Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sancar Sahin, Co-Founder of Oliva, located in London, England, UK.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Oliva is a mental health platform that enables individuals to access tailored and timely mental health support through their employers. The aim of the business is to create a clearer and faster route to mental health support for as many people as we possibly can. Our customers are employers: these are the people who are going to be buying into our platform and making it available to their teams. But the end users are the employees who want to access professional support to either manage an existing mental health problem or take preventative steps to protect their mental health.

Tell us about yourself

Prior to starting Oliva, I was CMO at Typeform. It was an amazing job with a huge amount of responsibility, but eventually, I burnt out. I eventually left and decided to seek professional mental health support. But finding a therapist wasn’t easy. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, nor did I know how to tell whether a therapist was a good fit for me. Eventually, I found somebody - and therapy helped me enormously - but I felt passionate that it shouldn’t have been so hard to find the right support.

Around this same time, a colleague introduced me to my now co-founder, Javier, knowing that we had experienced similar mental health struggles at work. He was already thinking about turning his experience into a solution for others, so together we decided to start Oliva. Our mission motivates me every day to do what we do and help as many people as possible access quality mental health support.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Ultimately it comes down to seeing the people I’ve hired grow, both personally and professionally. Knowing that people I hired into junior roles have gone on to become senior leaders and contributors themselves, sometimes in other companies, is a real joy.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

One of the hardest things, for me at least, is setting boundaries. When you’re in a senior position within a business, the burden of responsibility - towards your customers, your employee, and your investors - can feel enormous. It can be all too easy to try and be everything to everyone and to sacrifice your own wellbeing in the name of helping others. But this isn’t a healthy way to work. It’s really important to get the balance right and to set clear boundaries so that you put yourself in the best position to show up at work energised and ready to do your job.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Get really clear on your mission. This will keep you anchored as you grow and will help you ensure everyone on your team is singing from the same hymn sheet.
  2. Prioritise the wellbeing of your team from the very beginning. Supporting the mental and physical health of your team isn’t something you should do when you’re a growing company with over fifty employees. It’s something you should do from the very beginning: even if you’re currently a team of two. Making healthy boundaries and wellbeing a key part of your culture from the outset will pay dividends and will have a positive kickback on retention, productivity, employee engagement, and team morale.
  3. Lead by example. This means working in a considerate and sustainable way and encouraging others to do the same. At Oliva, this means we set clear expectations around performance. But we also encourage people to set clear boundaries to protect their personal time - whatever that might look like for them. This is something I actively try to do myself. For example, I make time to go for a walk with my dog every day. And I give myself a couple of hours on a Sunday morning to catch up on work so that I can start the next week feeling prepared. I would never expect my team to work on a Sunday: but what I would expect is for them to work out what they want their boundaries to be - and ensure they’re doing what they need to do to strike a healthy work/life balance.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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