education system, whether it be right, be able to balance a checkbook and just finances, like basic tax stuff, like understanding different things or again, healthcare, like understanding, hey, here are some basic things about healthcare.

Not that maybe if you take that as a class and as a sophomore, junior in high school, you're gonna necessarily remember it when you're 26. But there's just a lot, there are a lot of things that shouldn't. People should have a better grasp on in general because they are so critical to decisions in your life, what you know, if you don't have the right health insurance and suddenly you go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt or even tens of thousands of dollars into debt, that's a re like.

Medical companies generally can, are gonna, you, it's hard to get rid of cuz of bankruptcy. It's hard to get rid of because of different types of things. And you think, oh, I can just, it won't be a big deal. And unfortunately it's something that can stick with you for quite some time.

Melissa Blatt: You nailed it.

Planning, planning out, starting early, understanding budgets. I know it's hard nobody, to stick to a budget, but. You're, you do this so that you can minimize risk in your life or c or achieve goals that financial goals that you want to achieve so that you can have that dream house.

And healthcare is a top three pain point when you are self-employed. It's just, it's a really frustrating area. I hear this all the time. I've been doing this now over two years, and I can tell you I, no one has come to me and said I love my current healthcare plan. No one, not one person said that they were happy with the healthcare plan that they had, that's why they were looking.

So it is an area that the more that you can educate yourself or turn to experts that can help walk you through it, is, this can really help in the long run for that unexpected. Or for the everyday needs, like pink eye and rashes and sinus infections, and you.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah, that's actually one of the things too, that in talking with a lot of people like the internet's amazing in the fact that it gives us information, it gives us information on all different kinds of stuff. But remember having a professor long, back when the internet was a new thing, talking about how it's like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant.

There's so much information that again, it can be overwhelming. And I get the, one of the beautiful things about the internet is that it has eliminated. The middleman in a lot of cases to where it's brought the cost of a lot of different things down, because you don't have companies that aren't doing anything other than marking the price up and taking a profit from it.

And so as a realtor, I get a lot of people who are like, oh, we don't, you don't need a realtor. They're not needed. And great if you can buy or sell your home on your own. Mazel top do it. No worries. But at the same point in time, like a lot of people, like a lot of the most successful people out there have, do what they do really well, but then rely on trusted advisors for other parts that they know are important.

And then that's how they, that's how they can do their focus really well and not deal with, okay, great. You can sell your house on your own, right? You can. You can go to healthcare. And go through open enrollment and kind of figure it out and make it happen. But does that mean that just because you did it and you didn't pay a third party any kind of cut to do it, that you really got the best plan for you, that you really got the best cost?

No, it doesn't. And know, again, same thing that happens as a real estate agent. Like just because you sold your home doesn't mean a real estate agent, a good real estate agent, couldn't have sold it for more, couldn't have found you a better home when you were looking to buy. Couldn't have done different things.

And I do feel. Real, like having a network of experts to help in a lot of situations is an underrated An underrated phenomenon in today's world when it's just I'll do it all myself, I'll just look online and I'll do a YouTube video and then I know how to do it and I'm not the expert and can do it myself.

Melissa Blatt: Oh, you can learn to be a surgeon online too, . But absolutely. And just wanna point out that with Indie Pop, we don't charge anything extra. So we don't raise the rate, we don't pat it, it whatever the savings is, we're passing it on to you so we don't have any extra fees. And we. We will tell you if traditional insurance is going to be a better route for you.

So we're really a, we call ourselves health guides, healthcare guides because yes, indie pop plans might be a perfect fit, but they might not. And so we are, we're going to let you know. But you're absolutely right. There's a ton of information, but not everyone also wants to sift through especially if you don't know the questions to.

That's the key thing is if you don't even know what to ask, then it's good to, find, then

Troy Schlicker: Your information, the information you get back is gonna be flawed. It's like putting the wrong numbers into a calculator, getting the wrong answer and blaming the calculator.

No, you put the wrong numbers into the calculator to begin with the calculator, just spit out what you gave it. And so same thing online is if you don't know the right answer, if you. If you're searching for something but don't know the right questions to ask, the internet's not wrong. In that case it gave you what you requested.

You just didn't ask the right question that way. So that's exactly right.

Melissa Blatt: Yeah, and that's why, experts exist. It also, I think, experts exist to save you time so that you can rely on a person that's been doing this, for a while that has seen all the different types of scenarios. Yeah, that's just called experience.

