29 April 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Originally from Bristol, Sarah Bolt started her career by doing a degree in communication studies after which she moved to London where she did a brief stint as a Music promoter. Sarah’s next steps found her working her way up a corporate career in marketing, working for companies such as Virgin Media, Jack Daniels, and finally ended up at Dyson. Sarah worked in this industry for 10+ years.
Skip forward – Sarah turned 40. It was at this point that she realised how short life really is and decided she needed to switch up her career and work in an area with more social impact than Dyson.
After completing a Masters course in Social Marketing at the University of the West of England and a seven year stint in the Healthcare sector as a Marketing and Communications consultant, Sarah took a leap of faith and founded Forth.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Thanks for having me! So I’ve spent most of my life working in Marketing. I initially did a degree in communication studies at Coventry Uni before moving to London where I did a brief stint as a Music promoter. After that I started working on global brands such as Virgin and Jack Daniels, finally ending up at Dyson where I worked as a NPD Manager. It was at this point that I realised how irrelevant what I was working on really was and decided I needed to switch up my career and work in an area with more social impact. With the support of my partner, I quit my job with the intention of doing a Masters in either Social Policy or Behaviour – weighing up whether to go down a politics or healthcare path. By the nature of my business, it’s no surprise that I settled on Healthcare. I then worked in the Healthcare sector for 7 years before founding Forth!
How did the idea come to you for the company?
In 2013 I started doing a number of research projects for early stage digital healthcare companies. At the same time FitBit launched its first product in the UK. I’ve always been a tech lover and I rushed to buy one, admiring how it had taken the concept of a pedometer but reinvented it into a product for the 21st century digital consumer. I loved how it engaged the consumer in data through simple engaging graphics however the information they gave was only part of the story and I felt there was a need for people to gain deeper, more meaningful information about their health which wasn’t readily accessible to them. That was my ‘aha moment’, I realised that we could bring a digital approach to traditional blood biometrics, and thus Forth was born.
How did you achieve awareness?
Well, everything we do at Forth has to be grounded in scientific evidence and we make sure we work with a strong team of medical and scientific experts. This has resulted in our fantastic industry reputation of being the company that does it right, and that’s really where we started. It’s been a case of putting time and resources into perfecting a product that customers love and are keen to refer to their friends, as well as working hard on our brand PR and social media to make a splash when it’s needed.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
When I first started looking for investment, the market didn’t exist, which didn’t make my life easy! That said, I managed to secure original seed investment through a crowd-fund exercise from which I created a profitable business with a market leading platform. We then grew naturally through offering a high quality of service and retaining the majority of our customers.
We’ve also been able to gain funding from the Development Bank of Wales as our offices are based in Chepstow. This has been a phenomenal opportunity for our growth as DWB offers fantastic opportunities and connections to meet angel investors in the healthcare/health tech industry.
What are the key successes?
Other than securing funding when it’s needed, probably one of our key successes was breaking the million pound sales barrier. When you cross that mark as a startup, it’s a huge deal. Although, in true startup style, we were too busy to actually celebrate this landmark. Another key success was our long term SEO strategy which means we can rank highly for our services – this has been essential during the pandemic to keep revenue flowing in.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
During my time as Founder and CEO at Forth, the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome was probably convincing investors to believe there was a demand for my product and vision. When I was first starting out, there were no other companies doing the same thing as us so it was a tough job demonstrating that there was a market at all. Plus, being a woman and seeking investment always brings additional challenges – a study by the Entrepreneurs Network in 2017 found that men were 86% more likely than women to be venture-capital funded, and 56% more likely than women to secure angel investment. This in itself is a major challenge. I’ve overcome these challenges through resilience and tenacity. Never giving up despite the odds is the key to success.
What are your plans now/for the future?
The next challenge is launching our groundbreaking female hormone product. It is a service that will reposition female hormones as more than just concerning fertility, and instead as the key to general wellbeing. Watch this space.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Just do it! Starting your own business is a leap of faith and it can be completely daunting, especially for women. But I encourage all would-be-entrepreneurs to have more belief in yourself and your own ideas. For me confidence came with age and I wish I had more of it earlier in my career.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
1. Do your research
Above all else, an entrepreneur should know what they are talking about. It’s extremely important to know the business and industry inside out, with intelligent and thorough research to back up all relevant points. This will ensure the entrepreneur remains the expert and is completely in control during the investment pitching process.
2. Don’t succumb to imposter syndrome
It is easy for female entrepreneurs to feel as if they are not qualified or fit to lead a business. Commonly known as imposter syndrome, this feeling of inadequacy should be squashed as quickly as possible. A person’s inner saboteur can be fatal to growing a business and female entrepreneurs need to believe they are good enough. Even in the face of chauvinistic angel investors, women can be in control and maintain their integrity, without compromise.
3. Get a mentor
All female entrepreneurs should establish a mentor/mentee relationship with another, more experienced female business owner. This relationship is vital to understanding what mistakes can be avoided and how to navigate the complicated world of business growth. Mentors can guide without bias and can be one of the most powerful assets a female entrepreneur seeking investment has – learn from other’s experience and trust in their guidance.
4. Believe in yourself
You may often hear others talk about the importance of confidence during the investment process, although true, confidence is a secondary consequence of believing in yourself. Women who believe in themselves are a force to be reckoned with. They bring confidence naturally and organically, without coming across as cocky. To an investor, believing in yourself and your business is as important as the product/ service itself.
5. Demonstrate resilience
It’s a dog-eat-dog world and going into investment as a woman means you’re already at a disadvantage (even if it shouldn’t be). Female entrepreneurs need to display unmatched resilience and bounce back time and time again to prove that their business will survive against the odds, and is therefore a good investment. This is hard to demonstrate, but by giving specific examples, investors will see proof.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
- Nawal El Saadawi – who sadly died this year at the age of 89 has been described as many things including author, doctor, activist, humanitarian but most of all to me she was one brave woman. Taking away her profession as a doctor and her liberty (she was imprisoned in 1981) didn’t stop her drive for human rights and campaigning to stop the genital mutilation of young girls.
- Gloria Steinem – I think resilience is one one of the personality traits most needed by women particularly in business. Gloria Steinem, the US female rights activist, now into her 80’s has campaigned tirelessly for gender equality for over 50 years and was actively campaigning against Trump at the recent US election. You’ve got to admire that drive and the motivation to never give up, that there is always more to be done.
- Sarah Gilbert – when you are asked to draw a picture of a scientist, most draw a man in a white lab coat. Hopefully the world is beginning to change with the prominence of female scientists like Professor Sarah Gilbert, the woman behind the Oxford vaccine who insisted that AstraZeneca manufacture the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis until Covid-19 loses its pandemic status.
- MacKenzie Scott – the ex wife of Jeff Bezos for recognising when enough really is enough. Whilst Amazon amasses greater profits, MacKenzie Scott is busy making plans on how to give away the majority of her fortune throughout the duration of her lifetime.
- Greta Thunburg – if all girls have the confidence that Greta Thunburg has shown from the age of 15, what a different future kind of future they may build for themselves and for the rest of humankind.
What is your favourite inspirational /motivational quote?
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt.
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?