About every five minutes, someone, somewhere in the world, creates a CaringBridge page. The Minneapolis-based social network makes it easy for people to communicate with loved ones during a health crisis by creating a centralized, private place to share updates and ask for help. Sona Mehring created CaringBridge in 1997. It started with a simple website designed to help friends share news about their premature daughter, Brighid. The power of that instant connection—at a time before Facebook and Twitter—prompted Mehring to build CaringBridge, a platform that was available, for free, to the public. From the newborn intensive care unit at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in St. Paul, CaringBridge has grown into a global nonprofit with users in 235 countries.
Mehring, a tech entrepreneur who was early to the Internet—launching her own web page design firm in the 1990s—talks about her decision to turn CaringBridge into a nonprofit, and leave her day job to run it. “I have a nonprofit heart with a for-profit mind,” she says. She also discusses why she believes CaringBridge has continued to thrive despite the proliferation of social media.
“What I realized is, it’s not just a service; it’s an amazing way of people connecting. CaringBridge is actually something that helps people heal.”
After our conversation with Mehring, we go back to the classroom with University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business marketing professor Gino Giovannelli who points out what any founder can learn from CaringBridge. “If you have the right product that solves a need in the market,” Giovannelli says, “you don’t need to go broad.”
Editor-in-Chief of TCB