A grant from The Fore helped get this social enterprise off the ground
The moment The Fore awarded Mindsum its very first grant was the moment the Manchester-based mental health social enterprise began the leap from idea to reality.
That unrestricted grant was enough to fund the development of what is today a brilliantly designed website and mobile app, using technology to provide services for the mental healthcare of children and young people. But the funding wasn’t the only gift The Fore bestowed. All its grants are accompanied by access to pro bono support from professionals who can offer guidance in a range of specialties. One of these volunteers, from McKinsey, conducted a thorough competitive analysis that helped shape Mindsum’s strategic roadmap. “The access to skilled volunteers is very valuable,” says Fareed Baloch, Mindsum’s founder and CEO, “but most importantly, The Fore gave us psychological confidence and inspiration.”
Mindsum exists to make sure no child with a mental health condition is left unsupported. It believes everyone should have access to quality mental healthcare, irrespective of race, gender, location, or income. It is Fareed’s brainchild—and the subject is very personal for him. He was only 11 when his mother died from cancer in their small village in Pakistan, and her loss scarred his adolescence. Then, in 2018, his young son was diagnosed with autism, and he and his wife encountered a bewildering morass of conflicting, often vague information, and advice.
An engineer by training, Fareed left an airline industry management job when he moved to England in 2008 and began his new life as a serial entrepreneur. He promptly started a digital branding firm and a digital taxi dispatch system, which are both ongoing concerns. When his son was diagnosed, he realised that there was clearly a need for high-quality, curated information, peer support, active interventions, and family training—ideally available to anyone, regardless of income—and that his skillset and experience had prepared him to create that service.
With two startups already under his belt, venture capital funding was a world Fareed had come to understand. Finding grant money from the government or foundations, however, was another matter. As he was already juggling two ventures, the typical tediously long and complicated grant application required by most funders was not just discouraging, it was virtually insurmountable for him. Then he heard about The Fore.
The Fore’s grant-making process was different: a three-page summary to apply, focused on the compelling nature of the idea and transformative potential of the grant. “This way is more modern and agile, and it’s really well-designed to understand the impact an organisation could have on people’s lives,” Fareed says. After his proposal made The Fore’s short list for consideration, an experienced consultant grantee assessor worked with him throughout the due diligence process. The assessor then prepared a one-page report to present to the grant-making panel. In 2021, The Fore awarded Mindsum £15,000 in unrestricted grant money.
That sum has led to a promising debut. In just three months after the February 2022 official launch, Mindsum had signed up more than 100 therapists to its online directory, and more than 1,600 families and youngsters consulted its platform for information, education, and guidance. Fareed is currently working with a group of academic experts in natural language processing, a form of artificial intelligence, to find funding to develop a chat-bot tool that uses sentiment analysis to enhance the therapeutic process.
However, like many of the smallest nonprofits and social enterprises, the enterprise—which still only consists of the founder, five part-time staffers, seven volunteers, and a pro bono board of advisors—must constantly pursue additional grants in addition to continuing to operate and grow their service. But having secured a foothold thanks to The Fore, Mindsum is on its way to giving young people and their families a brighter future.