Hi Mark, tell us a bit about your business
Lighthouse Therapy CIC provides bespoke counselling packages to all kinds of people. We specialise in dedicated therapy for armed forces veterans and the third sector. We also work to help the people of Sunderland and surrounding areas to improve their mental health by reconnecting to nature, each other and themselves. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to counselling and we draw on all types of therapies to create support that is tailored to meet the needs of the individual.
What problems does your business solve?
We address mental health issues at all levels. As well as targeting the unique challenges faced by specific professions and sectors, we are passionate about reaching out to people who are simply struggling with the challenges of life. This low-level anxiety has such a big impact on the way people live their lives and their self-esteem. There are lots of organisations out there set up to help with specialist health issues. We’re concerned about those people who aren’t necessarily diagnosed as chronically depressed but are struggling to balance everyday pressures and find meaning in life. Sometimes life gets in the way of living. We all need some help to find the joy again.
Why did you become an entrepreneur? What was your drive?
Ultimately, it was my five-year-old son Archie, who motivated me.
I joined the Royal Navy at the age of 17 and I became very aware of the mental health challenges facing veterans and those in service and I always wanted to do something about it. I bounced around in a range jobs when I left the Navy – working as a truck driver, bus driver and doing pizza deliveries – but they were all just jobs to pay the bills. They were nothing I really cared about, nothing that quenched my thirst for a meaningful career. I came back to my idea of becoming a counsellor after thinking about my son making the most out of his life. I realised I couldn’t expect him to grow up and follow his own path if I wasn’t prepared to do the same. I needed to lead by example and show him it can be done. I signed up for a foundation degree in counselling, went on to do a BA degree and then set up my own private practice.
Why have you chosen to set up a social enterprise and how is this different from a ‘normal’ business?
After running my private practice for a while, I realised there were many people I just couldn’t reach with my services. Setting up a separate social enterprise means I have the option to focus on fulfilling my personal ambition to help people who are struggling in life. This structure and business model values social impact over profit and means there are new options to attract funding and work with different organisations to amplify the impact of my work. All social entrepreneurs have a desire to bring about positive change in the world. I’d like to think that we are seeing the beginning of a new wave of socially-conscious businesses in the North East and it’s really exciting to be part of this process of change. It would be naïve to think that my individual project will lead to a huge shift in society but even small ripples make a big difference.
Who has helped you to get where you are today?
The Enterprise Place at Sunderland University helped me explore my options after I finished my degree. I was then introduced to the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), where I started my business, and they’ve been instrumental in my journey ever since. I knew I was a half-decent counsellor but when it came to running a business, I knew nothing! They’ve guided me every step of the way. After learning about my ambition to reach more people with my services, their Social Enterprise Manager Kevin Marquis helped me to branch out and create a separate social enterprise. I’m now developing this work by taking part in Innovate for Good, a business incubator set up by the BIC to help entrepreneurs who want to use their enterprise as a force for good. This is an incredible opportunity to meet a network of invaluable contacts and get direct access to real-life scenarios that are already leading to inspiring ideas.
What’s your mantra for business? What guides your decisions?
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche urged people to: become who you are. To live your life according to who you really are and what you value. That’s something that I hold close to me. It’s something that I tell my friends and family and my clients. It’s how I run my business and I think if you stick to what you really believe in you won’t go wrong.
How can we find out more about you?
Take a look at my website and feel free to get in touch – I’d love to hear from you! https://www.lighthousetherapygroup.co.uk/