The Process of U!Shine Vienna


In late Winter of 2017, Michelle contacted Holly out of interest to meet her for coffee. They both knew each other through the blogging community and have been readers of each other’s blogs for a few years.

They met in Cafe Little Britain - an oasis of a cafe with British charm, culture, and delicious English breakfasts, and immediatly clicked.

Holly and Michelle met again a few weeks later - the same place - and this time Holly brought up an idea: bringing a mental health organization from Oklahoma, U.S.A to Vienna, Austria. This idea came about because Holly herself went through postpartum anxiety as a new parent and struggled to find the resources and help to get through it in Vienna. She knew of U!Shine Oklahoma through her alma mater and wanted to bring something like that here.

Michelle, being someone who loves to get involved in projects that help not only herself but others, said yes immediately. She, too, struggled with severe panic attacks when she moved to Vienna, and also failed to find the help she needed. At the time she met Holly, Michelle was healing from a challenging season of events, so bringing U!Shine Vienna was a perfect way to get involved in something nourishing for her.

Over time, Holly and Michelle developed their friendship and started to come up with how to get the organization to the city. They reached out to many people who were already founders of a non-profit / Verein in Vienna to gain an understanding of legality and settlement. In the autumn of 2017, the ladies organized a U!Tell it event for the public to start getting people interested U!Shine Vienna. A solid thirty people, including film producers, The Bee Films who filmed the event, participated at Cafe Little Britain for a night of storytelling, poetry, and self-expression.

In 2018 it was time to make U!Shine Vienna legal. Through the financial help of U!Shine USA, the founders were able to hire lawyers to make sure bringing a mental and emotional health organization would be ok within the laws and policies of the Austrian government. It took some time to check, and once it was certain having the organization in Vienna to be ok, Holly and Michelle signed the contract to become the official co-founders.

On May 3, 2018, U!Shine Vienna became a registered non-profit in the city of Vienna, Austria. It was celebrated with smiles, jumping up and down, and flavorful gelato. Holly Kooi became the Executive Director, and Michelle Terese Hrvat, the Deputy Executive Director.

From then on, the entire summer of 2018 was all about building - building a team, a website, a set of events, a purpose and direction. It was also the time when the founders went through personal challenges and needed to take some serious mental health breaks, which you can read about here. All in all though, when September came around, and the Community Coffee Meetups started up and running, Holly and Michelle knew that the personal journey and challenges to bringing U!Shine to Vienna was worth it the moment they started meeting with people and listened to their stories.

Let’s see what 2019 will bring!