Rachel Simon-Lee


“The foundation that BALSA provides kind of catapults you into doing what you thought you were not capable of doing.”

Meet Rachel Simon-Lee, a Summer 2017 BALSA Grant Finalist and the founder of Heartwork Videos. Heartwork Videos is a video production resource that can be utilized in the training of surgeons. In addition to using the videos to train surgeons, the videos produced by Heartwork allows patients and their family members to capture the key moments during their surgical procedures.

Rachel is a video producer by trade. One day, she decided she wanted to use the skills she developed from her day job as a communication and a marketing intern at Barnes Jewish Hospital. Rachel notes that she wanted to market her skills to surgeons who were looking for someone who knew how to technically edit videos and also how to tell the story of surgery. While Rachel does not have a medical background, Rachel is able to take hours of raw footage from heart surgeries, edits the videos into shorter segments and uses arrows, diagrams, annotations and voice-overs to tell a story in a comprehensive and concise manner.  Rachel caught her big break when a pediatric heart surgeon new to Barnes Jewish Hospital requested to have a full-time video producer to edit the videos of surgical procedures. When she was approached with the idea and her answer was “absolutely”.

Since becoming a BALSA Grant Finalist, Rachel has scaled her business and has hired an employee she considers a “phenomenal editor” to help her with the editing of the videos. When asked how the BALSA Foundation has helped her, Rachel states “BALSA gave me my first pitch experience. I was nervous, I was excited, I was anxious but that prepared me for Startup Connection”. As a BALSA Grant Finalist, Rachel was required to have a business pitch and practice it. This prepared her for Startup Connection, an event in which entrepreneurs share their businesses with potential investors and the innovation community. By the end of Startup Connection, Rachel walked away with an additional $4,500 that she won for her business! Rachel has also participated in other competitions such as the Brazen STL pitch competition which prepared her for the Be Seen Brunch where she was also a finalist. Rachel emphasizes that the likelihood of her winning other competitions would have been low if she had not become a BALSA Grant Finalist.

Rachel also notes that the in-kind donations provided by the BALSA Foundation and other volunteers was also very helpful in building her business. In addition to the $1000 cash grant she received as a BALSA Grant Finalist, Rachel got the opportunity to meet with a lawyer, an accountant and marketing professionals through the free Learning Series provided to each finalist. By meeting with these subject matter experts, Rachel was able to create contracts for potential clients, budget her business finances and also think outside of the box in terms of building her business.

For first-time entrepreneurs considering submitting a BALSA grant application her advice is “Nothing is stopping you from applying. If you have an idea, you should do it. Start putting yourself out there, apply for different competitions and different grants because you cannot work in a silo.” In addition, Rachel also advises to “validate that you are solving a problem and that there is a need you are fulfilling”.

When asked how being a BALSA Finalist has impacted her community, Rachel says that her friends and family are extremely supportive and that they have been “awesome and so encouraging”. Rachel mentions she is often seen as “different” in an industry that is normally dominated by white males. While she sees being “different” as good, she hopes it inspires entrepreneurs of color to take chances.

In summary, Rachel expresses that the BALSA Foundation has been instrumental in the growth of her and her business and that “the foundation that BALSA provides kind of catapults you into doing what you thought you were not capable of doing.”