Living the Dream: Alison Harmelin

Name: Alison Harmelin 

Age: 38 

Location: New York

Education: B.A. University of Southern California, l’Universite-Paris La Sorbonne Certificat de Langue Francaise

Job title: Co-Founder, Zeel.com

What she does: In today’s busy world, one-stop shopping has become a necessity. But while there are tons of places online where you can buy all your groceries or beauty products in one fell swoop, there wasn’t a place to “shop” for health and wellness and their services. That’s why Alison Harmelin and her husband co-founded Zeel.com, which makes finding and booking appointments with qualified health & wellness practitioners quick and easy.  “We have a nationwide network of massage therapists, chiropractors, registered dietitians, acupuncturists and other practitioners,” says Alison. On Zeel, you can browse profiles of qualified Zeel professionals, compare prices, check real-time appointment availability, and book online instantly.

How she got her gig: Alison started her career as a television correspondent - might we add that's she's an emmy nominated news correspondent? But she came to the realization that the media of the 21st century is the Internet. Alison knew that creating an online space for finding health and wellness experts was a natural move. She credits her hubby as her greatest supporter. “I’ve had a great mentor in my husband, Samer Hamadeh. His first company, Vault.com, was one of the early Internet start-ups, so in his early forties, he’s already considered a veteran,” says Alison.

Power Move: “It was at a meeting with one of our early angel investors, a very well-known person in the tech world, and an extremely impressive guy at every level. We were at a hotel restaurant just off the campus of Stanford University pitching him our idea for what seemed like hours - when I saw something click,” says Alison.  “He saw our vision and agreed to invest. I felt like we’d won the lottery.”

Required Reading: Alison knows how important it is to stay current and up to date, especially in the ever-evolving tech community.TechCrunch does a good job of keeping me current, but as a journalist I read everything from the Wall Street Journal to esoteric medical journals. It’s just my nature,” says Alison.

Dream Connections: “I’d love to have an all access pass to my fantasy One Kings Lane warehouse. Interior design has always been a passion. I’d also like the key to a wine cellar at Lot18,” says Alison.

Day in the Life: As if being the driving force at Zeel wasn’t enough, Alison  continues to work as a freelance TV news correspondent. She also chairs a board of a children’s theater based in NYC. “Samer [her co-founder and husband] and I often meet investors and other entrepreneurs for dinner or drinks. Long days have never bothered me – it’s getting up in the morning that I find a little tough,” says Alison.

Stress Reliever: It’s simple, says Alison:Eat. Pray. Yell.”

Family First: “I love bumping into my husband in the hallway,” says Alison.  Although her business is thriving, family remains her number one priority, and says that her children are her greatest success. 

She said what? “At a tech meet-up early in my Internet career, I tried to network with a group of guys by asking, ‘So, anyone start anything interesting recently?’  No one laughed, and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough,” says Alison.

This job’s for you if: you have vision, flexibility, perseverance and a little luck. “Don’t be intimidated by a bunch of guys standing around at a tech meet-up. Learn the lingo. Don’t get discouraged when 99 VCs and dozens of angels tell you your idea stinks. They said the same thing to Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, and he has done pretty well for himself,” says Alison.

“No” is never an answer: “As my father always says, ‘Nothing takes the place of persistence,’” says Alison. “I’ve seen plenty of good companies fail and plenty of marginal ideas succeed based almost entirely on the persistence of the founding team.”