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George Bettany is restless. You can just tell. 

Don’t get me wrong, on the surface there’s a swan-like serenity. But you know the curiosity cogs are whirring. Furiously fast.

Like many entrepreneurs, he’s hard-wired this way. Hailing from Staffordshire, the son of two schoolteachers, George had been on the trajectory of a professional footballer. Then, with the brutal reality of repeated injuries, he was released by Derby County at just 19.

All of a sudden, George had a whole stack of time on his hands. With a life pivot that will become a familiar pattern, he threw himself into Uni life and created a watch repair business. As you do.

He’d witnessed his dad start his own commercial kitchen design business from home in his mid-forties. George caught the business bug and fuelled it on a diet of TV shows like Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice. He devoured books by the likes of Richard Branson too. It was the raw energy and never-say-die entrepreneurial passion that captured his imagination.

It wasn’t long before he’d beaten off over 200 national competitors to scoop the Intern of the Year accolade (a sort of student version of The Apprentice) and go on to join the Ignite Accelerator early-stage startup investment group in the rather flashy role of ‘entrepreneur in residence’.

Whilst at the University of Sheffield, George became best mates with James Routledge, with whom he would go on to co-found Sanctus. More of that in a sec.

Meanwhile, there was small matter of developing a cool app called Matchchat which allowed sports fans to connect directly with each other (remember we are in Social Network territory here – about a decade ago). Before they knew it, George and James had gone from Uni dorm to a small team in an office. It was both terrifying and exciting in equal measure. However, whilst the idea was cracking, the platform was too.

“But, in a weird and rather wonderful way, Matchchat’s demise became the trigger for the Sanctus rise.”

Sanctus was born out of George and James struggling with their mental health. There was a disconnect between what they were feeling and the people they thought they should be. Sanctus was a business created almost by accident by two Staffordshire lads dealing with a jumble of mental health issues associated with a startup. There was no play book. No right or wrong.

Then, in 2016, James wrote this blog and things would never be the same again.

What Sanctus wanted to do was normalise the conversation around mental health. There was certainly no value placed on mental health in the workplace. This became the Sanctus raison d’être. Was it a mission, a movement or a business? Well, in reality, it was all three.

George reflects:

“After seven years in business, this was the first time I genuinely felt a true need. We’d struck a match and ignited something massive. The pull of people saying to us ‘keep doing this, it’s incredible’ still gives me goosebumps to this day. This is what I’d been searching for – I just didn’t know it. On the blurred lines between doubt and confidence, Sanctus just felt right. It helped people connect with their true selves. We blended personal and professional development with proactive mental wellbeing support. In a safe space”

From a blog to a Facebook group, the business grew organically by word of mouth.

“The more people that experienced the coaching, the more who became passionate ambassadors. For businesses, it gave their employer brands a hugely positive vibe, boosting engagement and retention.”

With typical honesty George adds:

“To begin with, we didn’t know the difference between a coach, a counsellor or a therapist. We simply wanted to work with quality people who were experienced and shared our values. We quickly realised that we’d tapped into a truly massive need. The challenge was creating a sustainable business that flipped the traditional charity route to market and started to put a real value on people’s mental health.”

Sanctus grew. And grew. The word spread and continued spreading. Sanctus customers are known as partners. For good reason. They are treated as such. Cooper Parry is one such partner. George is also very aware that with growth come other challenges. Not to mention the pandemic.


  • 100+ partners as customers, including Red Bull, KFC, Pip & Nut, Dentsu, Reach, Octopus, Omnicom, Mindshare and Joe Wicks’ The Body Coach
  • Work with 1000s of individuals every day
  • Closed a £4.25m investment round led by Scale Up Capital in Jan 2022
  • Co-founded by George Bettany and James Routledge in 2016 “To be the mental wellbeing space that we never had.”

 “For us, like many, Covid was an accelerant. As we grew, we were combining face-to-face sessions with online ones. We lost a few partners at this time, but we gained a truck load more. We had the ability to deliver online, we just needed to ramp it up. Big time.”

This was when George and James shifted from founders and storytellers to team-builders.

“We moved from being the source of everything to looking around the room at our growing team and thinking ‘you know what – this input is simply brilliant’. We can listen, take on new ideas and deliver more. The future is more possible. I’m more confident than ever.”

Self-awareness is writ large across George’s personality. It’s based on observation and being part of the founder community.

“A lot of founders I know are unhappy because they are playing the role of CEO because they think they have to. It’s insane how many founders feel like that.”

And what of the future, given that the business secured a £4m+ funding round investment at the start of 2022?

George is crystal clear that Sanctus is not just a Shoreditch-based business. The metric that matters most is the number of people exposed to Sanctus. Closely followed by their NPS score, of course. The funds have already helped accelerate hiring, as well as investment in digital and community initiatives.

George underlines his feelings towards growth:

 “In the past, I’ve obsessed about our why? I didn’t want it to die. Or even suffer a scratch.”

 I now realise that I have faith in the process. The fear of losing something has slowed us down before. We’re no longer afraid to grow. We embrace it.”

Right now, the conversation has shifted. But people still talk of physical health and mental health as two distinct elements. George’s belief is that within the next 20 years they will both just be one thing.

Frankly, if anyone’s going to make this happen, it’s George.

He may be serene and calmness personified on the surface but his mind is popping with ideas and a relentless desire to offer more people in the workplace a safe space.

A sanctuary.



STEVE NOSS, Head of Creative


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