More often than not, business is about looking at how things have been done before and having the courage and imagination to reinvent the rules. That’s what Anne Boden did when she created Starling Bank, a digital bank for personal and business current accounts. Starling was born out of her determination to give customers control over their money, and provide a real alternative to the banks of the past. Starling strives to be fast, friendly and supportive – just like a murmuration of starling birds.
In this series, we’ll be shining a light on other Great British entrepreneurs who, just like Anne, are pioneers of change.
Our next entrepreneur is Starling business customer Simon Scott-Nelson, co-founder of Wellity Global.
Entrepreneurs start businesses for a whole host of reasons. Some have a long-burning desire to be their own boss, some start making money from a hobby and eventually take it full-time, some stumble upon that one incredible idea or opportunity that just can’t be ignored. Some entrepreneurs, however, like Simon Scott-Nelson, start their business out of necessity. They have to.
Simon became an entrepreneur long before launching Wellity. He successfully built an estate agency over 20 years ago, starting with one office, then two, then buying four other businesses, then a merger, then successfully exiting.
And there was another attempt at start-up life prior to Wellity, but this is really where the journey began.
“I had a period of unfortunate life circumstances,” Simon starts. “One after another, they lowered my self-esteem, weakened my purpose and damaged my self-worth.
“It felt like I was a snow globe, being shaken for 20 years and I needed to let it settle to see what was in the middle – what was really important to me in my life.”
Simon spent some time giving himself space to rest and recover, but more importantly, to assess what went wrong so that it never does again.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still loved business. I just felt that something else was missing,” he says.
“Realising the necessity to prioritise my own wellbeing, I wondered if I had actually been suffering burnout for some time but hadn’t realised it. I wondered if my reliance on being totally driven and focused to succeed had masked it from me.”
Having come out the other side of his burnout, full of healthy appreciation for looking after his mental health, Simon wants everyone to be aware of the red flags. He vowed that when he rediscovered his “shield”, he would come back to the business world with a solution. That solution is Wellity Global.
Meeting of minds
The core principle stems from a question Simon asked himself during his period of chronic burnout. “I asked myself all the time whether or not it is okay to be the best version of myself,” Simon recalls. “Of course, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
“That’s why we grouped together some like-minded professionals and founded Wellity.
While Simon had the lived experience of poor wellbeing, Wellity required that professional expertise. He was introduced to Sadie Restorick MSc., which Simon describes as a “pivotal meeting of minds” that quickly raised the bar of professionalism in the wellbeing industry which demands an accredited approach based on best practice. An entrepreneur herself who successfully built two businesses over the past decade, Sadie has combined her business sense with acute academic studies.
Shortly after meeting, the pair decided to merge Wellity and Sadie’s consultancy and tech practices to form the Wellity Global that exists today, with Sadie assuming the role of chief operating officer.
“[Her] expertise in the field of workplace wellbeing, combined with her academic network of professionals has made Wellity one of the best global leaders in workplace consultancy,” Simon says.
Already a growing topic and issue in the workplace, awareness of the importance of wellbeing skyrocketed after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. And while the pandemic caused previously unseen challenges for so many businesses, it presented an opportunity to Simon, Sadie and Wellity.
“What makes Wellity different is that our products and services are all in response to the pandemic,” Simon explains.
Wellity uses sophisticated algorithms that analyse user behavioural data to generate an adaptive learner path.s This allows for the presentation of relevant e-learning courses based on responses, ultimately optimising the experience and training impact.
Wellity also uses algorithms to assess levels of psychosocial risk and generate a strategy framework based on the level of risk for the business owner to implement, ultimately negating the need for manual – and often flawed – human analysis.
Why is this important?
As more of the wider public become aware of wellbeing issues, businesses are increasingly taking notice. But the requirement stretches far beyond building a positive culture or trying to attract new employees.
Simon adds: “Businesses have a moral and legal obligation to identify the workplace risks that may cause or worsen a mental health condition.”
However, in the UK, four out of every five SMEs do not actually have a wellbeing strategy in place, and two-thirds of all SME employees have reported anxiety and/or stress as a result of their working environment, according to AXA.
“Since SMEs make up 99.9% of all UK businesses, those figures mean that roughly two-thirds of all workers in the UK are currently suffering from at least one of the various mental health conditions,” Simon says.
While it may be nearly impossible to reach two-thirds of the entire workforce, Simon and Wellity have made tremendous progress since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We’ve delivered wellbeing training to nearly half a million people since the middle of 2020,” he says. “And recently we booked an incredible 100,000 employees onto training in a single day. The appetite and the requirement for workplace wellbeing training is growing all the time.”
