Sons is a digital health company aimed at common but often untreated problems such as hair loss and gut health.
We all know the feeling of setting the world to right over a pint, but for Will Kennedy and Dr Adrian Gilbane, it was one such session that led to them starting a business together. Meeting up for a drink, they realised they had both recently visited the same hair loss clinic in London and their grievances about the process quickly came up.
“We each assumed we were going to see a consultant, and ended up seeing a clinician that was more like a salesperson,” Will explains. “We also found the experience very uninformative, and the treatments really overpriced.”
With Will’s background in business, and Adrian’s in the pharmaceutical industry, the duo, who have been friends for 11 years, decided they could greatly improve the experience. Clinically proven hair-loss treatments were available to licence, and the two therefore set about to bring them to men in a much cheaper, more convenient way.
Sons is the result, a website where you can buy products directly, or have an online consultation and have products prescribed through your local pharmacy. Although they started with hair loss, they have already branched out to include gut health, immunity and brain health.
The real issue they’re tackling, Will emphasises, is that two thirds of men don’t seek treatment for these kinds of mild health issues. “These problems are often stigmatised. So due to traditional male stereotypes and culture, guys might feel it’s not okay to speak about or to seek treatment for areas of health that are bothering them.”
Sons therefore provides products that are not only convenient to access, but the sleek packaging, reminiscent of cool subscription services for coffee or shaving kits feel approachable, fitting into men’s lifestyles rather than feeling medical.
“We wanted a product that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to have on your bedside table,” Will says. “The packaging is supposed to feel slick, scientific and simple. It should be relatable, because these are universal problems.”
Initially launching in the UK in 2020, the duo’s model also worked well during lockdowns when people couldn’t leave their homes to visit their GP or a clinic. Now launched in Ireland, they also have their sights set on other common problems that they could tackle. Adrian says skincare issues and sexual health are in the pipeline, and it seems it’s a model that could work for a vast range of health concerns.
Having both experienced hair loss themselves, Adrian and Will are also keen to emphasise that the company provides wider support than just products. “We’re seeking to check in with our patients on a weekly basis,” Adrian says. “That helps a lot in terms of making sure that they’re keeping up with the treatment, and if they have any questions or need to speak with anyone they can do so. We always offer that service, whether it’s through WhatsApp or a phone call.”
It’s this emotional as well as physical aspect that is often at the core of how these health issues affect us. As Will explains, they simply want men to know that there are options out there for them, and they can then make an informed decision rather than simply ignoring problems.
“With the example of hair loss, if you’re comfortable with being bald that’s absolutely perfect. What we’re addressing here is the fact that it is okay to seek treatment for an issue that may manifest into something greater, like mental health problems,” Will says.
“Having gone through it myself, it can make you very self-conscious,” Adrian adds. “You catch yourself in the mirror and perhaps didn’t realise it was like that. But then I started to do something about it, and it definitely improves your confidence. It’s important to make men aware that there is an option there if it’s something they choose to treat.”