a woman wearing glasses: The entrepreneur on launching the Soke, a private clinic integrating mental healthcare, wellbeing, support and performance coaching © Courtesy of Maryam Meddin The entrepreneur on launching the Soke, a private clinic integrating mental healthcare, wellbeing, support and performance coaching

In normal circumstances, my job involves… working on the launch of the Soke, a new mental-health concept that will deliver behavioural-health services in a more palatable way to everyone (not just those suffering from depression, anxiety and so on). I’m currently in the final stages of preparation and so – as with any start-up – I’m a jack of all trades at this point. A typical day can consist of talking to existing and prospective investors, meeting clinicians, developing the blueprint for our services, working on our brand bible and approving light fixtures. There’s never a dull moment.

In the past month, the biggest change to my day-to-day work has been… working late. Now that I’m at home, I don’t really have a cut-off point in the same way that I did when I had an office. I’ll sometimes theoretically end my day with a long walk, but then when I return home I find it hard to resist sitting at my desk and picking up where I left off. Last week, I got up from staring at my computer screen for hours, only to realise that the flat was pitch-dark, without a single light on.

I’m adapting to working remotely by… embracing it wholeheartedly. Right now, our future office is a construction site but once it’s completed, I expect I’ll be spending very large chunks of my life there, having to look the part as CEO. I’m making the most of being able to work in tattered clothing for a little while longer.

The recent innovation I’m most proud of is… the Soke itself. Everything about it is innovative, from our service-led model to our studied aesthetics, our pre- and post-session relaxation cocoons, our appointment of client advocates and, above all, our ‘profit with purpose’ philosophy. The Soke Foundation is a direct result of that: it’s a not-for-profit organisation (funded through the Soke) that aims to support community mental-health initiatives that could benefit from a helping hand.

a living room filled with furniture and a fireplace: The Soke © Courtesy of the Soke The Soke

The most significant challenge has been… persuading people who see me on Zoom that having a hairstyle like the Tiger King wasn’t a conscious style choice, but a consequence of the delusion that I could cut my own hair…!

For me, leadership during a crisis means… showing that you have moral as well as practical preparedness. People who are invested in your leadership need to know that you’re not taking your responsibility towards them lightly and that you understand the role they’ve played in your own achievements. I completely subscribe to Michael Sandel’s theory that if we believe our successes to be entirely our own doing, we’re less likely to feel a sense of indebtedness and obligation towards others – things that we absolutely have to feel if we’re to respond to another’s need in a time of crisis.

My role model for crisis management is… the American congresswoman Katie Porter. She’s part of a new breed of young, female politicians (including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) who completely understand what they’re there to do. When she shows up to work, she’s there to go into combat on behalf of the people who elected her, and her lethal weapons of choice are usually a whiteboard and a tenacious interrogative style. It’s thanks to this unwavering approach that within her allocated five minutes of congressional questioning, she got a Trump appointee to agree to free Covid-19 testing for all Americans. If you haven’t seen videos of her in action, I highly recommend them.

The three most important values that will see my business through adversity are… responsibility, integrity and creativity.

The biggest change I hope we’ll see in my industry post-crisis is… shifting the “it’s OK to talk” message to “it’s healthy to talk”. Mental health should at least be on par with physical health and just as going to the gym is considered to be a positive act of looking after your body, engaging with your brain should be seen as one of looking after your mind.

The one thing I can’t wait to do when all this is over is… welcome you to the Soke!

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