By Madeline Marriott ’24

Simmone Taitt '04 smiles as she speaks with students.When Simmone Taitt ’04, once a corporate sales representative, was “bitten by the startup bug,” she was looking for the autonomy and individuality that a small, close-knit environment could provide—a close-knit environment like the one she experienced at Lafayette.

“It was small team dynamics and everyone was responsible for something, and you had to deliver on that something,” Taitt says. “Something about that structure was really awesome for me—not surprising coming from Lafayette College, which was also not that big.”

Taitt, now the founder and CEO of Poppy Seed Health, an on-demand resource for maternal mental health, has been influenced by her Lafayette journey at every turn—her first introduction to the CEO of a wellness startup even came from a Lafayette alum. These far-reaching influences include the importance of empathy in her business practices. “If you ask me what characteristic is the most important to have in any profession, it’s empathy,” she says.

This is a skill Taitt had a chance to practice during her four years on College Hill, when events like 9/11 rocked the campus community, causing the student body to come together despite their differences. “I think the best way to build that muscle of empathy is actually in conflict, because even when you don’t agree with someone or even when there’s conflict or even when there’s something that should not be happening, you have to learn how to tap into the empathy to really be able to work through that conflict and find resolution,” she says.

Simmone Taitt '04 talks with students.“It didn’t matter what affinity group you were in or what club you were in—everyone came together,” Taitt continues.

That sense of empathy has informed Taitt’s mission at Poppy Seed Health.

“At Poppy Seed Health, we have built a place where people can go 24/7, 365 to get the kind of emotional and mental health support that is missing from a reproductive health care and maternal health care system today,” she says.

Taitt was inspired to create Poppy Seed Health when the need for such a company was reflected in her own personal experience. “Back in 2016, I had my first pregnancy loss,” she says. “I left that doctor’s appointment with no medical, emotional, or mental health follow-up, and I was shocked.”

After finding an online doula board and finally receiving the support she needed, Taitt quickly made two decisions: She would become a doula herself and create the startup that would become Poppy Seed Health. “I decided then to put everything that I had learned and everything I had known into Poppy Seed Health,” she says. “It was really important to me to build a place where someone like me— anyone, truly—could be able to get this kind of support on demand.”

In the nearly two years since launching Poppy Seed Health, Taitt has built one of the largest maternal health support workforces in the country. “Our big vision is that this kind of support and care is just a part of health care, because emotional and mental health support is health care,” she says.

One of the things Taitt remembers most about her Lafayette experience is the kindness and openness of the faculty and staff. From Liz McMahon in the mathematics department and Suzanne Westfall’s women’s and gender studies courses to staff members like Jodie FreyPam Brewer, and Jim and Donna Krivoski, Taitt recalls the impact of always feeling welcome—something that she tries to create for her clients today. “These people who impacted me, it’s mainly because they were kind and welcoming, and just really deeply caring human beings,” she says. “That really does make a huge difference.”

A guest of the Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Taitt returned to Lafayette March 28 in hopes of making such a difference for today’s students. She spent the day meeting with students, President Nicole Hurd, faculty, and staff, and shared her personal journey with a campus audience in the evening.

After having her life perspective changed by a conversation with feminist theorist bell hooks at an on-campus lecture, Taitt hopes she provided a message of resilience to students. “With me coming back, I hope that whoever joined me understands that there is a path forward and you can be who you are, and be building and innovating and making your way in this world,” she says. “I know how influential that can be at this stage in your life, because it was for me.”