Interview Spotlight With Lucy Baxter

Lucy Baxter is the Co-founder of Sensalience, and a Film Maker and Academic. Lucy is an experienced Managing Director in the creative sector and Executive/Senior Producer/Director in digital/immersive content and TV documentary, current affairs, education and drama, where her work as producer has won various awards. She also has several years’ experience lecturing in film and TV practice and is currently a Film Practice Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast. Her book Running a Creative Company in the Digital Age was published in 2017.

Thank you for interviewing with us today, can you introduce yourself to us?

I’m Lucy Baxter, Co-Founder of Sensalience and also a film maker and academic.

Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?

The place I have come to has been a blend of the personal and professional. After a long career in the film and TV industry in London, both freelancing and with my own company Mandrake Films, I became a sole parent in late pregnancy and had to decide whether to continue my business or focus on motherhood in the early years. I chose the latter, which I will never regret – but it did mean some drastic changes to my life and career. I used my maternity leave to write a book about creative enterprise and when my son was 3 moved back home to Belfast, after over 20 years. When my son Eli started school, I transitioned to a new career in academia. My research within academia, looking at immersive technology and trauma, led me to set up Sensalience with co-founder Elaine Bousfield, an experienced health tech entrepreneur. Today, I’m very happy with the arrival point of this complex journey!

Since starting, have you made any changes to your business model?

We are merely a year old, yet we have pivoted a few times. I went through a Customer Discovery process with an organisation called Qubis in Belfast, where I met my Elaine before we set up Sensalience and initially, we had an ambitious idea for a large platform, but we realised that we should stick with our passion to create meaningful interventions in the mental health space and focus more narrowly. Starting out too big was drowning out what we really cared about.

Have you ever had a mentor? If so how has this benefitted you either personally or professionally?

I have had a few over the years. One gave me the confidence to set up my own business having worked closely with him in his small company, and seeing first-hand the satisfaction that comes with complete autonomy in the workplace. Another was an emotional sounding board through my days running my own business; her warm but direct advice and hilarious anecdotes got me through many a challenging situation. More recently, I had a mentor to help me navigate the world of Academia; a completely different environment to the private sector I had worked in for 16 years previously and one where initially, I felt at sea. It took a while to find the right mentor but her empathic listening and practical application of her own struggles to my journey was essential to maintaining my sanity and helping to retain my identity and goals. Most recently, Women in Business NI allocated me a mentor who has helped to navigate the healthcare sector.

What outlets do use for marketing?

We’ve been doing a lot of our marketing through live events and in person conferences such as Digital DNA, Innovate UK, International Virtual Reality Healthcare Association and through delivering in person and online demos to a wide range of organisations, some of whom we target and others who contact us through our website and socials. Ours is a fragmented but growing market and we find that targeting in person events helps to get our USP across. 

What or Who has inspired you most recently?

I get a lot of inspiration and information from podcasts. For health, wellbeing and relationships as well as hearing about what is going on in the world of cutting edge healthcare research, I love the Huberman Lab Podcast, Super Brain, Blindboy and On Attachment. Annie Mac’s Changes and Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us also give me inspiration with their personal narratives that can be applied to the business world.

What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?

Don’t set up a business with a close friend (I did this the first time around, to my cost!) 

How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?

This is an ongoing struggle for me. As a sole parent balancing a start-up and an academic career, time is in short supply, and I have often felt isolated and overwhelmed. More recently I have given myself permission to ask for help from friends, rather than relying only on family – and found that people are usually happy to help. The main thing is giving myself time and space to regulate. This is generally through yoga, the gym, a walk, a sauna, a bath, journaling or listening to a podcast and it’s essential that I have time for these things in my week. A goal is to spend more time socialising and meeting new people. 

Name a seminal point in your career so far?

In my film making career, the first time I produced and directed a packed out interactive Live Heart Surgery event which took place at the Wellcome Trust in London and Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. The audience crossed the age, gender and background spectrum, and were so engaged – asking questions of the surgeons throughout. I felt a sense of genuine achievement and pride that made me realise the importance of accessible, immersive education that is delivered in an inspiring way. Since making a series about CERN early in my career, I’ve been passionate about communicating health and science creatively. This topped all the dramas and documentaries I’d made for broadcasters, informed the future choices I made in creating content for this start-up. 

What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?

Career satisfaction for me is a blend of making creative work and seeing the impact of that work in the real world. Also being able to provide for myself and my son.

Are there any leading entrepreneurs or SME leaders that you admire and if so, why?

Leaders such as Susan Cain and Brene Brown have been so important in bringing the landscape and vocabulary of our emotional lives into the business world. For a long time, there was an erroneous idea that work should be the realm of the rational, not the emotional. In fact, neuro psychology research has demonstrated that ALL our decisions are underpinned by emotion; there is no separating emotion from rationality in this way.  I believe this new way of being, embracing vulnerability, authenticity, neuro divergence and discussing the benefits of introversion has helped women enormously, and have no doubt it has transformed workplaces. 

How do you define your own success? 

Alignment with my authentic self and recognising what’s important to me and what isn’t. Educating my son about emotions, relationships and living authentically. Having an impact on the world in any way that I can.

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