Troy Schlicker: Did. So growing up, did you think that, one day you would be an entrepreneur and owning your own business and doing yourself that way?

Melissa Blatt: So yes and no. I actually I'm a creative soul and I actually went to film school a pretty good one, , and I really wanted to be a storyteller and make movies and.

Through a series of my life journey. I ended up in nonprofit for a while and then working for a tech company. But all in all, the same theme was I was telling other people's stories. So I did it in the most creative way that, that I could. And what's really interesting is my father who I told you he had like a 25 year career at age 50.

I was living in LA doing the Hollywood thing and he called me and he said I wanna open my own business. Would you commit to a year to help me start it? And by the way, he lived in Minnesota and we all know what kinda weather its there. And I was like, no, I'm not coming back. I'm not, I'd really love to

Troy Schlicker: but LA to Minnesota, I don't think I'm gonna make that happen.

Melissa Blatt: When your parent has helped me achieve, some of my dreams and. He was in his late, mid fifties, and I'm like, okay, a year of my life and I'm sure I'm gonna learn something right. And I ended up staying for five. And being a small business owner, I really got to see the struggle and the plight and the soul.

Because being a small business owner is completely different than working for a big company. And it's the dream. I think it's the backbone of, the economy here in the. The United States. And so I really can empathize with that small business owner wearing 5, 6, 7, 8 hats, working crazy hours trying to find healthcare for their for their team because they care about them, but then realizing.

I, I'm gonna have to, let my part-timer go just so I can get healthcare and that shouldn't be the case. So I so I did get the entrepreneurial bug in when I was in my mid twenties, and that was priceless. Working with your dad, even though you probably Fired each other every other day.

But still I'm very I'm just really happy that I had that opportunity and I got to peek behind the curtain of what it is like for a, a solopreneur or, a small business owner. So that was kind my journey. Yeah, know the family business.

Troy Schlicker: I feel like tends to be one of the two extremes in most cases.

Either. It's the great, Kind of the, not necessarily that they're the biggest businesses, but the greatest businesses in the fact that and you have this dynamic that's amazing that you get to spend a lot of time together and grow something together, which is awesome. And you unfortunately though, do have, because of the additional emotions and people not having business be outside of the personal kind of stuff.

You, you obviously do have some situations that turn out pretty bad in that regard too. But again, I do think in a lot of cases And again, for small businesses up until the last 20, 30 years, I would say most of them were family businesses. It was the family that. Started a small business and then that's what the kids did in spring and summer, and then when they went back to school.

And that was just how a lot of small businesses worked was the kids helping out and eventually maybe taking over the business one day. Whereas again, nowadays it's small business is a lot different than it was 50, 60 years ago.

Melissa Blatt: And I had to say I'm not staying in this for the long haul.

I. I, I had to, I went back to California to thaw out but I, but it's a harder.

Troy Schlicker: And it's a harder statement to make when it's your dad versus just an employer. Again, but and so that's where things can get trickier. But it's, but. At the same point in time, the five years, while they still would've been valuable learning experience, they wouldn't be probably as memorable if it wasn't working for your dad than if it was just working for another small, a small business type of thing.

Melissa Blatt: If you think about it, it was in the nineties just to date myself a little bit, but marketing has changed so. That I think we just were, yes, we had a computer, but it wasn't nearly what we could do with the email marketing today. There was a lot of flyers, there was a lot of print, it was a lot of, the commerce chamber of commerce, which is still very beneficial for a business to get to know one, one another in your community.

But it was, it's changed a lot. Technology has really, even in he. Oh, look at the wearables. Look at virtual health technology plays a part In every industry right now.

Troy Schlicker: Yes. Yeah. You mentioned the Austin or the Chamber and kind of that local networking stuff. I know you're actually located in Arizona, but have fairly strong ties here to Austin as well.

Kind of how did that come about?

Melissa Blatt: I did a cross country trip in March from Arizona to Florida. I have a lot of members on the East Coast, and I wanted to be, I wanted to meet some of my members and be where, we had a lot of need and so I spent a lot of time in Texas and Austin. There's a.

I'll give a shout out to Capital Factory. Stopped into Capital Factory. Met some of the teams, some of the startups, and on my way back, I, they had a location also in Houston and went to an event there and I just really clicked with everyone. And yeah, I try once a month to be in Texas. I was just there last week.

