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Building Trusted Relationships with Trudie Fell of BelleVie

What our real product is, is trusted relationships. That’s what we’re building.

— Trudie Fell, Co-Founder of BelleVie

In this episode

Meet new SheEO Venture BelleVie! Co-Founder and CEO Trudie Fell joins SheEO Activator Hannah Senior to talk about BelleVie’s innovative model for care, and what led her to this journey and supporting our growing aging population to to live the life that they that they want to live.

They also discuss:

  • Traditional funding structures for healthcare in the UK
  • Measuring impact as a social enterprise
  • Traditional time and task models vs. the Buurtzorg model of care
  • Creating a positive impact on the lives of care workers
  • Increasing the quality of care, and driving effective care rather than efficiencies

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Podcast Transcript:

The podcast is being transcribed by Otter.ai. (there may be errors, run-on sentences and misspellings).

Trudie Fell 0:00
When you read the reviews, you realize what our true product is. Because there are words like, ‘My mum trust you to come into her home, she’s built a great relationship. The rapport is wonderful, her confidence is back.’ And then from the family member, we hear words like — quite often it’s, ‘peace of mind,’ and ‘reassured’. What our real product is, is trusted relationships. That’s what we’re building.

Vicki Saunders 0:25
Welcome to SheEO.World podcast, where you’ll meet women and non-binary folks who are transforming the world to be more equitable and sustainable.

Hannah Senior 0:41
My name is Hannah Senior. I am a SheEO Activator and also host of the Plant Breeding Stories podcast. But today, I’m wearing a different hat. And I’m really privileged to be interviewing Dr. Trudie Fell of BelleVie, one of the UK SheEO Ventures for 2022. So maybe to kick this off, Trudie, would you like to just introduce yourself and give a little overview of what BelleVie does?

Trudie Fell 1:11
Yeah, of course. And thank you very much for having me. And we are absolutely delighted to be one of the SheEO Ventures for this year. It’s really exciting. So BelleVie. Yeah, the reason we exist is to support older people to thrive. We know that the demographics in the UK and every developed country, mean that we have a large and growing elderly population, and more people are requiring some support as they get older. But sadly, our care sector is in crisis. And that’s common across all developed countries. And, and that’s leaving people who are unable to get the support that they need to live the life that they that they want to live. And so BelleVie was was founded to address the root causes of the care crisis. And we have an innovative model. That is, that is tackling that that issue, and ultimately supporting our, our growing aging population to to live the life that they that they want to live.

Hannah Senior 2:10
So you mentioned the innovative model. And I’d really like to, I’d like to ask you to expand on that a little bit. Because I think that’s a really interesting piece. Could you Could you describe it, and you know, how that makes things so different to the traditional model?

Trudie Fell 2:26
Yeah, sure. So perhaps I should just say this about the current model, and then that shows the differences. So today, homecare, so people who visit you in your own home, which is why most of us would prefer to, to stay supported for as long as possible. And then that, that they use a model called time and task. And it’s all about counting hours and ticking tasks off the list. And the feedback that we had when we were doing our research prior to launching BelleVie was that people feel like items on that tick list. They don’t feel like human beings, and then for the care workers working in the sector, and they’re driven away from what should be a really fulfilling career, because actually, that’s not what they want to be doing either. And so this time and task model, especially in an environment where money has been tight, and so people have been driven to be micromanaged has ended up in environments where neither the people providing the care or receiving the care feel valued. It doesn’t work for either party. And that is fundamentally is what BelleVie wanted to fix. So we’ve come in with a radically different operating model. And we were inspired by something that has revolutionized community nurse nursing in the Netherlands. So that’s the equivalent to our district nurses in the in the UK. Back about in 2006, a nurse called Jos de Blok recognize that nurses were were disengaged at work, there was a very high turnover and and low employee satisfaction. Patient satisfaction was also really low, very similar challenges that that we have in care and nursing today, and many other countries were recognized. And he came up with with a model, which is called Buurtzorg, which translates to neighborhood nursing. And it involves empowering and trusting the nurses that the people who are actually doing the work to make the right decisions. So he in the birth of model, you have small teams of self managing nurses or carers they’ve moved into care later on, and who make the day to day decisions on how to best support people in the community. They’re hired from the local community and they support people locally. There’s a lean back office, which does payroll and invoicing and things like that, but but it’s very decentralized. And there are coaches who support teams. So if their challenges that they can’t resolve between themselves as a group, and when I saw that model, I come from a background in technology. And I’m really proud of transitioning and doing lots of digital transformations and moving large departments to a much more a human and empowering model of Agile software development. I got it. Yes. So combine that with my background as a as a care worker, which I did many years ago, I saw immediately how the two could come together. So BelleVie is the first to apply a Buurtzorg, a model of self managing teams at scale to care in England. And where, yeah, we started two and a half years ago. And we’re really proud of where we’ve got to still a long way to go. But it’s very exciting. And we’re making a difference. And we want to make more of a difference.

