Meet the member: Candle
Meet the Exchange member lighting the dark for people across the UK
What’s one thing people in need don’t need?
It is obvious when meeting Toby Nolan that his business, Candle, is a true passion project. It is refreshing to watch someone develop a genuine interest into a business idea.
He created the award-winning Candle alongside his co-founder, Tom Summerscales, on a mission to make peer support normal, informal, and effective. Inspired by his personal experience as a support volunteer and events in his own life, and Tom’s experience working at Amazon, the founders set out to ensure nobody struggles in silence. The novel product is deployed in businesses to support community mental wellbeing, addiction recovery, and suicide prevention.
When diving into Toby’s career and life history, his entrepreneurial spirit has run throughout. Whilst studying for a business degree at university he had an idea for a documentary which led to him being interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live. Brexit Through the Giftshop saw Toby interviewing university students and their parents on their reactions to Brexit. This was his first experience of having a vision and executing it.
Toby said: “We can sometimes forget, the most useful things around us were once simple ideas that became novel solutions to everyday problems. Above all, we have to optimize for ease. Yet, when we’re at our most vulnerable we’ve made it painfully difficult to get the help we need. For someone struggling with addiction, a mental health issue, or even suicide, there is social and technological admin to get through. It’s costing communities, businesses, and each of us time, money and in the worst case, lives. And this simply shouldn’t be.
“When analysing the market, I quickly identified that the main issue with many B2B mental well-being offerings is that they focus on fixing the person struggling, positioning them as the problem, rather than addressing the cause of their difficulties or considering the environment around them. There’s also a huge supply-demand issue around access to therapy with one qualified counsellor for every 1200 people in the UK.
“With Candle, we’re fully leveraging effective peer support that removes the isolation of addiction recovery and mental health struggles. We didn’t want to create just another app telling people to meditate more, we had to develop a place where people can find connection, real support, and learn new skills.”
Candle is a platform that allows people to get effective peer support from colleagues, family, friends, and professionals. Anyone struggling can light a virtual candle, a call for assistance to selected groups, which will then be answered. Whilst currently angled towards enterprise, the team will eventually offer it directly to consumers too.
In addition to the candle lighting function, the app has other features called Meadow and Lighthouse which users can access.
With so many mental health resources in existence, the team has drawn on curation to create Meadow, a positive and productive content feed. This is a collection of material taken from across the internet from official advice from the NHS to Spotify playlists, to offer a source of all things feel-good. In time, Toby hopes to implement artificial intelligence into Meadow so users are getting a tailored experience that caters to their specific needs.
Lighthouse is a learning tool that coaches users in peer-to-peer support. Family, friends, and colleagues can access videos on how to be there for those lighting a candle most constructively. Toby said that this resource has the secondary benefit of teaching people how to be there for themselves when they need it too.
One significant turning point for the business was attracting Elaine Bousfield, founder of Kooth plc to join the Candle movement.
Toby said: “Elaine joining the team as an advisor really changed the pace for us. Welcoming her to the team provided us with a mental health professional with 20 years of extensive experience working with NHS, CCGs, and local authorities. She has been invaluable in her insights into both the health industry and building a business based on mental health support.”
Another turning point was earlier this year when the team joined Exchange.
Toby continued: “I am a founder looking to engineer serendipity. Through Exchange, I have sought help with visuals, marketing, and sales, pretty much anything I can gain valuable insights on from the group of talented start-up entrepreneurs.
“We are fortunate to now be gathering some real momentum with UK public companies now making inquiries and we are attracting some promising investment conversations.”
The business is going from strength to strength as it recently celebrated winning Pro-Manchester Trailblazing Tech Award 2022. Candle is also currently seeking to raise funding to facilitate further development and polishing of the platform.
To find out more about Candle, visit: candleapp.io/