I got to go to the Driscoll. Supposedly the Driscoll Hotel is Haun. . I didn't have any encounters, but if you have, please let me know. . Yeah, I love Texas. A great place to have a start. A lot of entrepreneurs. So yeah, it's a really, it's a really great state to be in.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah. I'm sure for you. Like I say, there's double benefits in the fact that because it is so tech oriented it's good both from a business grow standpoint. Because you're, a healthcare tech company to some degree, and then also having as many self-employed people as we do here in, in Texas, also potential clientele as well too, gets a double benefit for you that way.

Melissa Blatt: Startups usually have less than five people. And so to get a, a group plan is really expensive. And not only that they're hiring non-traditional roles. So they might be hiring someone from India, and they might hire them for three months to come in. If they have a residential address, they can go on one of the indie pop plans.

So it's just something that is a little more flexible and portable for small, small teams or teams that are growing, I should say. Yeah, so it's a, it's just a little different than your, you're traditional insurance. I think it fills the gaps where maybe insurance might not be able.

Troy Schlicker: Aside from your Driscoll non-experience? I guess it would, yeah, no, both would've been, would've had any other highlights in visiting and connecting with people here in Austin?

Melissa Blatt: Yeah, so I've only really spent time downtown. And a lot has been at Capital Factory or a couple of networking groups there.

Big food movements too Markets, what are those called again? Farmer's markets. Yeah, farmers. And different products that are coming out of the Austin area. That have been really, that's been really interesting for for me to see obviously a lot of tech and. It's a young city.

I'll just point out, and I think most people know that like the age a lot of, if you are a young person looking to meet a lot people in their twenties and thirties, I think Austin is an amazing place to be.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah. I as again as a realtor, I'll see a lot of times where it's younger people like that, say twenties, thirties, moving here for a tech job, like they got a job at Google or Facebook.

company like that. Sometimes self-employed people as well too. And then We are we tend to age up because it's usually then when those people start to have kids. Now, grandpa and grandma we'd like to be closer to the grandkids. It was like, yeah, they definitely like to be closer to the kids too, but like now that it's grandkids, like now we're like, we're willing to make the move.

From wherever we were at because we think that they're more stable there versus moving to a different city every couple of years. But yeah, the it's, again, it's been an interesting dynamic of the very large tech companies being in town and having that bring in a lot of And then also the small.

side of the tech community as well too. So like just having that, having Google, having Facebook, Oracle, all these big companies bring in a lot of tech people, think has definitely helped the startup side of things because it just fosters more connections, more ideas just a bigger population of people that way.

Melissa Blatt: Absolutely. In fact, I will point out that one of the startups that I talked to is he's British and he chose to live in Austin to start to launch his startup. That was a factor in his head to literally move across an ocean. Yeah. To Austin. So that was, yeah, that was, I meet a lot of different types of startups, but that stuck in.

That, he chose Austin. Yeah.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah. That's the guy who has done his research before he decided where to go to that way. Cool. For people that are, interested in indie pop or looking for more information, what the best ways to. Do some research, get in touch, check you guys out.

Melissa Blatt: Yeah, so the website has a ton of information. Indie i, ndi, i p And then because it is open enrollment time, we're gonna be doing a lot of webinars. They'll be posted on the site under events. They're live we keep 'em to a half an hour giving. Time for questions. All the plans can be enrolled literally online.

We have several supplemental plans for dental and vision a pharmaceutical. Plan and on demand care all for under $50 a month. So that could be supplemented or added to any insurance product. And those start pretty much immediately. So yeah, those are ways to find us. And again, we are open enrollment all year long, so don't fret.

If you enrolled in a plan this open enrollment, you discovered you hate it . So you can you can find us in 2023 and say, wanna hop on one of your plans.

Troy Schlicker: That's awesome. I really appreciate taking the time to, to chat today. It's always interesting to hear other startup stories and how people got into their different career paths and lines of work.

So I really appreciate it.

Melissa Blatt: Yeah, mine came from a personal pain point, we're really passionate about impacting people's health and Thank you, Troy. Thank you so much for having me on and definitely when I come back to Austin probably next month. What? See you maybe in person. Yeah.

Troy Schlicker: Hopefully we'll actually be able to connect instead of both being me outta town.

The only times you're actually in town.

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