Sam Jackman is the founder of Boost, the makers of comfortable and lightweight breast prostheses for women who have had a mastectomy. After listening to women who have had treatment for breast cancer, and following her mum’s own mastectomy, Sam began her entrepreneurial journey when she saw a gap in the market for breast forms which weren’t beige, boring and heavy. She spent years searching for comfortable, lightweight, fun prostheses – or a suitable alternative – for her mum, but couldn’t find anything. Sam realised that many other women felt the same way and, from there, Boost was born.
Boost was incorporated in April 2018. At the start, focus groups were set up to ascertain what it is that women who need breast prosthesis want, and found that they wanted shape, comfort and a fun design. From this, Sam strengthened her conviction that breast forms don’t have to be beige or boring, but should bring positivity and help women feel good. Boost’s products offer a fun, informed design and come in many colours. They are lightweight and suitable for an active lifestyle.
Sam’s entrepreneurial journey
Sam never thought she would be an entrepreneur. Sam’s background was in education, arts and culture, and before Boost she had never run a business. However, when Sam and her mother discovered that there were many women who felt the same way about the lack of variety in breast prosthesis, Sam stepped up to the challenge.
As of March 2023, Boost employs three full-time staff members, Sam and her design partner Chris Hawken, with plans to double or triple the team by 2024. Boost’s journey started off as part of an accelerator programme with the Design Council, which helped to get Boost get going. At this stage, Sam and the team began to design, test and patent the product. In the early stages, Boost also had some funding from Innovate UK, but this alone wasn’t enough, and so Sam also worked three jobs over lockdown to continue funding her company.
Then came another hurdle. After coming off the accelerator programme, Boost sought equity investment, which proved difficult. Sam found it hard to explain a female-focussed product to the male investors sat around the table, especially since they didn’t yet have a prototype. In the first instance, investors decided not to offer funding. Luckily for Boost, they were able to secure further investment from Innovate UK, which kept them afloat at this stage.
Boost started a small e-commerce site and began to sell its products between 2021-22. To Sam’s delight, there was a high demand from women who needed prosthesis when the NHS was overburdened during lockdown and unable to secure these quickly. Following their first commercial success, Boost applied for further IP protection, and they now have patents across the EU, UK and US.
Sam didn’t stop there. A new equity investment deal was offered when investors saw the demand and potential of the business, and they’re now supportive investors in her business. Looking back, Sam feels that initial rejection of funding applications made her more determined to get her company off the ground, even though it was a frustrating experience. But this isn’t an experience that is unique to her – many female entrepreneurs share this story – and this is why Sam feels initiatives such as the Rose Review and Investing in Women Code are important to ensure that female founders are given equal opportunity and access to funding.
Over the next two years, Sam is looking to grow Boost and help even more women. Beyond increasing the team, Sam would like Boost to move into new business premises and find new partnerships such as with independent, women-owned shops; small and large retailers and, the NHS and other healthcare providers. On a global scale, Boost is looking to develop overseas relationships to ensure that their product reaches women across the world. Boost would also like to develop their digital offering to meet women’s needs. Crucially, Boost would like to keep its manufacturing local, as sustainability is one of its core values.
Sam also received other forms of help along the way. Boost was commended in The Telegraph’s 100 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch list , in partnership with NatWest, which opened doors for her, especially in terms of networking with potential future investors. Through this, she also met Craig Tracey MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Breast Cancer, who provided her with helpful business advice. Sam was also allocated a mentor from Coutts, who was a helpful sounding board for her business ideas and to talk through obstacles she faced.
Sam’s advice to female entrepreneurs
If there was a piece of advice that Sam would give to female founders, it would be that “you are entitled to funding just as much as everyone else, so step up and go for it”. It is only by putting yourself out there that you can achieve your goals – and don’t be disheartened by setbacks, especially in terms of funding. In the words of Sam, “don’t be concerned about where the money is going to come from, just get yourself out there, meet people and see what happens”.