How I Started A Science-Based,
Evidence Backed Parenthood Platform
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Sarah Heywood and I am the founder of The Journey which is a parenthood platform designed to bring the latest up to date, evidence-based research and pioneering experts to the challenges around modern-day conception, pregnancy and early development.
These days the internet has brought a lot of ‘noise’ and opinion. We are also faced with more allergy, autoimmune disease, infertility and neurodevelopmental issues than ever before. Resource constraints mean we are challenged with a lack of the ‘right’ information in a practical and accessible way. We want to bring leading experts and pioneering science in a cost-effective and empowering way for everyone. We firmly believe that knowledge of your own body is power.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
Before starting my business, I spent nearly fifteen years as an investment banker, which I loved. This honed my skills of reading and assimilating lots of complex research. It also made me automatically question the status quo.
When the time came to start my own family however, I received a shock. Firstly, I realised that despite being a ‘Type A’ and convinced I was living a supremely healthy lifestyle, I was inadvertently crushing my body’s ability to balance its hormones. Via pure modern lifestyle.
I also realised that unless you are blessed with private healthcare and are your own highly researched advocate, you are playing roulette as to the kind of treatment that you’ll receive and the outcomes that you may get. That to me is simply unacceptable. Particularly when there is some amazing science out there which increasingly challenges the growing issues that many of us now face as our lifestyles change. Infertility, autoimmunity, allergy and neurodevelopmental issues in children. Aspects of which I have within my own family.
I quickly realised that you can become an expert in knowing your own body. Armed with the proper information, the chances of having a healthy conception and baby can be increased. To me, this should not be based on how much money you earn. This information should be open to all in a positive and empowering fashion which is exactly what The Journey sets out to do!
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
The biggest challenges by far are to be ‘seen’ in the enormously open and competitive new landscape that social media has created. It is fantastic as anyone can now give a real go-to starting a business or building a brand. The barriers to entry are now super low. Of course, the consequence of this is that everyone IS giving it a go. Which makes standing out against the crowd complicated.
For me, the most important thing with a business like mine is to establish trust. It also poses a huge challenge when it comes to monetising our content. Everything we do is geared to the integrity of both content and our brand. Particularly as it is such an emotive and sensitive time for many people. It is really the core of what we do.
This has meant that monetising the content has not been a priority in the initial stages. It also means it is not straightforward to do. The very last thing I have wanted is for anyone to think that our content is geared towards a financial outcome. I truly believe people are tired and growing wise to this. Understanding how to monetise the content and following we have in the right way is my biggest challenge at the moment.
Who is your target market?
Our target audience is the modern, educated, curious and health-conscious 28-45 yr olds. The reality is our lifestyle shift has meant that many of us are more educated. Many of us have prioritised our careers vs settling down in our early-mid twenties to have children.
We are also targeting men too. Largely because male infertility is now on the rise, and because men are also increasingly conscious of their health. We are trying to smash the taboo around male fertility but I suspect it will take time.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
Partnerships with established brands in the space we respect has been a huge win for us so far. We identified brands who are true to our ethos and have established connections and have collaborated in many instances. Brands like Elvie, Ovusense, Neom Organics, Rude Health have been pivotal.
We have also had a great deal of success and traction collaborating with social media influencers who are true to our cause and who are followed by our demographic. People like Claire Holt and Louise Roe have been great at getting our brand to the right audience. Even better we have done all of this on an unpaid basis.
The other key to our business and gaining traction is our expert network. We have managed (also on an unpaid basis) to create a network of pioneering experts who have been crucial to giving us unique and useful content.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
This is a big area of focus and a continued challenge, to be honest! At this stage, we have no real official ‘mechanism’ for retaining customers and are relying on the unique content we deliver. We have some ‘superfans’ who are very engaged but this is something we would like to really develop in a much more structured way going forward.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Our business is small so at this stage, it is genuinely about the type of person we have hired. Everyone we have taken on has the same goal and values so at this stage it is pretty easy! I’m sure challenges will emerge if and when we get bigger.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Firstly, I would be a lot more selective with spending money on big agencies. I started off using a big communications agency which is highly regarded but very expensive. My initial view is that targeting money in this direction would give me the profile and exposure I needed at the outset. That was totally wrong. I spent far too much money for very little result.
Whilst the branding they did was good, the communications side was of no real benefit. I quickly realised that I was a small part of their agenda and as a result did not get the attention, feedback or advice that I thought I would receive. Since then I found some freelance experts who are far more effective and a fraction of the cost. This was, far and away, the biggest mistake I have made. It is a good (but expensive) lesson learnt.
Whilst rationally I knew that it takes time to build a brand, I think if I started again I would have less impatience as I have really appreciated over the last few years how true this statement is. It is not something that can be rushed and ‘overnight success’ stories that we often see and aspire towards rarely are as quick as we imagine.
Cutting corners simply is no substitute to slow, steady and measured hard work. The same is true of social media. Taking the time to build a genuine and engaged following pays dividends. Cutting corners with bots will simply set you back.
I am really pleased however with how we have built our expert, corporate and influencer network. That has been instrumental. It is something we will do much more of.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The fact that I get to do what I passionately believe in and bring it to life. I started this because I genuinely saw a gap for it and I now get messages daily from our users/followers saying how much they appreciate what we are doing. It is very fulfilling.
After over a decade of working in an investment bank, I also love the freedom I now have to work from any location. It is very liberating.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The crushing uncertainty.
I came from an industry which was secure and where I was well established. I have very much started at the bottom with this and it comes with ‘high highs’ and ‘low lows’. It is also far from certain the direction that my business will go longer-term and if and when it will be successful. That is really tough for my personality. I crave fast results and an upward trajectory. If someone said to me, “Don’t worry, in x number of years it’ll all work out.” I’d be much more able to enjoy the journey!
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
One of the most powerful books for me that genuinely changed my outlook is Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. He won the Nobel Prize for Economics and his book looks at the most common errors we as humans tend to make when it comes to decision making and why. It shone such a huge light on the errors I make as a CEO and decision-maker. Errors that are common to most of us. It genuinely changed my approach and outlook. Particularly when it comes to instinct vs facts and statistics and how we interact with other people. It really underlined the importance of collaboration and genuinely listening and appreciating other people’s ideas and input vs defending your own entrenched stance. I hope it has made me a better leader.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I hope we have built a larger and more engaged audience. I also hope we have found a path to revenue which I am proud of and I feel reflects our brand mission which is to genuinely help empower people’s path to a healthier parenthood.
Ultimately my mission is to get our message out there in a positive way to as many people who need it as possible. Whilst running it as a viable, profitable and growing business.