Hannah Senior 5:41
So where are you operating right now? Where, give me a sense of the scale and the locations that you’re working in?

Trudie Fell 5:49
Yeah. So back in that summer of 2019, when we first went went live, that was we had a pioneer team, which we worked with another group of people to get live, which was in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. And we’ve expanded out from those early days. And so we now have six teams across the county of Oxfordshire. And then a little while ago, we got some funding up in the northeast of England, which was about creating great jobs up there. And we wanted to prove that we could work in two distinct geographies with different demographics, and also different proportions of people getting their funding from different places. And so we launched in the Northeast, and we have two teams there. And we’re but we’re growing super fast there, which is really exciting. And we will, and we want to expand out from those two geographic regions. And we’ve identified some other areas, which look like they could be really interesting, and would be right for BelleVie to enter. So yeah, we’re fundraising at the moment. And depending on how that fundraising goes, we’ll be launching and launching new new teams at a faster rate.

Hannah Senior 6:53
So there’s a couple of things there that I’d like to dig into if you’re open to it. One question that I have is, you know, you said you wanted to try and test the model in a different location. So I’m wondering, have you found that, what are the learnings so far about the situations, you know, what works in different settings? And you also mentioned funding from different sources? So perhaps this is a connected issue? How did the economics work out? Because, you know, clearly you are working with a more high touch model than traditionally is the case.

Trudie Fell 7:28
Yeah, so. So funding in care basically comes from three different sources. So about — and then the numbers vary from what research you look at, but about 40% of of all the people receiving homecare pay for their care themselves, because actually, the threshold for how much money you have, and therefore don’t qualify for local authorities support is relatively low. And in real times, real terms is, as is not improving. So there’s a large and growing proportion of people who fund their own care. And then there’s local authorities who will fund they, they fund the, still the majority of care, and then the other sources, the NHS, and we work with all three, which is different, but it’s very good for for us. So some of our competitors will pick one, be very good at one but not the other. But actually, we don’t want to, we’re all about quality. This is about really supporting people to thrive at home, not just the basics that you need to survive. And so that we want to take that quality care to everybody no matter what their own financial situation is, and therefore how its funded. And we don’t want to create a two tier system. When we started off, brand new, new startup, no reputation, we needed to test and learn. We went from the B2C market. So we sell funders, and Oxfordshire was a great place to target self funders and learn. And now we’ve we’ve done that we’ve got a good reputation, we wanted to see how we could speed up our growth and work B2B and sell to sell our care packages to local authorities and an NHS. In Oxfordshire it was harder because the local authority rates are not so generous. However, we work really well with the NHS in Oxfordshire. The NHS has more money than local authorities and they’ve never quibbled on our rates which are not above the market, but they are at the top of the market because this is all about quality. And so yeah, we work with self-funders and the NHS in Oxfordshire. But we knew that we wanted to prove it with local authorities as well. So we launched up in the Northeast with a view of supporting both self-funders and also the local authority. We we’ve won a contract with Northumberland County Council, and at the moment they’re giving us more work than we can possibly take on. Which then comes on to the next big part of this conundrum, I talked about how care workers don’t feel valued, and that they’re driven away from the sector. Recruitment and Retention is at the core of the crisis in care. Our operating model is one that attracts and retains people in a way that that’s that traditionally we’ve struggled within this sector. And, and that that’s our driver. So our value proposition is really to our, our colleagues, and making sure we create a great environment for them. So we’re, and we’re really proud of what we’ve we’ve done in that space, and we want to make that service available to to anybody so that you can live your best life at home.

