International Women’s Day Interview with Katie Bell & Pamela Scarborough

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 Katie Bell & Pamela Scarborough Co-Founders of sport and health startup Beam.

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.

Beam - Katie Bell & Pamela Scarborough

Photo of Katie and Pamela Co-Founders of Beam
Logo of Sport and Health Startup Beam

Could you please start by sharing a brief description of your business?

Beam is an online exercise, educational and well-being platform for people with specific health conditions that has been developed in collaboration with clinicians, community members and charities.

We offer live and on-demand sessions led by specialist instructors either living with or working in the health conditions, alongside community and motivational support.

Our aim is to support people to become more active for physical and emotional health benefits, and to address health inequalities through providing equal access to specialist care.

What inspired you to create Beam?

Katie: It was my own lack of motivation to exercise that first inspired me to create Beam. 

I am a coder and love working on projects and ideas that solve my own personal needs. I used to do an early morning yoga class with a friend of mine but when she moved continents for work my motivation plummeted and so I hacked together a way we could exercise remotely via video chat.  

As Beam was developing as a way for friends to exercise together remotely I met my now co-founder, Pamela Scarborough. Pamela is a physiotherapist who at that time had just completed her Masters researching yoga for people with cystic fibrosis and was looking for a way to deliver her programme remotely.  

Pamela: Yes, when I learnt about the social element of what Katie was building it really piqued my interest!

I’ve always been passionate about the role of exercise as medicine, but also recognising and addressing the many barriers people have in adhering to an exercise regime (these are often more complex for people living with health conditions!). 

Thereafter, I was immediately excited to develop the platform for people  who may feel isolated, who may struggle to access specialist care due to geography or lack of service provision and who need support to get active! 

I recognised that the platform was a great opportunity to make exercise fun and inspire people to move more, with the intention to improve health outcomes and quality of life.  We began building Beam for people with cystic fibrosis, but have since expanded to women’s health, kidney disease and prostate cancer with others in the pipeline.

What has been your proudest moment or best success as a founder?

Katie: So many highs (and lows) it’s hard to pick!  

Signing our first international contract with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in the US stands out to me. 

We are hugely passionate about ensuring our resources are free for people with the health condition and our partnership with the CFF has fulfilled this dream for us in the US.

I’m also extremely proud of the team Pamela and I have built to date and for everything they do above and beyond a 9-5 to help us achieve greatness for our members and partners.

We are a global, fully remote team and every team member is aligned with our purpose.

Pamela: For me it’s the constant feedback we have from people using the platform.

I love to see our members connecting with one another, sharing their ups and downs, encouraging and learning from one another, getting stronger and more active, and feeling empowered in their care. 

As well as the community, I’m super proud of the clinicians and charities we have had the opportunity to collaborate with. 

I’ve geeked out many times over our collaborations with world-leading clinicians – phenomenal people from centres like The Royal Brompton, Johns Hopkins, Royal Marsden, Massachusetts General, Kings College Hospital. 

Where would you like to see your product in 5 years’ time?

Our aim is to be sustainably serving 36 different health conditions in 5 years time, globally (including content available in multiple different languages) in both developed and under-developed countries. 

We plan in this time to tackle both regional and global health inequalities.

What do you think the sector you are trying to support and the investment community can do to help women more?

COVID-19 has had a positive impact on the adoption of digital health solutions by health organisations such as the NHS but this still remains one of our largest challenges and I feel there could be more support from the health sector and investment community to help companies like ours break through the red tape.

Key to adoption of a product is a proven case for improved health outcomes but I feel there is a lack of funding for essential pilots to happen in order to build these. 

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?

Katie: I would tell myself how important it is to build a strong team and how important culture within that team is. 

I would tweak our lack of speed to fundraise to support ourselves to date. I feel I’ve spent too much time worrying about cash flow when I could have been more focused on product and market progress.

Pamela: I would tell myself again to stay closely connected to the needs of our customers – both community members and clinicians. 

I still teach a weekly yoga class on Beam to people with cystic fibrosis and have ongoing collaborations with clinicians. These interactions have helped me to make critical decisions around the direction of Beam.

One thing I would tweak is to be more boundaried. It’s ok to say ‘no’ to opportunities so you can focus and make a success of others, and I’d have implemented defined start and stop times in the working day earlier (working with a team across time zones has made this tricky!)

What advice do you have for other women looking to create their own start-up?

Katie: It takes a huge amount of stamina, focus, resilience and heart. It’s not for the faint hearted but you won’t know unless you try. I encourage anyone to explore entrepreneurship if it sparks their interest as it can be incredibly rewarding but they should prepare themselves for a rollercoaster of a ride

Pamela: 100% what Katie said! 

Further resources

This is the 5th interview in a series of five celebrating International Women’s Day. Read more on episode one with Jana Dowling, episode two with Melinda Nicci, episode three with Abby Seneor and episode four with Christina Colmer McHugh. 
 
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 Beam 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.

Holly Smith

Project Support Intern
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