Wellity has worked, or is working, with some employers that are responsible for the wellbeing of huge workforces, including Microsoft, Royal Mail/Parcelforce, Tata, Fujitsu, Nokia, Police, G7 Summit, UK Home Office and other Civil Services.
Story of many chapters
Such is Simon’s dedication and commitment to improving wellbeing in the workplace, he has been named a fellow of the Institute of Sales Professionals and made chair of its Mental Health and Wellbeing Committee, collaborating with the world’s leading experts to bring the best wellbeing advice to the sales industry.
Yet, he is far from content with his achievements so far. Earlier this year, Simon co-founded the Great British Workplace Wellbeing Awards alongside the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. It’s a programme designed to recognise and champion the incredible steps taken by many employers, service providers, teams and individuals in response to the global wellbeing crisis.
We caught up with Simon to ask a few questions about how the pandemic has affected him and learn about his future plans.
How have you fared since the start of the pandemic?
How I have fared since the pandemic has really been a story of many chapters for me! The initial coming to terms with the situation, glued to the news channel and then the realisation that many things around us were about to change.
During Lockdown 1 I got super fit and embraced the situation, trying to be present and aware of the changes. I remember running the equivalent of a marathon on Mothers Day as I needed to be outside for my own mental health, not being able to see any of my family at the time including my own teenage daughters who were quarantined at their mums.
My focus during this time, I believe, was typically entrepreneurial. I suppose while everyone was learning new skills and coping methods, I knew that I could spend the time proactively on Wellity. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever worked more hours than I did during Lockdown 1, but because of the running/fitness and having less societal pressures, I did it healthily and actually really enjoyed it. Lockdown 2 was much the same, however in Lockdown 3, my fitness slowed down and the constant movement of the goalposts regarding social restrictions frustrated me.. I was however very grateful that none of my family were catastrophically affected by the pandemic as so many were, and so it was easy to re-frame the situation through gratitude.
Wellity Global then rebranded, had a new website and re-located, co-launched the Great British Workplace Wellbeing Awards with the fantastic team behind the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, launched the ShowREAL magazine and also the national PACT Wellbeing Collective, all in a space of a few months. It is amazing what we can achieve when in the correct mindset. At this point (over Christmas 2020) I was more determined than ever that what Sadie and I were creating together was going to be crucial to the ‘mental health‘ landscape that we would see developing later in the year. I am SO grateful that we took that time preparing and getting in front of the curve to deal with the demand and thirst for accredited information, safeguarding and signposting information that was to ensue.
What has been the biggest factor in your success?
The biggest factor by far is that we love what we do. At times, the stories we hear within organisations are devastating, but we know that because of the academic team of global consultants that we have, the team can actually help organisations and individuals and that is what is so rewarding. We are certainly not a ‘fluffy’ wellbeing company, far from it – the Wellity solution is globally recognised and optimises employee mental health and working cultures by delivering targeted interventions, data-driven strategies, qualified professionals, staff engagement videos and the expert implementation of everything wellbeing for businesses to help prevent issues arising. We love it because we are making a tangible difference. We work with some of the largest and most well-known brands in the world but the reason we are successful is that we all personally connect with the individual stories of the employees themselves.
What are your immediate and long-term plans for the business?
The short-term plans centre around immediate expansion so that we can keep up with global demand but also so that we can keep ahead of the curve in terms of the academic progress that we have made. The Wellity Global accreditation scheme launches soon which assures every client that the standard of their wellbeing advice is safe, accredited and second to none. We always want to innovate so are constantly developing, as we have done with the work around the new ISO 45003 standard published in Summer 2021 and the Great British Workplace Wellbeing Awards.
Our longer-term goals consist of raising finance for the Wellity tech platform that will be accessible for every SME and not just the global players. We have designed the framework and have over 300 courses, gamifications, live videos and health partners already locked in. In fact we have been ‘oven-ready’ for some time, however we are waiting to find the correct capital partner that aligns with the brand, so that we can continue to be authentic in our message – which is that we want to normalise the conversation around mental health.
The Wellity tech platform will offer everything that Wellity currently does in terms of real-life consultancy, presentations and workplace wellbeing initiatives but it will also be translated into every language and culturally adjusted for those with global teams. Because of the market delivery structure that the Wellity network already has, the platform will aim to be the most successful health/wellbeing tech on the market. The fact that all employees, with the help of AI, will be able to diagnose how they may be feeling without having to raise their hand to HR, and can also find a solution within the platform is a real game-changer and incredibly exciting. With the right finance partner we are looking to release this product in 2022, and that will really make a difference to the health and wellbeing of the UK and global workforce.