The Inuka Story
"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"
The Inuka story started back in 2014 in Africa, when our founder Robin– a Cambridge university graduate and Philips Innovation hub manager- was confronted with a burn out. A burnout that hit her hard and knocked her off her feet. After a long period of recovery and reflection, this experience made her realize that something needed to be done. That people needed to be reached earlier, at a point when a burnout, a chronic mental condition, or mental breakdown can still be averted.
This story is also about her manager, a visionary back then, who did not send her home, but inspired her to practice “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” He offered her the opportunity to explore ways to reach people with life challenges and mental health troubles earlier to prevent them spiraling out of hand.
The story has another main character. On her journey, Robin met Inuka’s co-founder Prof. Dixon Chibanda, a cutting-edge psychiatrist who developed a coaching method with his foundation, ‘The Friendship Bench’. A method that was highly successful for many people, especially for anxiety and depression complaints (link to his famous Ted Talk).
Proven method + state of the art technology = lemonade!
Robin and Dixon realized that together they could make a real difference. By providing affordable, non-stigmatized mental health support, accessible for anyone, anytime, anywhere, they could make a difference in mental well-being. And by using technology to scale up Dixons’ brilliant innovation in coaching, they could make mental health support even more accessible and effective.
Inuka Coaching -meaning ‘arise’, was born and registered in the Netherlands. A digital platform that trains people in two months to be an Inuka coach, that works with a proven method and connects with people seeking support to ultimately to help them to feel better, was the foundation for the new pioneers in on-line coaching.
On a mission to resilience for all
Robins’ motto “see life’s struggles as an opportunity for growth, rather than something to be ashamed of”, is grounded in the Inuka genes. Reducing the stigma of mental health has been a main focus since day one as well as accessibility for all.
Robin chose a legal structure that anchored the social mission into the very foundation of the company: >10% of the company’s shares are owned by the Inuka Foundation, whose mission it is to reach the most vulnerable people. Along this structure Robin and Dixon could ensure that Inuka is accessible for free for the most vulnerable groups in society, since the foundation has voting power and holds Inuka accountable for its purpose.
Creating impact through employees
But how do you reach as many people as possible to create impact?
That was an obvious one, since we live in an era where change has never been as fast, and never will be this slow again. At the same time, demands on our personal and work lives increase. So, supporting employees to cope and stay healthy amidst of all this change seemed a good breeding ground for creating impact.
Robin and her team decided to dream big and aim to be the prevention partner for organizations that want to care better for their people and acknowledge that a vital and happy workforce is a driver for business growth.
Facilitating well-being governance for organizations
While operating as a B2B enterprise, the Inuka team realised that the anonymous data resulting from the coaching sessions, provide valuable management insights. These data are not only aggregated but they also highlight underlying themes and issues in the organisations which offers very relevant input for strategic well-being decisions and governance.
So, supporting companies in constructing a clear business case with ROI based on these insights, was a logical step for Robin and goes hand in hand with the desire to facilitate system change.
Living and breathing the Bcorp values
The drive for social impact comes naturally to Robin and is deeply rooted in Inuka’s DNA, in its legal structure, metrics and practices. So, becoming a B Corp in 2022 required little effort, although it was a great recognition for Robin and her team and has opened doors to team up with other socially driven organizations.
Inuka hires team members based on values and their drive to make a difference. In their daily practice, the team sets the example they want to see in the world. The recent leadership change is a great example of this. By appointing Anoushka Bold in 2023 as co-CEO, a seasoned HR strategist with a strong legacy, Inuka now has a female-led leadership and figures in the frontlines of well-being innovation. It is walking the talk by living the change they want to be and demonstrates that employee well-being isn’t at the expense of business results but is an enabler!
Bright future for mental well-being ahead
Today Inuka is a serious player in a growing market where mental well-being is entering the boardrooms and where Gen Z is more willing to talk about mental health. With their Coaching Academy ICF certified, and with many innovation awards in the bag, the passionate team of Inuka is eager to write the next chapter in this story and become the partner of choice for employers world-wide within every sector, to ultimately support everyone to become and stay resilient.