My Grandfather developed Alzheimer’s disease and over time it became increasingly difficult to keep him meaningfully engaged. This reached the point where we were having to use children’s toys to keep him occupied, an issue mirrored by the care sector globally. Keeping someone physically and mentally engaged can help reduce depression, isolation, sleeplessness and improve overall wellbeing so it is a hugely important part of care for someone with dementia, but it was currently being address with children’s toys that were patronising and not fit for purpose.
In 2009, I launched Active Minds to address this need by developing product specifically designed and tested with and for people living with dementia. This currently ranges from jigsaw puzzles, painting activities to sensory products.
We chose a commercial structure so that we could take on investment. In order for the products to maximise their impact the business had to scale quickly; a more commercial approach with investment backing seemed like the most effective approach.
The main challenge was how to maintain the social mission without being too restrictive that it might put off future investors. I think embedding the social mission in the articles and committing to social impact targets as well as financial targets has helped us achieve this. Picking the right investors who value social impact is also key to maintaining this focus. We also found that measuring impact from the very start has given us a great evidence base to secure funding and win contracts.