January 2023 Alum of the Month: Isabelle Kenyon ’05
Hotchkiss Alum of the Month | Isabelle Kenyon ’05

Isabelle Kenyon ’05 is the founder and CEO of Calibrate, a metabolic health company on a mission to change the way the world treats weight. The business has raised more than $125 million from leading investors in the past two years and received awards for innovation from TIME and Fast Company, the Employer Health Innovation Roundtable, the World Economic Forum, and Goldman Sachs. She credits its success in part to the lessons she learned around the Hotchkiss Harkness table.

Kenyon discovered Hotchkiss in a roundabout way through her father’s two college friends, Jamie Held ’78 and George Kimball ’78. “My Dad always admired how well Jamie and George could write and encouraged me to look at Hotchkiss. When it came time to apply, I was so nervous that when I finally fell asleep, I slept through my interview! Luckily, Bill Leahy was still working in Harris House when we arrived hours late and agreed to interview me.”

She loved taking English classes with Chris Burchfield P’08,’10,’18, Athena Fliakos ’95, and Jason Vermillion. “Writing has been my key to leading at scale. I am grateful for the Hotchkiss curriculum’s relentless focus on clear and effective writing and the ways Hotchkiss leaders modeled this communication every day,” Kenyon said. “Tom Flemma’s American history and Robert Barker’s Tudor England were favorites. I did an independent study with Lou Pressman P’98 and adored our debates on governance philosophy through the ages.” Kenyon received the English Prize and the Frank A. Sprole ’38 Social Service Award upon graduation. 

Hotchkiss also played prominently in her decision to major in East Asian studies at the University of Pennsylvania. During her senior year, she ended up sitting around a Harkness table with U.S. Ambassador to China Clark T. Randt Jr. ’64, P’02,’09. She learned about China and its upcoming place in the world order, and she was so “captivated” that she signed up for a Chinese politics class in her first year of college.

Kenyon’s first job was in Hong Kong. “I started to learn hard skills like financial modeling, but also the soft skills of storytelling and business development. Investment banking was the perfect ticket to those objectives while traveling throughout Asia.”

She pivoted her career following a skiing accident. “I was introduced to the health care system, which felt fundamentally broken. I decided to dedicate my career to its transformation, naïvely believing that I could convert health care to an e-commerce business, until I soon realized the complexities.” She joined a pharmacy startup called Capsule, working on everything from operations to strategic partnerships. There, she learned a lot about the field.

 “While at Capsule, I helped my mom find a doctor to help her get back in control of her weight, and I learned that while there are a few thousand obesity board-certified specialists in the U.S., there are more than 200 million American adults without access to them and their proven treatment models,” Kenyon said. From there, she started working on Calibrate. 

Calibrate combines medications with intensive lifestyle intervention. “Metabolic health is impacted not just by the way we eat, sleep, exercise, and manage our emotional health, but also by our environment, our genetics, and our biology, so the program works to address both behavior and biology,” Kenyon said. “The program is delivered virtually in all 50 states and works by improving underlying metabolic health to set the body up for sustainable weight loss.” She noted that “results are our North Star,” and said she is most proud of their published real-world results that exceed clinical trials

Kenyon says Calibrate exists to “demonstrate cost-effective treatment models for obesity,” arguing that “health care is complex because the incentives are opaque—every cost affects multiple stakeholders, and I believe you win when you balance quality, access, and cost.” 

The new year is traditionally Calibrate’s biggest step up in growth as Americans make resolutions to focus on their health and insurance plans turn over.

As a leader, Kenyon says she began developing her greatest tools—her empathy and self-awareness—in her time in Lakeville. “I design and redesign our team around my strengths and weaknesses. The perspective I got from Hotchkiss peers with wildly different backgrounds translates today into my strength when I’m building a diverse team serving diverse customers.”

Hotchkiss remains on Kenyon’s radar, and she gives financially and through service as a class agent. “I am grateful for my time in Lakeville learning who I was and who I wanted to be—guided by each other! I want as many students as possible to be able to have that experience.”

She offers the following advice to students interested in entrepreneurial endeavors: “Build your self-awareness—get comfortable with who you are and who you aren’t. Learn what energizes you and what drains you, accept those things, and then design around them. If you love doing something, do it every day. If you hate doing something, find people who can help you do it better—or do it for you.”

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