7 MIN READ
Date Posted: 29 August 2018
Dr Asha Patel | Innovating Minds | +44 (0)7854 585946
Dr Asha Patel, EY Foundation Accelerate programme newcomer and CEO of not for profit Innovating Minds, reflects on starting her own business and her continual drive for success.
Innovating Minds is a multi-award winning community interest company that provides accessible psychological support. It helps individuals with emotional and mental health problems access education, training or employment. Its profits are invested into its social mission, and it provides support for children affected by domestic abuse.
“I come from a business background – I was working in a multi-million pound family business at the age of 12. Within a few years I was managing large sums of money, selling stock in pallet quantities, leading teams, representing the business at tribunals – and winning. During these years I learnt a lot about growing a business.
By the age of 18 I was studying Psychology and Criminology at university and by 21 I was on the property ladder with a deposit saved from part-time work. I had reached a stable point in my life. I had a house, a job that paid well and a happy relationship, but I knew I wanted to do something more meaningful.
One event is lodged in my mind. I was managing the family business while my parents were on holiday, and a disgruntled staff member said, “You are just like your father”. I was so shocked. I knew this business sector did not sit with my set of values, and that I would have to make changes in my life. This is when I knew I wanted to be a social entrepreneur, creating a business that would benefit people.
By 24, I was working with people who had severe mental health problems and had committed serious crimes, and I had started training to become a qualified clinical psychologist. I was the youngest on the doctorial course.
At 28 I found I was stuck with no chance of promotion and decided I would pursue my dream to take specialist psychological support out into education, helping build mentally healthy environments that would nurture and support everyone’s mental health – students, teachers and support staff.
Every evening after work I did my research, reading about legal requirements and business structures, and developing a cost plan. I was on a high, and my new plan consumed all my time and head space.
I soon found I had reached a point where I could no longer work on setting up an enterprise and stay in my old job, so on Leap Day 2016 I took a leap of faith. I handed in my resignation and began my journey as a social entrepreneur.
On my first day, I stepped into a school and thought, “What have I done?”. The medium secure hospital I worked in had felt safer! This was a failing school where the young people had so many needs and a student had committed suicide.
I was out of my comfort zone for sure, but I had to make it work. I knew if I could succeed in this environment, my model of early intervention would work anywhere.
Innovating Minds is performing well from a business perspective as we are currently in the growth stage. We have invested our profits to support the development of new internal infrastructures, including renting a larger office space in Birmingham, hiring an administrator and a business development manager. We are also implementing our strategic recruitment plan to enable us to develop a pool of psychologists who want to work with us.
On EY Foundation’s Accelerate programme we are utilising the coaching and EY Growth Navigator tool to develop our strategic three year growth plan. We have also successfully gained a place on the Natwest Accelerator to help our business to grow.
Since 2016 we have secured contracts to work with five schools, entered into two partnerships and worked with Hammersmith and Fulham council. I have collaborated with Expert Self Care to develop DistrACT, an app that provides easy, quick and discreet advice and alternative strategies for young people engaging in, or at risk of, self-harming.
In October I am presenting two seminars at the largest special educational needs conference in London, and I now have a regular column in Education Today, one of the UK’s leading educational magazines.
The numbers so far are encouraging.
We have supported:
- 2345 children and young people
- 1465 parents and caregivers
- 1324 education staff.
We have created:
- 7 full time jobs
- 3 volunteering positions
- 3 student placements.
For every £1 invested we have created an overall Social Return on Investment of £4.32 from all our services. We delivered over £263,000 of Social Value from £61,305.
What drives me as a social entrepreneur?
A desire for financial and emotional independence
It is important to have control, to be in charge of your own destiny. This has helped me cope and get through the difficult times in my life, and has driven me to succeed in my personal life and career.
I want Innovating Minds to be one of the 10% of start-ups that are successful and leave behind a legacy. I am working with Josh Winfield (Entrepreneur Acceleration Manager, NatWest) as I am finding the mentoring support so insightful. Since starting the programme I reached my 12-month turnover target in 5 months.
I believe that for the business to grow, its founder must also grow, so I have signed up to Joe Tordden’s Mindset Experts programme to develop my self-awareness and critique the decisions process.
A successful entrepreneur needs to be alert to new opportunities and make quick decisions. The Head of Production from a large organisation in Australia came across our work and has asked us to help them produce videos on mental health issues for schools. Through this work we will reach over 4000 schools in the UK and Australia.
The fear of failure
This is a great incentive to work hard and keep the business on the front burner. I have invested so much of myself in this journey and made so many sacrifices that the thought that Innovating Minds could fail is sickening.