Meet Anthea Morris and Michael Asher
Michael and Anthea have grown an idea into the world’s largest private provider of sexual health testing services. They help patients get fast, confidential answers to their STI concerns, and help them every step of the way from choosing tests, getting results, treatment and counselling. Here’s their story.
1. Why did you start Better2Know and what were you doing before?
We started Better2Know in 2011. We saw a gap in the way that STI testing was being delivered that did not always meet the needs of people that we were talking to. We investigated the market, and found that over 500,000 people get tested every month for an STI. We saw an opportunity to disrupt the market by providing a different private service. Better2Know delivers the service we would want if we wanted an STI test: same or next day appointments, 24/7 sexual health advice, fast results, and quick treatment in the event of a positive result.
2. What were the biggest sources of inspiration and support when you were starting out?
When we were starting out, we were not sure how well our service would be received. No one had ever launched a service like Better2Know before. We wanted to know whether we were on the right track or whether we needed to make any improvements to the service, so we looked for feedback from our patients. We were overwhelmed with the positive feedback, and how much people liked the service. We had one patient who had pain during sex for a long time and it was getting unbearable. We were able to diagnose him, and help him to access the treatment he needed. A few months later we got an email from him saying that he was getting back, and that his wife was now pregnant. We had literally changed their lives. Stories like this keep us going.
We were lucky that we had already established a working relationship, and so we were the biggest sources of support to each other in growing the business, checking and improving ideas and delivering results.
3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting the business?
The importance of the ability to solve problems creatively. Always look for the opportunity in any adversity. As we grew, we attracted new entrants to the private sexual health testing market. We needed to stay one step ahead of them, and so we have had to innovate to stay at the forefront and be the service that patients want to choose.
We launched the world’s first STI Testing service which comes to you: our nurse will visit you in your home, office, hotel, or any suitable location. This service is popular with busy executives who cannot always spend time travelling to an appointment.
4. What has been your proudest moment/biggest achievement so far?
Winning Small Business of the Year Award at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom last year. We had the whole team with us, and were very surprised to win. It shows that all the hard work that everyone has put in has been recognised. It was a wonderful evening with a guest appearance from Lulu as our entertainer for the night.
Winning this award confirmed to us that we had succeeded in establishing Better2Know as an important provider of sexual health testing services in the UK. Our operations sit comfortably next to the public GUM services giving the public choice in how to best manage their sexual health. As a provider of a primary care service, earning the respect of our Doctors, laboratory partners and of course of our patients has inspired us to continue to innovate, to meet the changing needs of our patients and ensure we deliver the best care we possibly can.
5. What piece of advice would you give to anyone starting out?
Where possible, start your venture with a business partner. We have found that growing the business together has made it stronger and more rewarding for us. It is easier to face challenges by talking it through with a business partner who understands the business really well. We have grown faster because there are two of us committed to the business.
Having two people with different skills and views gives you a much wider perspective, and helps to think situations through. What may seem like a marketing idea may have some legal difficulties. We have found that our complementary skills help to bring balance to our decisions.
6. What piece of investment did you make in the business that was worth every penny?
Developing our booking system. This is a bespoke cloud-based software package that manages our bookings and results reporting. It is very secure to keep our patient and corporate data safe. It has made our team’s jobs much easier as all the information they need to make a booking and report results is in one place.
7. Which element of marketing has made the biggest impact on your business?
The biggest element for us is paid search. We use this, especially when starting in new territories, to gain a foothold in the market.
Social Media has been a tricky element for us. Although our social pages get a lot of views, we do not have much interaction. The stigma of having an STI test still prevails. People do not want to share or like our content. While everyone who has sex should have a regular STI test, it is the one thing that people do not want to share on social media.
8. What do the next 12 months look like for you?
We have an exciting next 12 months planned as demand for our service increases. We are looking forward to launching in new countries across Europe and Africa, where we see demand and need for our service. We continue to innovate and improve our service with flexible booking options and new instant STI tests.
We are also looking to work with new groups and organisations who will want to offer our service as part of a package such as employee benefits or membership organisations.
We are working with two local universities on new innovative services that will be unique in sexual health. All of this will lead to doing more of what patients want.
Do you have an interesting story to tell about how your business got started? Tell us about it.