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What would you do if your child was becoming increasing anxious about an impending hospital procedure?

Imagine if you could open up an app and take your son or daughter on a virtual tour of the hospital ahead of their visit to ease their nerves.

Not only that, but interactive animations will explain what will happen in a language that a young person will understand.

There are also relaxation guides, distraction games and a section for parents with key information.

Welcome to the world of Leeds-based tech start-up Little Journey, which was co-founded by anaesthetist Dr Chris Evans and product designer Sophie Copley.

Dr Evans had first-hand experience of the anxiety that going to hospital can cause in young people and the pair resolved to do doing something about it.

The company is already working with 58 NHS hospitals and a further 50 hospitals around the world and recently raised £1.5m from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF).

Little Journey has been shown to reduce anxiety by 32% in high-risk patients such as those with autism or ADHD, helping to reduce the number of operations cancelled on the day by 42% and improve time in the recovery room by 30%.

The tech start-up was recently included in the inaugural Leeds City Region Tech Climbers list 2022 after impressing the judges.

According to Copley, Little Journey has big growth ambitions.

‘I encourage my staff to fail 85% of the time’

“After getting the investment we’ve grown the business from the two co-founders to a team of nine with plans to get to 14 by the end of the year,” she says.

“Alongside that we’re planning to help children participating in clinical trials while catering to more healthcare procedures, so we can improve experiences for more children and families globally.”

Copley says all the research shows that going to hospital can adversely impact a child’s mental health.

“Up to 75% of children face extreme anxiety before they go into hospital for a procedure,” she says. “What we do essentially is prepare children and their families for that.”

She says her background as a ‘human-centred designer’ means everything has been created with the user at the core.

Copley says Leeds was the obvious place to base her start-up.

“Leeds is my home town,” she says. “It felt like coming home. It’s easier to start a business here and it’s less expensive than London. It’s perfect for us.”

Her advice to other start-ups is to immerse yourselves into the local ecosystem.

“We’ve worked a lot with the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to unlock Kickstarter funding,” she recalls. “We’ve also worked with the Ad:Venture Growth Programme in Bradford and I’m currently undertaking the Help To Grow Management Training course through the University of Leeds, all of these support networks have been really important to us.”

  • Sophie Copley has been as a weekly winner of TechBlast’ Star of the Week.