- Player: Conn Bertish
- Company: Cancer Dojo
- Established: 2015
- Contact: +27 (0)83 556 6668
- Visit: cancerdojo.org
Social entrepreneurs identify societal needs and have the potential to bring about positive, meaningful change. But to do so, their ventures have to meet social goals and be financially viable.
Conn Bertish is one such entrepreneur applying his knowledge and experience as a multi-awarding-winning creative director and cancer survivor to building Cancer Dojo. It’s a unique, playful online platform and mobile app that empowers people with cancer (and their loved ones) by giving them a role in their own treatment.
Yes, it’s about surviving cancer, but in ways that are a little irreverent, and certainly more light-hearted and non-threatening than traditional medical information.
A novel approach to deciphering medical jargon
“Cancer patients often feel helpless when medical jargon is difficult to understand,” says Bertish. “A cancer diagnosis can lead to depression, which further compromises the immune system. With Cancer Dojo, we turn information about different types of cancers into content that is engaging and easy to understand. Knowledge is empowering, and this leads to a greater sense of control, boosting the immune system and increasing the efficacy of treatment. It provides a set of tools to enhance surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments.”
Bertish is using his agency world expertise to build Cancer Dojo because he wants to build a business ‘for good’. His background in digital and mobile marketing and his talent as an artist, have enabled him to apply principles of advertising to the business of purpose marketing, which benefits humanity instead of brands.
In March 2015, Bertish left Quirk, where he had built a successful career, to focus on Cancer Dojo. Having represented South Africa at Cannes several times, he had taken note of how support for social causes had become widespread overseas.
“Social entrepreneurship is alive and well in the UK in particular, where social platforms have been launched to help solve big world challenges,” he says. “Based on my experience with cancer, my goal is to help others in the way I helped myself to get through my treatment.”
One major achievement has been support from the notoriously conservative medical community, including doctors, oncologists and paediatricians. Most recently, he was invited to address the International Society of Paediatric Oncology at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in October.
How Cancer Dojo found finance
As with all start-ups, funding is a challenge. He admits that there have been moments of sheer terror when it comes to money.
Competing for funding against more than 7 000 applicants, Bertish and his team won a grant from Vodacom’s Change the World programme, while a crowd-funding and awareness campaign on Thundafund raised R150 000.
These funds will go into the further development of the enterprise’s website, enhancing the user experience for the app, and wireframing design.
“One of the benefits of having to work so hard to find money is that you get a real kick in the pants that keeps you moving forward,” he says. “I’ve also had to look at everything we do and break costs down at a granular level to ensure control.”
Cancer Dojo grows through collaboration
Bertish is leveraging partnerships to grow the business without additional finance. He has partnered with 17 creative agencies around the world, which are collaborating to build a large bank of cancer fighting content that includes visual, sound and video. Animation plays a key role in making the content accessible and informative.
Looking ahead, Bertish is aiming to team up with other social enterprise partners, and to approach companies and retailers who make and sell products that boost the immune system.
“Cancer is a sensitive subject but that only makes it more critical that we succeed in our drive to help people who are fighting the battle. Our approach makes it less scary and lets people focus on getting better rather than being terrified.”
When it comes to funding and marketing your start-up, you need to think creatively. What new and unusual sources of potential funding exist? How can you leverage your knowledge and contacts within a specific industry to build your start-up?
Have you seen the Cancer Dojo video yet? See more below: