Jack and James have been good friends for a number of years since starting at Radley. Having worked hard at their A-levels, they both started university courses but then both dropped out in the first year. Jack and James are now the co-founders of Sanctuary which is about employee wellbeing and a healthier workforce.

When you started your degree did you have any long-term plans?
James: I had been investing from a young age and was interested in Equity. I thought a career in finance was for me, so I started an Economics degree at Exeter.

Jack: I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and decided to go to university (Internal Relations and Affairs at Bristol) as that was expected. I didn’t know if I was going down the right route. I’d had a bad experience with an internship in London with a well-known consultancy company. Nothing interesting happened because of legal restrictions with what I could see and do. It definitely put me off working for a large corporation.

Dropping out of university is a major decision, how did your parents react?
James: My parents were mainly supportive, it helped that they hadn’t gone to university themselves but had still made a success of their lives.

Jack: My parents too were supportive, though the wider family did raise their concerns!

James: I believe you can be successful without going to university. For certain careers yes you need to go, and if you’re not sure exactly what you want to do then it can be a good opportunity to discover what that is.

Jack: I can’t imagine having continued with university. A big positive is that we are ahead of our peers.

What inspired your business idea for Sanctuary?
James: It wasn’t our initial business idea, that was to set up an up events and activities company for young people (18-30) in London.

Jack: Yes, when we were doing our internships in London we were both bored with what we could do in our free time. The typical London tourist attractions were not what we wanted. If we wanted something else, then other people our age must do too.

James: There was another company who had had a similar idea but failed, even with £30m backing. If they had failed we weren’t sure how we could succeed.

Jack: We talked to lots of people about what else we might do, mental health and wellbeing cropped up several times. Companies include gym membership and yoga classes as perks to their employees which provide physical wellbeing, and to an extent mental wellbeing, but they could go much further.

Can you explain how Sanctuary works?
James: Firstly, we do not claim to be mental health experts. Our aim is to make a happier and healthier workforce. We have content on over 30 topics, be it finance, fitness, or sleeping better, from tracking your daily mood to providing inspirational stories.

Jack: We have three sources of revenue:

  • We sell an App to businesses for their employees to tap into whenever they want to access content
  • We licence content; a library of content resources that people can put in their own products, a monthly/yearly fee.
  • Consumer audience: for example, Mumsnet and make the App available to their members.

We don’t deal with the public directly, always via a company/digital platform.

How did you raise finances to get the business going?

Jack: Fundraising is hard and takes time and patience, as does building up contacts. Our first funding round was to friends and families, we were fortunate that they had the funds to support us and/or contacts within Angel Investor networks which we tapped in to from London to Lisbon. From there we started to talk with professionals and in particular the Founder Factory.

What is your biggest success to date?
James: We’re still starting up and finding our feet. Our successes aren’t yet in terms of hitting financial targets. It’s speaking to users on our platform and knowing that we have helped in terms of being calmer, reducing anxiety, sleeping better and eating better. We are also working with more London start-up companies, getting in at the beginning.

Jack: Starting out hasn’t been easy and we both admit to having a high degree of naivety thinking we would be earning millions by our mid-twenties.

Have there been times when you’ve felt like giving up?
James: We motivate each other. And knowing that you have accountability to employees, to keep going for them, a responsibility to investors to continue, all focusses the mind! We believe we can, and do, have a meaningful impact for our users in what we do.

So, what’s next for Sanctuary?
Jack: We started Sanctuary (originally Livitay) three years ago and we feel we are finally started to get more traction. Over the next few months we have some exciting projects coming up. One of which is integrating with Air France-KLM’s loyalty app for their 10 million members, our wellbeing content will be viewed by approximately 2 million people. Plus, we are doing a campaign with Marks and Spencer in collaboration with Fitbit and Bose.

Finally, any fond memories or stories of Radley you would like to recount?
James: I have particular fond memories of H Social, which Jack was in too. George May was our tutor, the BBQs we had, and friendships made.

Jack: Lunch the Chicken. Probably not my finest moment as far as dons are concerned. We had a Secret Santa and I decided it would be a good idea to buy my person a live chicken. I bought it on a Saturday but the presents were to be exchanged on the Sunday, so I put it in Bigside pavilion. However, there was a campus wide message the next morning about a lost chicken and who did it belong to? Somehow my PHM knew it was my doing and I had to retrieve it quick, and then hid it in someone else’s room!

To find out more about Sanctuary click here.


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