Hannah Senior 10:41
So a question that springs to mind for me is, how would you, how do you measure the impact? You know, you talked about how in providing these services, you’re competing against other service providers? So how do you demonstrate that this is a different model? And it has a different impact?

Trudie Fell 10:58
Yeah, I’m actually we look at our — So our social impact is twofold. It’s on the lives of the people that we support, but it’s also on the lives of the care workers. So we’re doing some interesting work later this year about how we measure those those outcomes. But we started off with the basic things. So actually, one of our KPIs is how many new jobs can we create in the care sector, good jobs. We’re accredited, real living wage employer. So you know, how many jobs in that category can we create. And also looking at how many people we can we can support. We use net promoter score as as a measure, because we want to compare ourselves with with other companies as well. And we’re delighted that we’ve got a net promoter score is 94%. From the people we support and families, which is this is amazingly amazingly high. And we’re also rated 9.4, out of 10 on a an independent review site for homecare providers, so we know that we get — we know that we’re making a difference there. And what’s really good, and probably the more heartwarming stuff than the numbers is to read the reviews that we get. And people willing will make an inquiry for us and say things like, actually. And it’s often the grownup the grown up children who are making an inquiry. And they’ll say, I’m worried about mum, she’s She’s not eating properly. And she’s, she’s losing her confidence getting out and about and washing is is an issue. It’s a very transactional things. But actually, when you read the reviews, you realize what our true product is. Because there are words like my mum trust you to come into her home, she’s built a great relationship, the rapport is wonderful, her confidence is back. And then from the family member, we hear words like quite often, it’s peace of mind, and reassured. What what our real product is, is trusted relationships. That’s what we’re building. So we’re looking at ways that we can measure the impact we’re having on people’s lives. And we’re doing some work with Sheffield University later on this year on how we measure outcomes. So it’s not just the number of people, we support and hours of care, because, you know, there’s good quality and not. And trying to work out how we change those reviews into something that we can measure and compare and learn. But keep it very human. And when you have got that environment where actually your product is to build trusted relationships, and really make a difference to someone’s lives. Actually, that thing comes back in the other impact, which is on the people we employ our colleagues. Because what the most important thing for them, is making that difference. So the sense of purpose. That’s why people work for us. That’s why people stay with us. And that’s the real difference. So it comes back to that original problem that I said, in that both parties neither feel valued. If we can get that back, right at the heart of what we do, then we succeed. And that’s really what our operating model is about.

Hannah Senior 14:08
Before talking to you. I googled the Buurtzorg model because I was curious about it. And what I understood from from researching that is that what they found in the Netherlands is that although the cost of the direct cost of the care is higher, the overall cost to the system is lower because of those relationships that build up. I’m wondering if you see something similar in the in the communities that you’re supporting?

