Known as the ‘Mary Berry of therapy’ for her dedication to the field of therapy, Sheri Jacobson has simple advice to would-be entrepreneurs: ‘Do what you love and continue to do it!’
It’s become something of a cliché to view entrepreneurs as mavericks, dreamers, and innovators, but there are some who perfectly embody the never-take-no-for-an-answer, blazing passion that’s required to found a successful business. And Sheri Jacobson is a perfect example.
The founder of FT Future 100 company Harley Therapy, she’s not only a passionate campaigner to de-stigmatize mental health and therapeutic support but a timely reminder that, above all else, it’s people that drive successful businesses.
Having started off in investment banking, Jacobson turned her back on finance because she craved something different. She subsequently went on to embark on 10 years of psychotherapy training and a seven-year period as a volunteer counselor before setting up her first business.
“There’s a lot of research that shows us that earning money is not the be-all and end all,” she explains. “There’s a certain threshold beyond which you can have a comfortable life and having lots of extra gadgets and disposable income isn’t going to contribute to your wellbeing as much as having a purpose and feeling really fulfilled in what we do.
“If you’re lucky enough to stumble across something you love and can turn it into a business, then you should stick with it – even if it’s not an ‘approved’ career. My dad said, ‘I don’t understand why you want to do this. You’re not going to earn a living from this and I don’t see you being happy.’ But you know what, I’m loving it!”
Driven to help others
Having subsequently conducted over 250,000 personal therapy sessions and her companies carrying out almost 10,000 sessions a month, it’s fair to say she’s not looked back.
In 2006 she founded Harley Therapy in a world-renowned area of medical excellence in London.
“I was working with clients on a one-to-one basis and was driven to help more people,” she recalls. “I saw that there was a change in a person and light was often brought into their lives over prolonged work – it didn’t happen overnight, it took many sessions. Their lives were truly transformed. Not everyone, though, and not all the time, but there was enough to say something magical was happening and I wanted to share it with more people.
“I’m driven to help others experience what I see in the therapy rooms and, indeed, what I experienced myself when I went into therapy at the age of 17.”
Technology is key to expansion
There are two sides to Jacobson’s business. Firstly, the very exclusive Harley Street clinic, which by her admission is expensive and “restrictive in access”.
Then there is Harley Therapy Platform Ltd, which was launched in 2017 it aims to make therapy far more accessible and affordable. This is a virtual business and has the same mission as the clinic, which is to “help people through therapy and psychological knowledge with a view that everyone has the capacity to change if they’re willing to work hard”.
The platform now delivers around 8,000 sessions a month, while the bricks-and-mortar clinic has never done more than 2,000 therapy sessions a month.
Self-funded all the way through, she was able to leverage the power of her Harley Therapy clinic brand to create a global business. “I saw so many successful platform-based businesses and I thought there’s got to be a way to translate this to what I’m doing,” she explains.
The journey hasn’t been without pitfalls though. She acknowledges some growing pains, particularly around the fact that some therapists struggled to move on from the old methods. “We can’t use paper diaries, we’re driven by technology and some people don’t like that, they don’t value it and find it impersonal,” she admits.
The wellbeing industry is a good place for entrepreneurs
Even over Zoom, it’s hard not to be struck by Jacobson’s irresistible energy and fervor, which begs the question of whether working in the wellbeing industry has helped her as an entrepreneur?
“I think it has,” she smiles. “It’s helped me take regular breaks, look after myself and encourage my colleagues to do the same. Working flexibly and with lots of attention to our hobbies makes for a better working environment.
“Being in this field, in general, has helped us with longevity and being able to run a business. It’s been 15-years and I’ve still got so much energy and enthusiasm for it. I haven’t come close to burnout because of the well-being element that I’ve learned from working with clients.
“I feel like we’re just getting started!”