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Friendship helps MBAs foster mental health start-up

Mary Milley and Rachael Paolino.

When Rachael Paolino and Mary Margaret Milley embarked on their full-time MBA studies at UNC Kenan-Flagler, the two had no idea they’d be business partners one day.

Before they met during their first week of classes in 2017 and became friends, Paolino was working in the real estate finance sector, which she later realized wasn’t for her.

“I needed to advance my skill set and pursue something different to figure out what the right path was,” Paolino says. She felt that an MBA would help her decide on the right move.

“I chose UNC Kenan-Flagler because the real estate and entrepreneurship centers are top-notch and I had a strong inclination that I was going to follow an entrepreneurial path,” she says.

Milley knew she didn’t want to work for a huge company but didn’t know why until she was exposed to entrepreneurship at the Business School. She fell in love.

But even before stepping foot on campus, Milley felt UNC Kenan-Flagler was a great community and place to propel her career in the right direction.

“What stood out most to me was the alumni I spent time within different cities. I was really impressed with how down to earth every alum was and I really like who they are as people,” Milley explains.

Paolino agrees. “The friendliness of everyone I encounter at the Business School will always vividly stand out to me.” Everyone shares their experiences and classmates are always willing to help each other,” she says.

And this welcoming culture helped Paolino and Milley become instant friends. They met at an Adams Apprenticeship event at Launch Chapel Hill before becoming co-founders of their mental health start-up — Viyb Health.

“I was called out in the crowd for looking confused. Then someone mentioned that they had a contact for me knowing I was really passionate about mental health. Without hesitation, Rachael came right up to me and starting asking me about my interest in mental health,” Milley says.

“We both had experience as patients for over a decade and deeply understand how difficult it is to find mental health help when you are in a very vulnerable state. We wanted to improve that process and help people choose and connect to care,” Paolino says.

The entrepreneurs are focusing on trauma patients and connecting them with specialists. Yet they want to do more than connect patients to care. Viyb Health’s vision is to become the world’s premier mental health virtual hub that transforms patients’ lives.

Milley says the MBA Program helped her apply what she learned in the classroom to her venture. “It has really been a life changing experience for me.”

For Paolino and Milley, co-founding Viyb Health has been their greatest accomplishment, fueled by dedication and hard work.

“Starting a business while being a student is tough, but the ability to learn in a classroom and then apply what I am learning to running a business is a wonderful opportunity,” Paolino says.

Both spend a lot of time networking off campus, which has helped them to become integrated into a much larger community — Research Triangle Park. The Business School’s core value of community resonates with them, and they also apply integrity and teamwork into their company’s core values, which can drive strong business decision-making skills.

Milley and Paolino say UNC Kenan-Flagler’s culture played a big role in their decision to come to the Business School, and now, they’re happy to have built a life-long friendship while working towards their career goals.