Candice Hampson is the CEO and co-founder of Liminal Health, which launched in June 2020 after coming out of Antler Incubator (which started in March 2020). Liminal Health was born out of her personal experience with breast cancer 6 years ago when she was 32 and underwent 2 years of treatment. During this time, a main problem as a patient was finding the right information about recovery and prevention of recurrence (diet, mindfulness, physical exercise etc.) Oncologists didn’t have that information, so she did her own research, i.e: enough exercise once a week could reduce risk of recurrence by 30-40%. Liminal Health is about getting information to people so they can support themselves but also about helping support them to make these changes too. Health coaching helps you hone in on the smallest action you can take tomorrow, your coach essentially becomes your champion. This is a positive, proactive and practical approach. Liminal Health is currently working with 4 corporate clients, coaching between 10-20 individuals, has about ten coaches on staff, and are currently building tech platforms that provide credible and evidence-backed information for patients.
What is your background? What made you decide to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs?
I was at Big Society Capital for 7 years – I learned a lot while being there and was feeling very comfortable in my role and position but felt it was time to shake things up, make sure I was being true to who I am. Initially I had joined BSC to escape a consulting company position but I never had intended to be an impact investor, so I wanted to put some intention behind the next move. I I wanted to be in a leadership position and was ready to step up in a leadership role. Founding Liminal, it was important to me to work on something that was personal and meaningful to me.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Taking a punt! Ha. Being really passionate about something and being driven to see it through. Giving it a go and taking risks, also navigating the highs and lows.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
I’m still not really sure… you never know until you’re a unicorn! However, it goes back to user experience. My idea was born out of my own personal experience, so the fact that I believe in it and know it’s addressing a real issue is really important. We explored the user base, sort of piloted the program first. We did a survey of people who were affected with cancer, gave them free coaching to see if it was helping, so this is extremely user led. Basically it’s clear to me that there is a problem, I’m just not 100% certain whether the business model is the right model, we are still adapting and constantly reflecting.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Resilience- the ability to bounce back. Going through the latest funding round, perhaps 99% of the asks are rejections, but you have to keep going and believing that your product is worth it. You must find something you’re passionate about and persevere. The second skill would be Self-awareness: all your flaws are on full display and being aware of what your weaknesses and strengths are is really important. It gives you the ability to use your time wisely by pushing on your strengths. Third, Eternal optimism, you have to believe that this is going to work. The odds are already stacked against you so if you don’t have that self-belief it can be very difficult.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
It is very satisfying when someone takes some inspiration from what you said and translates it into action. Often it’s just about giving them the opportunity to talk things through, it can open up things for them.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder of the Acumen fund. She displays the perseverance of working in such a tough field, bringing entrepreneurship into that space. She reminds us that it’s not just about aid but also about empowering local communities in developing world and about realizing how disruptive aid can be. It’s also really inspiring to witness her promoting local commerce, as that’s what is really what’s needed, but in a very patient capital kind of way
If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I’d probably just want to listen to her! I’m really passionate about income inequality and income disparity. I’d like to talk with her about addressing wealth and income inequality, as I feel this is something that impacts everyone’s daily life. Increasingly more and more!
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
I was mentoring a girl on the ‘Year Here’ Program, which is an amazing program; https://yearhere.org/, and helping her think through the myriad development aims and issues and what’s at stake in starting an enterprise was really enlightening and informative. It’s an amazing program!
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Ha, well I’ve made a million mistakes. A top failure was not finding a co-Founder on the Antler program and holding back a bit. It worked out great in the end as I did eventually find a great Co-founder, but I possibly should have done so sooner. Another one is that in the first few months of getting funding, I felt a bit like a deer in the headlights. I wasn’t sure what to do once I’d gotten funding and should have straight away made a budget and started planning. Additionally, there were a lot of people who wanted to give advice in the beginning. I think listening to all the advice, at the expense of trusting our instincts and just getting to work, held us back a bit. Another mistake was fundraising too soon. Retrospectively, I feel like I spent a lot of time meeting people and pitching ideas to those who would not, in hindsight, have supported us at the stage we were at then.
How have you funded your ideas?
I was lucky to earn investment from Antler at the end of the incubation programme. We raised £120k from them. We are currently fundraising £250k from Angels and an SEIS fund.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
We won a £20k research grant from Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre Accelerator. Just gave us really good credibility!
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Although I’m a few miles away in Buckinghamshire, I’ve been able to acces a lot of the Oxford business community which is very generous. We’ve done some cool things with Oxfordshire Business First, and Oxford Innovation.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
Books: ‘The Mom Test’ really helps you understand why talking to users is so important! And how to do it. For Product leaders, a great book is ‘Inspired’ by Marty Cagan.
Also, Oxford networks: Oxfordshire Business First! Great group. Also The Hill in Oxfordshire for Healthtech specific.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? If so, how have you overcome them?
Stats around female VC funding are shocking, it’s extremely difficult to raise money. It’s hard to decipher what’s going on there, if it has to do with gender or not. There is however a lot of momentum nowadays around funding for women, many women angel networks, etc, it’s nevertheless hard. I hate to generalize, but when it comes to negotiating valuations etc., women typically find it more difficult to push for what they’re worth
What resources would you recommend for other women?
Women-specific funds, a lot more is actually happening in the US but investors are not held back by borders, so you shouldn’t be either. Women 2.0, Ada Ventures (Check Warner, female GP) really champions diversity and inclusion, I’d recommend at least getting their advice and support if not funding. Another thought is to find strong male mentors to open doors on your behalf.
How could institutions such as the University of Oxford better support women entrepreneurs?
I think the biggest thing is addressing it from a systemic point of view, teaching in all classes what the states of affairs currently is. Carrying out diversity training, unconscious bias training, things like that. Also, when doing my MBA at Oxford, there were social entrepreneurs and finance people mixing and there was a lot of cross pollination of ideas. I think idea sharing should be encouraged. The social side of thinking was encouraged by the presence of a many financial minds, and vice versa and this was a fruitful collaboration because in the end, if it doesn’t work as a business, you’re never going to help anyone.
Do you have any advice specifically for other women who want to be entrepreneurs?
Go for it! If you believe in what you’re doing, just do it. It has to be something you are passionate about and you have to want to work on it for the next 10-15 years of your life. Don’t compromise on who you are, be yourself; people invest in people!
Any last words of advice?
Just keep swimming!
Enterprising Oxford is a University of Oxford initiative to help connect people to the entrepreneurship resources they need, and to promote entrepreneurship across Oxfordshire.
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