Originally from Bristol, Sarah started her career by doing a degree in communication studies at Coventry Uni. She then moved to London where she did a brief stint as a Music promoter.
After that she started 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 and hit the menopause. 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. With the support of her husband and two sons, she enrolled in a Masters course in Social Marketing at the University of the West of England, where she weighed up whether she should go into Politics or Healthcare. It’s no surprise that she settled on Healthcare. Sarah then worked in the Healthcare sector for 7 years as a Marketing and Communications consultant before she took a leap of faith and founded Forth!
Sarah raised initial investment to launch Forth in 2017 through crowdfunding after being turned down by a number of investors. Sarah is now in her 4th year of running Forth and is continuing to grow/expand her business and champion health.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
Hi, I’m Sarah Bolt. I’m the founder & CEO of Forth, a personalised biomarker profiling company working to help empower people to take control of their own health and be their personal best. Before Forth, I worked in marketing for 20+ years and developed a passion for healthcare 12 years ago after doing a masters in behaviour change.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I wouldn’t say I have ever planned my career but rather planned my life in digestible ‘chunks’. We’re expected to start our career decisions when we’re still in school and most of us don’t tend to know where we want to end up, or the path to get there, unless we have a strong passion for something at an early age. The reality was that I didn’t know what I felt truly passionate about until my late 30s. At this point I took a long hard look at my life and assessed what I had achieved and what I wanted to do in the future. I realised that I wanted to work in something with much greater social impact, so I did a Masters in behaviour change and sought out roles within the healthcare sector. I didn’t know that I would end up starting my own business.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
I’ve definitely faced challenges over the past twelve years, and many. However, 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.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Probably 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.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
It has to be my tenacity. I always try to never give up on what I’m working towards, whether that’s a personal goal or business goal. Breaking down goals into manageable phases and dealing with one at a time has helped me not to become too overwhelmed by the tasks ahead. Also surrounding myself with the right kind of people who can help and support you throughout the journey.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
Mentoring is so important. To be able to have someone who sits outside of the world you live in, with a clear outside perspective and no hidden agenda, is invaluable. I’m currently lucky enough to have Margaret Heffernan as a mentor who is the former CEO of five businesses and the writer of a number of books on business and effective leadership.
I also just started to mentor other women who are the early days of their start-up journey. It’s fantastic to be able to do this and try and steer them away from the mistakes I made in the early days.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
To scientifically enable men to have babies! Wouldn’t that be great. Seriously, shared parental leave is a big step forward but employees still need to see the value of women who have taken a break from their careers to have kids and harness the experience they bring.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
It would have to be 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.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
The next challenge is launching our groundbreaking female hormone profile. 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.
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