First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Hannah Nicholson: It is a strange time for everyone, especially with no one really knowing what the new normal will be and when. So we have had to be very adaptable. Our family lives on the basis that if we project what we think will happen, then we will be in the constant cycle of expecting things to go our way. So it has been a case of surrendering to the situation and being at ease with whatever is needed. My husband and I have been working throughout in other areas of the business, so we have been fortunate to keep up the routine.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded or joined Living DNA
Hannah Nicholson: My background is in advertising. I thought that was what I always wanted to do – but then I met David (my co-founder) and I saw what a difference DNA testing can make to people’s lives – to help them understand more about themselves and how they are connected to everyone. So I jumped on board and started off learning the ropes, in marketing, and now we work side by side as the directors of the business, making sure that we are delivering the best service we can no matter what is happening in the world. I think the key to that is communication – keep everyone in the loop and it makes for a better experience.
How does LivingDNA innovate?
Hannah Nicholson: We look for ways to break the mold. The whole reason we started LivingDNA was so that we could deliver results that were unique. That’s why we do things like no subscription fee, unlimited ancestry updates, the first company to breakdown Africa into 72 distinct regions, breaking the UK down into sub-regions, providing well being results to improve your lifestyle, launching our new printed ancestry book, running education programs across the world for kids. We believe that giving people tools to better understand themselves and where they come from is extremely impactful. But what can inspire us the most is hearing from our customers – knowing what people want to see next, what they aren’t getting, and working in a way to make it as simple as possible.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Hannah Nicholson: I think the biggest hit has been shipping. That has slowed down globally which has an impact on people receiving their kits and sending back samples. We’ve noticed a massive change. I think it also presents an interesting time for people to do some more research at home, but at the same time, people are also watching their budgets. That’s why we also offer a free upload service where you can find matches and get a topline ancestry result.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Hannah Nicholson: I think all good things come with tough decisions. We have had to look at what is best for the business and we do this constantly. There are features we have had to put on hold whilst this virus passes – and that is simply because there are fewer of us and we have to be smart about what we can and can’t put time into. The way we work is to get a sense of what needs focus and make sure it is completed. Once it is completed, it allows for the next thing to be there. The lessons we have learned is to never ever think you are right or in charge or know it all. That if you have a team of people who are just as passionate as you, and who are on the same page, then you work as a team to deliver what is needed. We don’t see ourselves as bosses – we see ourselves as people who are offering a service to someone so they can be empowered.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and LivingDNA in the future ?
Hannah Nicholson: Stress and anxiety is pretty common these days – and we are well aware of the effects. That’s why our approach is to be as transparent as possible. If I harbor things, try and do it all myself, worry about what might happen, overthink it – then I can quickly end up in a mess. But that’s not really why I wake up every day. I know that the more I communicate – the more things can be talked about, looked at differently, and resolved. When it comes to the future of the company, we look to make sure we know what we are developing next and why, we do a lot of research and testing, and we work with some amazing partners to make sure there is a benefit for everyone.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Hannah Nicholson: We are competing with big companies such as Ancestry, myheritage and 23andme. We recognize that we are not as big, but at the same time, our business is privately owned and privately funded and so we can make more agile decisions. We see that as an advantage. I see all our competitors as offering an incredible service, all tailored to slightly different needs – so it is not so much competition but more how can we learn from what other people are doing to take the next step. We have a fantastic customer base, a lot of whom have tested with our competitors too – but as I always say – it only takes one match in one database to find a link, and that match could be anywhere – perhaps even at LivingDNA.
Your final thoughts
Hannah Nicholson: It is an exciting time to be in the DNA space and to help people understand just how connected we all are. I think the future of the industry is to work closely together to provide a full-service experience that helps people understand not just their past – but also their future and the best way in which they can take care of their bodies. Health and wellness is coming into our hands, and DNA is a key part in understanding your body and anything you have inherited or things to watch out for. There is huge power in that and I can see it as what is next for the future.
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