We've recently spoken to former Exeter Chiefs Strength & Conditioning Coach James Parkes about his new business, Evexia Wellness.
What made you decide you wanted to start your own business and what made you come up with the idea?
I’ve been in Strength and Conditioning for the past nine years at Exeter Chiefs alone, but prior to that my rugby career started aged 18; Saracens, Gloucester, Leeds Tykes/Carnegie. It was an incredible ride with some great people in a thrilling working environment, however, I got to the stage where I felt as though I wanted to do something where I could give a bit more back. I didn’t feel as though I was fully able to offer my skillset and services to people who needed it, those who aren't as privileged and fortunate as the rugby guys.
Like so many of us do with mental health, I’ve got my personal story, and basically there's an abundance of people who would jump at the chance to fill my position at Chiefs, but I didn’t feel there was as many people out in the world highlighting and finding solutions to assist in the prevention of mental and physical health issues, which is what our App-based platform is set up to do.
Evexia Wellness assists in the prevention of mental and physical health diseases. It signposts people to best practice content, giving them the opportunity to help themselves by providing access to solutions.
Mental and physical wellness is such a huge beast, once I started, I knew I had to commit myself fully to this venture, leaving the rugby behind. It's exciting, challenging, something I know will have ups and downs, and I’m looking forward to playing my part in changing the world a bit.
How have you found the transition from playing rugby to becoming a business owner?
It's certainly different! I spent the first eight years of my career playing, the next twelve of my career coaching and now I’m a business owner. There are loads of crossovers, which is a huge positive. For example personal skills, rugby prepares you really well, but I think there are some areas that I definitely need assistance with! I’ve been fortunate enough to have an amazing network, a lot of it founded in rugby people, which is great, because if you have good relationships with great people then you’ve really got an opportunity to have a good business, because people like people don’t they? I think that’s where the rugby world has a super strength compared to individual sports.
I’ve really enjoyed the transition and challenging myself in a new environment. The toughest days are definitely still to come, but a fist full of hard work and some great support means anything is possible.
Can you tell us about the business itself and how it works?
So, Evexia is about giving people access to the best evidence-based practices and information that can help to combat mental and physical health issues.
Due to my family history with mental health, I’ve seen how powerful support can be. I believe that with access to the right opportunities people can get on top of and learn how to cope with really difficult situations, from the worst end of it where the worst happens, all the way up to people dealing with a little bit of stress and anxiety around anything work or life related.
Evexia gives you self-questionnaires the help access personalised signposting, which may suggest you need some assistance or might say “well you’re doing really great, here’s some other opportunities to do some great stuff”.
We cover four main pillars; how people feel (psychologically), how they move (physiologically), what they eat and how that impacts us and finally connecting, making sure people connect with others and themselves, and creating an awareness around how they feel because that’s definitely something that’s missing. People tend to have very little self-awareness around what’s really important for them and how they can move the needle of improvement for themselves, that’s really where we want to assist.
We give access to content, all of our content you can either watch, listen or read, whatever works for you.
How would you say it differs from other similar businesses on the market?
I think that by combining and providing resources for mental and physical well-being, nutrition and self-awareness we really set ourselves apart, we can help large numbers of staff create better health habits. Those four pillars are so important to address, in business and in life.
We also understand that people thrive in communities with real connection, and our annual campaigns are going to make sure shared experiences really aid that connectedness.
Evexia is big on signposting, providing a route to help should you need it. You might not, but it’s all about raising that awareness in yourself and then also within organisations so that employers drive change.
Lastly, we’ve got opportunities for micro-learning which are updated every day so that employees can engage in and create conversations around new topics. This can be great within the workplace or life generally. Employers can personalise their own journeys to a certain extent whereby they can post messages they feel are important and connect through a calendar.
We tried to make it as interactive as possible so it’s not a one-way stream, we’re trying to make sure the employer takes accountability over what they’re trying to achieve and give back to the employees and they can change things based upon the feedback from the app.
How has the business developed since it has launch, how is it all going?
It’s early days, so I’ve been building this since the start of lockdown, much to my wife’s dismay! We had twins the week before lockdown started, and I also thought that was the right time to start a new business, finish my nutrition course, and leave work! I left Exeter only a month ago at the end of the season, but I’ve been working on it for 16/17 months and the iterations and changes and pivots we’ve made, we’ve almost gone 180 degrees from where we started to where we are now but we’re really proud of where we stand currently.
We know there’s a huge hype curve at the moment around people offering facilities for this, but we believe that we can offer the best possible service. We’re basing our product on premium based services from other providers that will make us stand out from the rest of the crowd, the likes of Mindful Chef, Les Mills, Better Help Therapy and more.
We started as a management platform to upgrade life skills, and we’ve grown into an exclusively employee-based platform that is giving employees the support that they really need, or directing them to support and that might be therapy, videos or connecting with people.
Mental & Physical Health has never been so more important, how do you think that the business can change people’s lives for the better and improve their wellbeing?
Firstly, by creating awareness, and driving a positive narrative about what physical and mental health can and should be. It’s an individual journey, it’s about you against yourself, it’s not about influencers on Instagram who run around looking amazing telling everyone they’re doing great stuff, it’s not about that. It’s about creating an awareness of your reality, and then it’s about giving you access to things that you can do no matter how small they are, anything from having a glass of water when you wake up to making sure you have better energy, all the way through to pain related anxiety or psychological issues that may need professional help for.
We’ve got a whole spectrum of 24/7 access points, so I think at the moment we’re housing over 250 videos across all different spectrums and streams and we’re going to add to that and give people the support that isn’t necessarily made as important as it should be in school, as we grow up.
It takes a little bit of change to make a big difference, and if we can help support that, that’d be amazing.
How are you finding the engagement in general, is it going down well with people?
Our full product launch isn’t until January 2022, we’re BETA testing at the moment. The developers are building the iOS platform as we speak. There’s definitely a lot of interest. This is a really new field in terms of the amalgamating these access points to one place, people are excited that they’re having the opportunity to engage in something that is new and fresh.
My background in professional sport has definitely helped to give me a bit of credibility when talking to people. Alongside that, we’ve got a fantastic concept and some amazing brands onboard which make people stand up and take notice.
What are the goals for the future?
Initially it’s to make sure we have an amazing product launch in January, so get through BETA testing, then soft launch; make sure we’ve got an incredible product people can use and access no matter what they’re looking for. Keep having engaging conversations about the product and make it the best it can be.
Then I want Evexia to become a household name, specifically within the HR industry where targets are set to help employees engage with their well-being, but there isn’t the right resource in place to do so. Evexia is the solution, providing high-level employee health support.
Anything else you want to add?
I just wanted to say thanks for the support from Exeter Chiefs, my family and my wife especially. She’s been incredible especially as I’ve decided to do this when we’ve just had twins on top of a three-year-old.
For more information on Evexia Wellness go to: https://www.linkedin.com/company/evexia-wellnessapp/or https://www.evexia-wellness.com/