Determination, innovation and the right support is helping Boost Innovations change lives and minds worldwide.
Supported by the Access to Finance programme, Boost Innovations in Calstock, Cornwall has designed a new type of breast prosthesis to improve the lives of women following breast cancer treatment and challenge the way breast forms are viewed. Boosting confidence and changing attitudes, the product is beautiful, fun and above all comfortable.
The pioneering start-up business was founded by Sam Jackman and Rosie Brave, after seeing the many issues Sam’s mum experienced using a breast form following treatment for cancer. Realising that many women also found existing prosthetics to be hot, heavy and uncomfortable, the determined duo set about developing an alternative.
An innovative approach
Co-founder of Boost, Sam Jackman, explains: “We want to help women feel differently about their breast form – more positive. Following my mum’s experience, I started to question why existing prosthetics had to look so medical and imitate skin tone. It needed to be lightweight and restore shape, but why couldn’t it also be pretty and fun.
“We don’t do beige,” Sam proudly claims. “We want to encourage people to change how they view prosthetics. They shouldn’t be seen as a replacement body part, but more of a reflection of a woman’s personality and style. Our breast forms come in various colours, including purple and pink. We even have glittery ones. It is about choice and empowerment. For example, we once created a customised red and white breast form for an arsenal football fan and have had clients purchase our product as a gift.”
Reimagining the breast prosthesis, Boost has developed the concept of a lightweight open structured breast form that challenges the assumption that a prosthesis needs to imitate skin tone. Functional yet decorative, the Boost product remains secure when used within post-surgery underwear and can even be used for swimming and exercising.
Accessing the right support
Since 2018, Boost has been supported by the Access to Finance programme, which provides impartial support on all aspects of finance for businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
“Access to Finance are brilliant,” explains Sam. “The specialists are extremely knowledgeable, honest and quick to respond. As a small business owner you can’t be an expert in all areas, you need access to expert support. The world of finance and investment is quite complex, but being able to lean on the expertise of the Access to Finance team gives you the confidence to know you are making sound decisions. They have been vital to the growth of my business.
“We were initially looking at grant funding to help with intellectual property costs and then investment to drive the business forward. The finance specialists supported us through the whole process, from advising on the different funding options and answering our questions to proof-reading our applications. By providing practical and moral support, they saved us time and got us to where we needed to be quicker.”
More recently, the Access to Finance team were able to help Sam put together a cash flow forecast for a pitch deck for an application to the British Design Fund (BDF). An application, which resulted in Boost successfully securing a £105,000 investment from BDF to hire two part-time employees, commission equipment, undertake further product development and user testing.
A growing success
Since it launched its first product in October 2020, Boost Innovations has gone from strength to strength and is now breaking into international markets. As well as interest from the USA and Australia, the company has just despatched its first shipment to Africa and is about to embark on an initiative to raise awareness for the product in Europe via brand ambassadors.
Another marker of the company’s success is the growing number of accolades the team have received, which include a London Design Award in the Product Design (Medical) category in 2020, a Bloom Gin Women in Business Award in June 2021 and Highly Commended in the Circular Economy category at the Cornwall Sustainability Awards 2021. However, the biggest rewards for Sam are the letters of thanks she receives from customers: “Knowing you’ve made a positive difference to people’s lives is incredible.”
A determination to succeed
In fact, Sam is challenging stereotypes in more ways than one. An inspirational individual, Sam herself has suffered ill health. Aged 17 she was diagnosed with Adult Onset Still’s Disease – a long term autoimmune condition – and was told she may never be able to work. Advice she thankfully ignored.
Sam reveals: “If I had given up and believed what I was told when I was 17, I wouldn’t be running my own business now. But, I’ve learnt to challenge things, break down barriers and find my own pathway.”
As well as empowering other women, Sam is keen that her business is as sustainable as possible and is working towards a zero waste production process. For example, all the off-cuts from the injection moulding process are saved and used in other breast forms and products (like vases).
With an ethos built on sustainability and co-design, Boost continues to innovate with a number of other prototypes and projects already underway. This includes a digital breast form fitting service, which is being developed with Innovate UK and is set to launch in 2023.
Sam has some words of advice for other business owners: “Even if you are running a small side business as a hobby, it doesn’t mean it can’t be a valuable business. A business can grow with you. If you have a good idea, don’t limit yourself. As a business owner, you’ll have good days and bad, but never underestimate yourself or your business. Believe in what you do and go for it!
“You should also speak to the Access to Finance team as they are a really valuable resource for people building a business. They have the expertise and knowledge to help you reach higher.”