Winona graduate makes health app

Erin Jones, News Reporter

A former Winona State University student recently released a new Apple app, BetterYou, which helps people connect to holistic health.

Holistic health emphasizes the importance of how people connect with their environment and the relationship between mind, body and spirit.

App developer and recent Winona State graduate Justin Bergeron created the app for his senior capstone project and was encouraged by his professor to get the app into the app store.

Originally, Bergeron, who majored in computer science, planned to work on the app as a side project, but it has now become his full-time job.

Samantha Strand, who is the chief operating officer for the BetterYou app said that Bergeron had a full-time job lined up with another company, but turned it down to further develop his BetterYou app.

“He was about to move to the cities and have a stable, full-time job that would pay great and he would be set,” Strand said.

Though most people would jump at that opportunity, Bergeron decided to take a chance with his app.

“The story he’s shared with me is that his two passions have always been sports and health and computer programming,” Strand said. “He decided to put those two things together and make this app that would help people live healthier.”

Strand elaborated on the purpose of the app.

“It’s a tool that will help people not only think up goals and try to be more mindful of their health life, but also connect them to resources right in their own community that can help them achieve their goals,” Strand said.

To connect users to these resources, the people behind the BetterYou app have partnered up with local businesses, including Livewell Winona, Midtown Foods and HyVee.

Caleb Gernes, a junior at Winona State majoring in marketing and minoring in professional selling is the marketing director for the app. He explained how the partnerships between BetterYou and these local businesses work.

“There’s a community map that is incorporated with a redeemable point system,” Gernes said. “Users can go to businesses on the map and scan a QR code, earn points and then redeem those points for discounts at those same or other local businesses.”

Gernes stated that the community map, which includes all the local businesses partnered with BetterYou, is the app’s biggest feature so far, but was only recently launched on March 11.

Strand added that though the overall app was only released in January, its success has been exciting.

“Last time I checked there was a little bit over 3,500 downloads,” Strand said. “But downloads are different than users.”

Though they are not sure exactly how many BetterYou users there are, the app’s success can be measured in other ways.

“Success could be measured by the amount of support we’ve gotten in the community and we’ve currently built a team that is so excited to jump on board with us,” Strand said. “I think the current success can be measured in that sense.”

In addition to this, Strand and Gernes said that they’re hoping to take the next two months to prepare for their next launch, which is set for early June.

“What I will say is that it’s going to have a lot more features for those with a profile on the BetterYou app,” Strand said.

Gernes agreed, stating that they do not want to spoil the new features to users just yet.

“It’s pretty on the down-low right now,” Gernes said. “We kind of want to surprise people with it.”

With the next launch in the works and a search starting for an Android developer, Strand and Gernes said that if all goes well, they hope to help Bergeron expand the app to other cities, not just Winona.

“We’re using Winona as a beta test,” Gernes said. “So for the businesses we’re partnered with, we keep in contact and if they want anything changed we change it for them because before we expand to places like La Crosse or Minneapolis, we want to make sure the businesses are ecstatic with their experiences.”

Though feedback from these businesses is incredibly important to Bergeron, Strand and Gernes and the BetterYou app, Strand and Gernes also hope to receive feedback from BetterYou users.

“All we need right now is just support and people to download the app on their Apple phones and try to use a QR codes somewhere,” Strand said. “We need people talking about it.”