Going for Growth: Sonia Neary, Wellola

2020 was a busy year for Wellola CEO Sonia Neary who pivoted quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic to launch a patient portal with the HSE.

In this new series we talk to women entrepreneurs who have taken part in the Going for Growth programme. Going for Growth is a six-month part-time programme, supported by Enterprise Ireland and KPMG, which assists ambitious female entrepreneurs to achieve their growth aspirations.

One woman entrepreneur who participated in the last cycle is Sonia Neary, CEO of Wellola, which delivers secure video consultation and patient portal solutions.

“It is crucial that businesses are willing to adapt – not just during events such as global pandemics”

The company, established by Sonia in 2016, had been focused on the mental and community healthcare market in Ireland and the UK but pivoted quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic to launch a secure patient communication portal, in collaboration with the HSE Digital Transformation Team, to protect front-line workers.

Wellola currently serves over 600 individuals and organisations in Ireland and the UK, particularly in the allied health and mental healthcare space. 2020 was a busy year for Wellola, who as well as collaborating with the Health Services Executive (HSE), launched a secure online communication portal for the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists and was awarded a place on the competitive and prestigious NHS G-Cloud 12 Framework to service the NHS.

In 2019, Neary was honoured to represent Ireland as a finalist in the global Women in Tech Awards in Paris and to accept the ‘Integrated Care’ award from the Irish Medical & Surgical Trade Association on behalf of Wellola. She is an advocate for greater gender diversity in entrepreneurship, and enhancing support networks amongst female founders.

Inclusivity and accessibility

From left: Olivia Lynch, partner, KPMG; Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon; and Sonia Neary, founder and CEO of Wellola

Wellola’s video consultation portal was designed for GPs, as a tool to triage patients to protect both patients and clinicians. The stand-alone platform, based on technology tried and tested by Wellola, was developed in just four days, and launched on St. Patrick’s Day 2020.

Since then Wellola has continued to adapt its business model and has just announced two strategic partnerships. The company is integrating with artificial intelligence platform – EBO.ai – to offer greater inclusivity and accessibility to their portal. It is also collaborating with Think Biosolution, an innovative Irish company offering disease prevention and remote monitoring platform for geriatric patients.

“It is crucial that businesses are willing to adapt – not just during events such as global pandemics,” says Sonia Neary.

“One shouldn’t underestimate the value of listening to our customers and keeping them close, so we can deliver on their needs. Being part of Going for Growth was hugely valuable for me during a year when there was so much change happening.

“It was essential to be able to communicate with like-minded people who were going through the same experiences. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely experience so having the support of those people who were in my group – and our Lead Entrepreneur Susan Spence of SoftCo — was invaluable. And in 2020, we all needed that extra bit of support – both commercially and personally.”

The call is open for applications from female entrepreneurs who would welcome peer support to take their businesses to the next level by taking part in the Going for Growth programme. This is the 13th year of Going for Growth and more than 750 female entrepreneurs have so far taken part in the programme. Sixty places will be available for the 13th cycle of Going for Growth, which will run from January to June 2021 and the deadline for applications is Friday 18 December There is no charge for those selected.

Anyone interested is encouraged to register on the website goingforgrowth.com and a link to the application form will be sent to them.

Published: 10 December 2020