Trudie Fell 14:35
Yeah, so EY went in and did an audit of Buurtzorg and calculated that, that they’ve saved the Dutch healthcare system 40% of their budgets, which is just amazing. So they’ve been rated the best employer across all sectors in Holland for four years out of the last, however many years they’ve been going now. And they top the tables for patient satisfaction, and they’ve got that 40% Say And when it’s when, when when we’re focused on creating great jobs. Because when our carers feel valued and thrive, then that’s when they can support, support the when the people that we support can feel valued and thrived. Now, in terms of cost, we are in a slightly different place in care. And it depends, depends what you what you’re looking at as your benchmark. But sadly, we’ve had a race to the bottom in social care over the last 15 years, and the price has been driven down. So our primary goal is not about price saving. Actually, what we’re really looking at is effective care, rather than driving efficiencies, because it’s driving efficiencies, that’s where people have cut corners and cuts and all it just looks at the money and forgotten about the human beings at the center of this model and service. However, what we do want is we want a fair price for for care. And there’s a lot of talk about that at the moment, which is really important. And what we definitely can do and we have evidence of is that when you when you when you start supporting someone, and your aim is to enable them to live well at home, or to live their best life. And that means that their confidence is boosted and things like that, then actually, you can end up doing yourself out for a job. And, and being that not being required as much. And that for us is success. And importantly, because our carers are paid for shifts, and they get a regular monthly income. It’s not about the not paper, just the contact time. And there’s no disadvantage to them. If they’re able to support someone in fewer hours, that means they’ve got more time to spend with the person who’s having a really tough time, and would do the extra visit. So we let people manage their own their own time we report on it. So we all know and people are charged right to mouth, but it’s up to the team to decide. We we love it when we do ourselves out of a job. And Buurtzorg are very good at doing that, which is why they’ve had the cost savings.

Hannah Senior 17:06
And I think that’s you know, as you said, it’s it’s very emotional. It’s very challenging circumstance when you need to find somebody to provide care for somebody that you love, or you need to accept that care for yourself. And so, yeah, getting that stat to square I think is one of the things that so inspiring about this model. So I want to change track a little bit for a moment, you mentioned that you had a background in IT, and that you had previously worked in care. So tell me about what was the inspiration that made you sort of join the dots and go yes, this is something that I would like to start what was the what made you decide to start BelleVie?

Trudie Fell 17:49
Yeah, sure. I am. So So yes, I suppose that you know, it’s it started many years ago when I was I was in full time education and I needed a part time job as you do. And I got a job as a care worker. And I loved the work. It felt really It felt important. It was a job that mattered. As a as opposed to the bar work, waitressing, which which many of my peers were were doing. But it was also quite a slap around the face wake up call for a young naive Trudy to realize just how poorly valued care work was. And I didn’t know what to do about that at the time. But the sense of injustice stayed with me. So then fast track through I had a career as a scientist at first. I have a PhD about pain and chickens. But that’s a whole nother podcast. And from that, I learned that I love data. And I love technology, which led me into software development and and then I moved into into managing and building teams, tech teams, and then doing and how people work in those teams was really important to me. And I got heavily involved in in transforming teams from very traditional hierarchical command and control structures to small self managing teams and agile software development. But then I got to a point in life where I thought, actually, I’m just making a rich business owner even richer. And at the time, we were selling phones, I loved the job. I learned loads while I was there, it was great for me to develop as a person. But I needed to do something that at the end of the day had more meaning. And so I was fortunate enough to be selected on to the excellent and I’d highly recommend, the Zinc.VC programme where they build social impact businesses. And I learned about being a social entrepreneur. It was phenomenal nine months full time program. And that’s where I met Violaine who is my co founder.

Hannah Senior 19:49
Oh, I was going to come on to that.

Trudie Fell 19:51
Yeah. And Violaine and I were, we we share a passion for fair employments for creating great jobs. That’s what got us first talking. And I kept dragging Violaine back to the care work world and said, Do you know what it hasn’t changed since I was working in care? And actually, if anything, it’s got it’s got worse. And no one has a solution. So the problem is huge. We have a growing aging population, so it’s going to get worse. And then it was when we read about when we came across the Buurtzorg model of care of nursing and thought, actually, this makes sense. We get this. That was our lightbulb moment that made us think, yeah, we’re going to apply a Buurtzorg inspired model to care in England, and do it at scale, and have a significant impact.

Hannah Senior 20:45
So, so you had the idea. When was that?

Trudie Fell 20:49
So this was 2018-19.

Hannah Senior 20:52
And now we are in 2022. So give me a thumbnail sketch of what how, you know, like, how things have evolved between then and now?

Trudie Fell 21:01
So well, we did a whole lot of research like, right? Well, there’s the idea. But you know, we’ve got to make it happen. And that’s really hard work. So we did lots of research, we, we talked to hundreds of care workers, hundreds of people receiving care, family members, we worked with the National Association of care and support workers to do a survey. And we had over 260 responses from that to add to our interviews. So we really understood what the problems were. And then we joined forces with another organization who were doing some good things in this space. And we went live in June 2019. I still remember that first month, we had 1000 pounds in revenue. It’s amazing. And we celebrated. And now we’re in two and three quarter years later, and we have 70,000 pounds monthly recurring revenue, which we’re immensely proud of. So yeah, there’s been lots of growth, we’ve we’ve raised equity funding in that time. So 850,000 in equity, we’ve raised a million pounds in grant in that time. And we’re investing that in building our technology. Because when you work in a completely different way to everyone else in your sector, do you know what? The off the shelf packages, they don’t work. So we’re building our own, and in the future that will enable even more people to use this more much more people positive way of working.

Hannah Senior 22:28
So how, tell me a little bit about how you and Violaine work together? Like how do you divide up the responsibilities? And does that does that affect? You know, how do you work together? Tell me a bit about that dynamic?

Trudie Fell 22:39
Yeah, yeah, we, it’s very close, we are all really well still, which is good. So I take the CEO role. And so I tend to do more external facing like this podcast. And I also do the fundraising, which, as a pitching to investors, and also lots of detail grant applications. And then I’m kind of interim CTO, while at this stage, eventually will will hire a CTO, and I look after the business, the business side of the tech strategy. And Violaine is the Chief Operating Officer. So she looks after marketing and recruitment. And recruitment really drives our growth. She’s also great with numbers, so she looks after our finances. And yeah, between the two of us, we support each other and make it happen. Very good. team around us as well, I should say.

Hannah Senior 23:37
You see that goes a long way doesn’t it? That makes a big difference.

Trudie Fell 23:41
Yeah, definitely.

Hannah Senior 23:43
So tell me about your plans for the future, then, you know, we’ll talk about SheEO and how that might contribute to those plans in the future. But give me before we get into that just give me a sense of you know, where would you like to see Bellevie going over the over the next few years?

Trudie Fell 23:57
Yeah, sure. So well the immediate future this year is to complete another fundraise. So if there any angel investors out there if you know anyone then please put them in our direction and and then to expand out organically from our to current centers. And then we’ve got some exciting ideas about some new areas that we want to launch in which will which will come soon. So if people want to find out about that, follow our process progress, please do sign up to our newsletter, which SheEO can give you the link for. And so yeah, so then in the next five years, we want to be growing into new areas. We also want to we want to carry on building our tech this wellbeing operating system, Wellbeing OS which has all the digital tools that self managing teams of carers need to manage their own time. And in the future, we want to explore looking at to having a BelleVie Academy where where other companies, either starting new or transforming, could come and learn about how to apply this more people positive model and, and then license our software so that they have the tools, the guidelines and frameworks and the training to then do more. And that’s another way that we can get our reach our ambition of having a national reach and who knows, maybe even farther in the future.

Hannah Senior 25:20
Brilliant. So now this is a good way to segue because we talked, we talked about fundraising and finding investors. And, you know, presumably, when you’re thinking about finding investors, you’re not just looking for any old money, you’re looking for money that that brings brings more. So tell me about how, how did SheEO fit into that? And what made you decide to become a SheEO venture? And then we’ll and how you thought about your investors as a whole?

