To celebrate International Women’s Day, we are interviewing five female entrepreneurs within our community to explore their journey as founders.
This interview is with Jana Dowling, Founder of sport and mental fitness startup MyArkeo.
Although very different projects and backgrounds, all these women share one common objective – they aim to improve people’s health and wellbeing through technology.
Stay up to date with the interview series by keeping an eye on our News Page.
MyArkeo - Jana Dowling
Could you please share a brief description of your business?
Arkeo is a mental fitness brand empowering individuals and organisations to take control of their mental fitness through a tracking app.
We are here to change the way people think about what it means to be “fit” to include tracking mental fitness in exactly the same way we do physical fitness.
What inspired you to create MyArkeo?
I was inspired by personal experience with mental illness.
I suffered a sever depressive episode where I spent 5 weeks under 24 hour watch as a high risk suicide patient.
Back then, I was told by doctors to keep mood diaries, food diaries, sleep diaries and I couldn’t keep up with all my notes so I took a sheet of A4 paper, gridded it out so I could see 31 days and started to collect data on myself. It was number based 0-3, it was a kind of trinary code, my symptoms, behaviours and mood all on one page over time.
This became a map I could read and I could see what I was doing on a Tuesday and how a choice to have 2 cups of tea impacted me on a Thursday. I used the data to make decisions, I didn’t listen to my mind, it wasn’t well or right at that time.
Eventually the data gave me power to take actions myself, however small at a time when I felt like I had none. I recovered really quickly and was back at work in no time.
Before Arkeo I set up a social enterprise, The 888 Collective, to help people with mental health issues get back into work using my tracking system and it was super effective.
Then, people who didn’t have mental health issues started using it and I knew if I built it into an app it could be useful for a much wider audience – so that’s what I’ve done. I wanted to make sure that we focused on empowering people and aligning mental fitness with physical fitness.
Our audience is everyone, because we all have mental fitness and we all have the ability to have different levels of mental fitness and to manage it in the exact same way we do physical fitness.
What has been your proudest moment or best success as a founder?
I don’t have one yet, but I’m pretty sure I will feel a great sense of achievement when we launch – hopefully in May!
Each milestone has just been a little step in the wider picture of where Arkeo will be in 10 years. I tend to focus more on challenges than successes.
Successes take care of themselves, challenges are full of the stuff that matters, the learnings and keys to progression.
Where would you like to see your product in 5 years’ time?
We will be a Global Mental Fitness brand.
We’ll have our tracking app and then branch out into other products.
Who knows, in my mind I’d like to build Arkeo Empowerment – a company foundation of MyArkeo putting back funds into empowering those who struggle with mental health issues to get into the workplace… you never know I might even develop Arkeo Apparel.
The joy of being an entrepreneur is that you can imagine and build anything you want. The key to success is making sure you’re not the only one who wants it.
What do you think the sector you are trying to support and the investment community can do to help women more?
The sector could be more open to testing innovative products. We’ve seen how quickly the COVID vaccine has been released and I’ve spoken to incredible entrepreneurs with health tech solutions that they just can’t get out there.
There’s so much red tape.
We need something exciting and engaging and I don’t see much of that in the mental health industry.
If you could go back to any point in your entrepreneurial journey, what is the one thing you would tell yourself to do again and one thing that you would tweak?
To do again, I’d tell myself to keep going when things were tough, which I’ve had to do a lot so that’s what I’d do again.
I think I’d tweak how I managed investment. I’d focus more on who the investors are rather than the amount of investment.
What advice do you have for other women looking to create their own start-up?
Simple, your gender has nothing to do with your ability to create a company and succeed or fail.
It’s about your ideas, your resolve, your hard work, your dedication and your ability to evolve, adapt, collaborate and learn.
MyArkeo joined the Sport Tech Hub as part of the third cohort of ventures back in 2019.
This is the 1st interview in a series of five celebrating International Women’s Day. For more please visit our news section.
Sport Tech Hub is a UK based innovation initiative powered by London Sport that supports sport startups and fitness startups that tackle physical inactivity.
For more on MyArkeo and other products in our community, please visit here.
If you would like to connect with any of the products in our community, please reach out to the Sport Tech Hub team here.