Industry: Mental health care
Founded date: 2017
Starting a business from scratch is never easy. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and a strong belief in your vision. For one startup founder, this journey was no different. Her name is Antoinette Patterson, and she is one of the founders of Safe Space, a startup that provides a safe and convenient platform for both B2C and B2B2C mental health support.
Antoinette had spent 12 years in the advertising industry and had built a successful career. However, as with any high-pressure industry, the stress of work began to take its toll on her mental health. The long hours, constant demands, and high expectations were beginning to wear her down. Things had gotten so bad that she needed to seek help for burnout and stress, by attending counseling sessions to help her cope. Despite these challenges, Antoinette found light at the end of the tunnel.
In fact, her experiences with counseling and stress management became the catalyst for her next entrepreneurial venture.
She knew firsthand just how important it was to have access to quality mental health support, and she was determined to create a solution that would help others like her. With a couple of developer friends, she began working on Safe Space as a passion project, meeting in coffee shops on the weekends to develop a simple marketplace app where people could find a therapist.
When supply and demand align
In their humble beginnings, their community grew via word of mouth, stemming from their own circle of friends and acquaintances. From this, they saw the potential and need for their service in the market. The moment when they really gained momentum was when the pandemic hit. In a time where most startups were struggling, Safe Space thrived. During the lockdown; therapists, their supply, were looking for ways to digitize and the community, their demand, was in much need of support during the tough times brought about by COVID. At the height of it all is when they launched their video call service. Which is exactly what was needed at the time.
As the pandemic continued to unfold, Safe Space gained more and more users, including HR managers who from being users themselves found value in providing this service to their employees as well. They found the service Safe Space provided so valuable that they began to ask if there was an enterprise version available. It was also during this time that companies were putting in extra effort to support their employees' well-being.
Antoinette and her team saw the potential to pivot from B2C to B2B2C.
They quickly began to develop an enterprise version of the platform, which allowed companies to provide their employees with access to mental health support through Safe Space. This move proved to be a game-changer for the business, paving the way for continued growth and success.
Knowing when to pivot and adapt
One of the most important things in any startup journey is knowing when to pivot. Change is a fundamental part of a successful startup.
Staying relevant means constantly adapting
to what is needed or demanded in the market.
For Antoinette and the Safe Space team, this meant recognizing when their original subscription model was no longer serving their customers' needs. After seeing that not everyone was willing or able to pay a fixed amount, they shifted to a 'pay per use' scheme, allowing their customers to pay for only what they use. This also allowed them to let their therapists charge their own prices, from high to low, so that everyone could afford counseling sessions. The new flexible pricing structure put the power back in the hands of consumers, giving them the freedom to choose the pricing for continued therapy sessions. By making this pivot, Antoinette and her team have shown a willingness to adapt and respond to the needs of their customers, helping them to create a truly valuable and user-friendly platform.
Antoinette offers several pieces of advice to other entrepreneurs just starting out. Firstly, she recommends having at least 2 years' worth of savings, since new startup founders often won't be able to pay themselves in the beginning.
Secondly, she suggests exploring alternative options
for building an MVP that won't cost a lot of money,
such as using easy app builders to create a mockup
to prove there is a demand for the product.
Thirdly, she emphasizes the importance of research when moving from corporate into entrepreneurship, encouraging founders to explore options like accelerator programs or grants, as well as finding networks of advisors and mentors.
Finally, Antoinette advises other startup founders not to be discouraged by rejection, citing her own experience of speaking to easily 50 different angel investors and VCs who rejected her before she found the right investors for her company. By taking these steps and staying focused on their goals, Antoinette believes that other startup founders can find the success they are looking for.
Today, Safe Space is a successful business with a growing customer base in 16 countries, scoring a 78% client retention rate and a strong reputation in the industry. Antoinette attributes her success to her persistence, her willingness to take risks, and her ability to surround herself with a talented and dedicated team. She also recognizes the importance of prioritizing mental health and supporting others who are going through similar struggles. The startup is currently raising a pre-series A round, which is a testament to their continued growth and success in the industry.