Trudie Fell 25:51
Yeah, of course. So it’s, it’s really important for us that we find investors who are going to be partners with us over the next few years, there’s that old saying that it’s, you know, it’s easier to get a divorce than it is to get to get rid of your your investor. So it was it’s very important for Violaine and I that we find investors that believe in the social impact, because we are for purpose for profits company, and we’re very proud of both of those. So the double bottom line is important, and we want someone who is going to challenge us on that on at the board table. So the the equity. So for equity investment, those are the sorts of investors we were looking for. But actually social impact, there are fewer pay fewer opportunities, it’s a smaller, but luckily growing area, impact investing. And so we also been looking around at all sorts of other places. And we were so excited when we saw SheEO launch in the UK, we were following SheEO before it was open to ventures and the the world of investing. It’s very, very male. It’s the same sorts of people, and some of them are lovely, but it’s all the same. And yeah, yes, SheEO was just this breath of fresh air, which we, we thought we want to be part of that. So yeah, that’s what we applied. Because it gives us some capital, which we need. But it also gives us that support. And it’s in an environment which feels so different and much more appropriate for a company founded by two women, which is about reinventing the future of care work, which is 85% female employees. And even out of the people who are ringing us up looking for for for support, we have more females in that role as well. So it felt like exactly the right environment for our business at this time.

Hannah Senior 27:52
So capital is one thing, but the thing that SheEO brings is also the sense of community and the generosity around that. So has how has that showed up for you so far? How has the SheEO community been present or supported you in the journey so far?

Trudie Fell 28:12
Oh, well, it’s I mean, it’s still very new. But what an introduction. So I suppose the biggest thing is just our first impression, that it’s a huge welcome. It feels like there’s just been one massive hug as we arrive and have a very supportive environment. You know, the messaging has always been, you know, come to us be honest. What do you need ask? So it feels like a very, very safe space. The first weekend, which had some really excellent coaching sessions in and I’m looking forward to making the most of that as we as we go forward. And there’s, you know, we’ve got big things afoot this year. And I know that for Violaine and I, we need to step up as, as leaders, we need to develop the people around us and that with with SheEO support, I just know that’s going to be easier. And connections, I’ve already been introduced to lots of people firing off emails and LinkedIn messages and arranging to speak to more Activators. So yeah, very excited about building these relationships and seeing what what happens as a result.

Hannah Senior 29:23
SheEO is is about radical generosity. And that also includes asking when you need things. So do you have an ask for this SheEO community?

Trudie Fell 29:33
Yes, I’ve got two actually being cheeky. So one is, we want to grow this this year. And the biggest thing affecting growth and the challenge in the UK at the moment is is recruitment. And there’s lots that we know but there’s still more for us to learn and we’d be really keen on getting advice from someone who has lots of experience in the in recruitment. And specifically if there is experiences in recruiting large numbers of the same role. And how do we do that whilst retaining what’s cool to us our values based recruitment? How do we get our how do we market our message to help people that were different in just a few lines on Facebook or indeed or other advert? So that recruitment marketing at scale, we’d love to speak to people with more senior expertise in recruitment than we have. That would be phenomenal. That’s number one. And number two is fundraising. We’ve got some great institutional impact institutions looking to invest in us. But we’re looking for some more angel investors to get us up to target. So yeah, if if people can either want to invest themselves or pointing in the direction of others, that would be fantastic, too.

Hannah Senior 30:49
Excellent. And how can people find you? What’s the best way? If if anybody in the community wants to offer up assistance or be an angel investor? How would they get ahold of you?

Trudie Fell 31:00
LinkedIn is a great place to look up Trudie Fell, BelleVie on LinkedIn, that’s a really good, easy place to start. If you’re SheEO Activator, then that you can connect via that platform as well. So yeah, but both those routes,

Hannah Senior 31:16
I should be doing that straight after this.

Trudie Fell 31:18
Oh, that’s great, Hannah. Thank you.

Hannah Senior 31:21
Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you would like to cover off or share with us today?

Trudie Fell 31:27
I would just to return the generosity and just say that we’re with and appreciate that that generosity by saying how grateful we are to be here, be one of the Ventures, and say that if there are ways in which we can help other other people out, then please get in touch.

Hannah Senior 31:45
Excellent. Well, it’s such an inspiring business. So thank you very much for sharing more information about it with us today. Real pleasure to talk to you.

Trudie Fell 31:54
Oh, thank you Hannah. It’s been a pleasure to chat.

Vicki Saunders 31:59
Thank you for listening to the SheEO.World podcast. Like, comment, subscribe, and share this podcast with your friends. We invite you to join a global community of radically generous women and non binary folks at SheEO.World.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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