By Alexa Segal
The LGBT+ community experiences healthcare inequalities due to stigma, lack of provider’s awareness and insensitivity. Queeries exploits cutting edge webinar technology, including virtual reality. Breaking the inequality in standard of care has major social and economic implications. Using an innovative platform and a creative delivery, Queeries allows individuals in the LGBT+ community to receive the healthcare they deserve.
Though originally designed for medical professionals, Queeries is now an LGBT+ training provider, and teaches individuals from corporate groups, not limited to just medical professionals, how to be LGBT+ competent, benefiting more than the company’s LGBT+ employees!
I currently have some great advisors helping with Queeries, including; Lord Chris Smith – the first openly gay MP – who I approached whilst studying at Pembroke College Cambridge. Knowing his personal tie with LGBT+ issues, I reached out to him to discuss Queeries. He was excited about my ideas, and pledged his support from that point forward; Dr Harley Katz is a serial entrepreneur and happens to be one of my best friends. He is a spring-board for ideas and has been there to guide me with his business acumen since the conception of Queeries, and finally Dr Richard Ma who I reached out to at the start of WE Innovate when I was collecting market research and when Queeries was still a free-standing LGBT+ clinic. After intense conversations, he helped me realise that Queeries, as I had it operating, would not work in the NHS. His juxtaposition as the leading LGBT+ health researcher, medical doctor and member of the LGBT+ community means that he is an excellent advisor!
I’ve been greatly supported by the Enterprise Lab. Being part of WE Innovate has been an amazing experience. Every week, I looked forward to attending WE Innovate as I know I will see friendly faces, both from students and the staff, as well as learn an invaluable skill that I have never been taught in my academic training. The support from the cohort side is also uncanny; I have never been part of a cohort more encouraging and constructive. Being part of WE Innovate has allowed me to form relationships with other entrepreneurs, which is not something I have been part of before.
Besides the support from the staff and cohort, learning how to administer market research has been the most beneficial to me. During WE Innovate I faced significant hurdles, many routed in the complexity of the UK National Health Service and the difficultly in developing a service that is both innovative and commercially viable. By continually developing my understanding of the market, I have been able to adapt my business model to overcome these challenges in two ways: Firstly, I have a greater understanding of the business environment I want Queeries to operate in, which required extensive research (72 surveys and 36 interviews!), networking and modelling. Secondly, I learned how to constantly evaluate and rework my ideas to succeed. These are skills that are directly transferable to my studies and other endeavours.
Since the conclusion of WE Innovate, I have remained an active student in the Enterprise Lab. I have volunteered and been asked to participate in various capacities, at multiple events, and have even been called upon to teach others from my experiences as a social entrepreneur. The whole time, the entirety of the Enterprise Lab team have been extremely supportive – reaching out to their networks to find advice on my visa status issues, funding me to partake in the YLH Social Entrepreneurship Challenge in Berlin, and for providing constant camaraderie!
While the goal has formerly been to operate in the healthcare space, I have received overwhelming feedback from corporate groups, including well-known international banks, who want to have their employees Queeries trained. The plan is to work with these corporate groups to create a tailored Queeries programme to make their organisation as LGBT+ friendly and competent as possible. The revenue I plan to make from this step will allow me to fund the development of the virtual reality. Further, I was selected to take part in a programme called SimDH, where London Southbank University has been commissioned to conduct independent research to study the effects of my training.
Some other successes have been getting first prize in the digital and technology category in the Creative Conscience Global Awards Scheme – an organisation that promotes socially valuable, human centred design that enables and inspires people to change their lives and the lives of those around them for the better, and being selected as one of the 30 participants to compete in the global challenge with the goal of creating a sustainable social entrepreneurial health solution that will help not only those with the funds to buy new digital health products, but also the marginalised members of urban communities.
My advice to anyone thinking of starting a business would be do your market research, stay resilient and remain passionate about your project. Conducting thorough market research will save you time in the long-run and listen to people who have more experience than you do. I have learned more over these last two years whilst working on Queeries than I have in any classroom – about entrepreneurship, business logistics, market research, pitching, and about myself. Though I did not win WE Innovate or the competition at Cambridge, my resilience and passion to make a real impact in the LGBT+ community has allowed me to persist through these hurdles. If you are passionate about your project, then you will be more resilient to overcome the inevitable hurdles and challenges. Fundamentally, Queeries would not be what it is today had it not been for the vast amount of market research, speaking and most importantly, listening to others more experienced than myself and the fact that I am as determined as ever to succeed and make a real difference in the lives of LGBT+ people.