Finalist Q&A: Stressbusters

This business installs the Stressbusters program on college campuses and provides guidance, print materials, and school-to-school best-practice facilitation to support their ongoing operation and expansion. Stressbusters is a college wellness and prevention program that contributes to the creation of a healthier campus community through continuous outreach efforts, resource education and training. At its core, Stressbusters trains students to be wellness coaches who calm and connect thousands of students and staff with support services and free backrubs at planned events all over campus, all year long. Beyond backrubs, Stressbusters supports campus mental health safeguards by encouraging self-care and help-seeking behaviors while reducing student isolation.

How did you come up with the idea for your business, and what, or who, is your main source of motivation?
As former director of a university health promotion program, I piloted the Stressbusters idea of training student teams as wellness coaches and free backrub providers in response to skyrocketing stress levels and plummeting attendance at traditional workshops. The magical atmosphere created at the very first Stressbusters event (and at most since), complete with people helping other people to feel better, the amazing looks on backrub recipients’ faces, and the feedback from the just-busted such as, “That was the kindest thing anyone’s done for me all week,” remains my primary motivator for trying to launch Stressbusters at as many schools as possible—especially when the entrepreneur thing gets stressful. I was a wildly stressed student at the University of Maryland years ago and similar stress reduction opportunities there saved my health and sparked my public health career. I am also motivated by the possibility that Stressbusters will do the same for others.

What is a unique feature of your business?
Stressbusters stands out because it simultaneously bucks the current trend of technology-enabled disconnectedness, and totally rides that same technology to implement, manage and market the Stressbusters product on campuses. For example, the engine of the program is healthy and safe face-to-face interaction via backrub events, while at the same time using Twitter, Facebook and other social media to let students know about Stressbusters happenings that pop up all over campus. An Entrepreneurial Spirit Award grant would advance this unique marriage by allowing the creation of phone-friendly videos that student backrubbers can watch right before events to reinforce the skills they learned during in-person training.

What are your thoughts on the connection between small business and the local community?
I think that local communities are the tickets for small business success. There are a lot of them—especially if you tease out the term “community”—and it makes sense that they seem to be looking for more genuinely customized and person-to-person services that small businesses are in a unique position to provide. I suppose it’s related to that saying, “All politics are local.” Even if your business is national or global, how can you connect with and support the communities where your products and services land in ways that match their local needs.

Why should the Idea Cafe regulars vote for you?
A vote for Stressbusters would really be a big shout out of thanks to the hundreds of students around the country who VOLUNTEER their time to help fellow students to bust stress and get healthier. If Stressbusters wins this year’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, the grant prize will be used to enhance their training, and in turn, everyone they help. Winning publicity would be used to attract new students and schools to the program toward our goal of a Stressbusters nation! I may have come up with the Stressbusters idea, but that idea wouldn’t have gone anywhere without students’ dedication to assisting other people. So, please send some appreciation and encouragement their way with a vote for THEIR program. Thank you!


This is a fantastic program

This is a fantastic program that presents a win-win for all involved! I especially like the volunteer component of students helping other students. It's a great way to make a difference in someone's life, right in the moment when they need it most!

We implemented the

We implemented the StressBusters program at Harvard in March 2009 to great success. It instantly created a buzz and lots of excitement. I particularly like the community building aspect of the program - students reaching out to help each other to create less stress and a more balanced and healthy community.

I was a student at NYU and I

I was a student at NYU and I LOVED the stressbusters program. Everybody wanted to either volunteer to give back rubs or, mostly, get one ...especially at the times of exams when you really need to relax and chill a little bit. It was a great way to reach out for stressed students and provide a touch of companionship.

As an NYU Alumni and current

As an NYU Alumni and current employee I have yielded the benefits of this great idea. To be able to pop in for a quick massage during a stressful work day really improved my mood and sometimes productivity. Stressbusters strengthens the NYU community by uniquely bringing wellness and community service together.

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