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Jane Hales

Female Founder Spotlight: Jane Hales

2 June 2021|Female Founder Spotlight, Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder

Female Founder Spotlight: Jane Hales
Female Founder Spotlight: Jane Hales

Jane Hales is the Managing Partners of Sapio Research and the Incoming Accelerator Chair at Entrepreneurs’ Organization London. A seasoned entrepreneur, having founded two agencies, Jane has run Sapio Research for four and a half years and been in the industry for nearly 30.  We recently caught up with Jane to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

As is not uncommon for market researchers, I fell into it by accident. My heart was set on having a job in environmental sciences. I wanted to save the world and keep our rivers clean. Instead, I learnt how to forecast the weather in the Met. Office and then got moved into a market research position as maternity leave cover. A temporary two-year stint in an agency quickly expanded to 20 plus years. Understanding what makes people, rather than rain clouds, tick suits me better as I’m a ‘why?’ child.

Sapio Research is an enthusiastic team of 10 market researchers based in London. Our agency is passionate about providing focused, cost-effective and efficient solutions for your research needs.

We can help in all areas of quantitative and qualitative research, and the more challenging the brief, the better. We can help to formulate the approach, to create the scope and design the process.

We will propose whatever approach works best (using if appropriate our considerable experience of on-line panels). You can rely on us to tell you what we really believe, rather than what we think you might want to hear.

Whether agency, brand, charity or consultancy, you will find us friendly, forthright, flexible and fast.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

A market research agency isn’t particularly groundbreaking. However, the idea of specialising in a service that is particularly efficient and flexible which understands the demands of PR and marketing agencies was unique. A team that understands the difference between the approaches needed to support headlines as opposed to deep exploratory research was highly unusual when we started. We didn’t realise it was so unusual until we were merged with another research agency and realised we were ‘quick & clean’ rather than ‘quick & dirty’, so we decided to leave and set up Sapio Research.

How did you achieve awareness?

We have word of mouth to thank. We are fortunate that clients stay with us as both they and we move on. People never tire of a friendly face. We’ve also managed to get a grip of SEO, appearing on the first page of Google for market research agencies London for example. 

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

We bootstrapped, and fortunately things took off well. We’ve not needed any funding to grow. 

What are the key successes?

Clients staying with us when they have merged with other agencies.

UKBA ’20 Professional Services Gold Award Winner in the middle of the pandemic.

Not needing to furlough staff during the pandemic, instead adding to our headcount and growing revenue 20% that year.

Developing a fabulous team of people who continue to grow and support each other.

A completely different virtual team social every month for a year.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

All our projects are ad hoc, we don’t have any retained revenue. So, we never know what’s around the corner, and you’re only as good as your last job, so we have to be really smart in managing the cash flow and balancing pitching with high quality project delivery.

Because of our short-term view into the future, we’re probably not particularly confident in making plans for our future staff hires. This has probably slowed our growth a little. So this year we have brought a Non-Exec Director on board to help us with the speed of our decision making and challenge ourselves even more. 

What are your plans now/for the future?

We are two years into our five in five plan (£5million in 5 years) and the pandemic has only dented our trajectory slightly. Our NED is challenging us to aim even higher, but we’re not sure we’re ready to rise to that challenge yet. 

In the meantime, we’ll continue to work on our instant access survey cost calculator products. We’ve cracked the consumer opinion polling product Opinipoll, so we’re working on our IT Decision Makers next. 

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

Don’t worry about wearing the badge of entrepreneur, it’s just a business. It doesn’t have to be a huge or unique idea, just something done better than the competition. Try to overcome your self-doubts.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

  1. Embrace opportunities to learn from other business owners. 
  2. Surround yourself with people from different industries. The peer-support network in Entrepreneurs’ Organization London (EO), and its global groups have been fantastic for this. My team and I would definitely not be where we are today without the new processes and support from the people I’ve met there. This became particularly apparent at the beginning of the pandemic when you could see you weren’t on your own.
  3. Have co-founders with complementary skills.
  4. Learn about yourself as well as business.
  5. Try and achieve a good work life balance, but don’t underestimate the effort it takes.
  6. Don’t expect to ever know it all, just stay one step ahead.
  7. Try to enjoy the journey, and don’t miss fantastic opportunities on the way.

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most? 

John Busy, the outgoing Chair of the EO London chapter. He has a fantastic air of calm and engenders collaboration. He led the London chapter in an admirable way throughout the pandemic. I first met him as my EO Accelerator coach, which was a great opportunity to learn about running your own business and be inspired. A big thinker that fosters the self-confidence of others.


My husband Duncan Platt. Having completed the unpopular career of mopping up the woes of society as a police officer, he’s decided to retrain as a secondary school science teacher. He’s seen the negative impact of violence on family lives and decided to try to assist young people before they make the wrong life choices. Not an easy retirement choice!! He also picks up at least half of the household and parent chores while not running ultramarathons. He’s a very patient, strong, loving & forgiving man, with a different perspective to the business world.


Gina Millar. I must admit I wasn’t that aware of what she’d achieved until I went to an evening of ‘In conversation with Gina Millar about 18 months ago when she was launching her book Rise. She has overcome a huge amount of adversity, fiercely standing by her principles and still keeps fighting. Even if you are not aligned to her politics, the fact that she is so passionate about civic responsibility and speaking up is rare and inspirational. She combines emotional messages with facts in a masterful way. 


Greta Thunberg. She is a great demonstration of the positives of what might be considered a special education need or character disadvantage; Asperger syndrome. I also happen to agree with what she’s trying to achieve in regard to climate awareness and I’m in awe of what she’s achieved in such a short space of time. She’s making those of us with privilege feel uncomfortable, but we’re in the best position to do something about it.


Mary Reilly-Magee. I had the good fortune to attend an EO course (Global Speakers Academy) with Mary a few months ago. Although I don’t know her particularly well her story and strength were incredibly touching. She owns and runs a swim school and was devastated when disaster struck. The way she faced the world afterwards was incredibly inspiring.


What is your favourite inspirational /motivational quote?

“Control the controllables. Don’t focus on the outcome, focus on the process.” – Raise your Game: Alan Stein Jr

What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?