Kim Palmer never actually set out to establish a global business. The inspiration for her award-winning health app, Clementine, grew out of her personal experience dealing with panic attacks during pregnancy and after childbirth. Her own mental health journey motivated her to develop the Clementine portfolio of hypnotherapy tools to help other women “in the trenches”. As interest exploded during the pandemic, this Kiwi FemTech innovator rapidly scaled her small UK business with impact investor funding, and is now taking the company she founded in 2017 into new international markets.
The online courses and coaching tools in the Clementine app are designed to help women feel calmer, more resilient and better-equipped to cope with everyday challenges. To manage her own anxiety, overwhelm and sleep difficulties, Kim unpicked dysfunctional coping mechanisms and slowly rebuilt more positive narratives about herself. Counselling and hypnotherapy helped her with this, but Kim was shocked by the cost and complexity of getting such support. She threw herself into the project of distilling the hypnotherapy toolkit into a more accessible app-based support programme for women.
To begin with, Clementine was just a fulfilling hobby: “I got so much enjoyment from having this side project that gave my life a bigger purpose than just being at work,” Kim explains. Returning to work as a strategy director at the global brand consultancy, Wunderman Thompson, she decided to “really lean-in to my own experience and share with these women at work how I was feeling” by establishing a women’s mentoring programme. As a senior woman in the firm, she felt it was her “duty” to be completely honest and transparent, even when it felt “very difficult”. “That was when I had one of those lightbulb moments”, Kim says, when she realised what she’d learned through her own journey could be helpful to others. Her new app quickly picked up 50,000 subscribers solely through word-of-mouth marketing. In 2019, as Clementine hit significant scale, she quit her corporate job to go “all in” with the business. Kim has since won multiple awards recognising her industry leadership in female health tech.
It was not the first time that Kim had struck out on a new path for herself. After her university studies at Massey, she boldly put aside family expectations and her steady job at NZ Telecom with her spontaneous decision to move to the UK in 2006. She found the freedom exhilarating: “I almost wanted to be a little bit anonymous - I felt it was a time when I could just reset and be Kim”. Her move to London led to a successful corporate career spanning a decade. Starting her new tech business from scratch - “when I don’t know anything about tech!” - is another example of her fundamental curiosity to try out new life pathways.
Kim’s self-confidence and strong personality have deep roots back home in New Zealand. Kim’s grandmother was a school principal, actively involved in the community, so “there was a real community feel to how I grew up”. Kim and her partner now spend a lot of time thinking about how to keep their kids connected with their NZ heritage, “because there is not one iota of me that feels British - I’m a Kiwi through and through,” she says. She is grateful for the mentorship of other Kiwis in the New Zealand Business Women’s Network, who’ve offered her friendship, practical support and encouragement during her years in the UK.
Kim’s advice to other Kiwis starting out in business in the UK is to just take one step at a time. “You don’t build some massive business overnight,” she says. Kim also acknowledges the risks of “running before you can walk” and growing a business too quickly. Faced with an already-saturated market, and competing against international tech behemoths, “we got to the point where we had traction, but actually we tried to skip a step by getting in a big team where we still didn’t have product/market fit, so we wasted a lot of time and a lot of money” before retrenching and setting up on a more sustainable growth path. Upon reflection, Kim feels her career and her business have flourished because of the bigger investment opportunities in the UK.
Her other tips for surviving as an long-term expat include making UK-based friends before all the antipodeans on their work-travel visas leave, and building strong local support networks before starting a family. Nonetheless, even after many years, “you have to pinch yourself a bit sometimes, because it’s London, right? I just took my son to see Harry Styles at Wembley with 80,000 people, my 9-year old on a Friday night - these experiences are just on your doorstep”.
With Clementine, Kim has not only built a strong business that supports her family, but one which reflects her personal values. She recently received a touching letter about a little girl in New Zealand whose Mum has cancer, and who was struggling to get to school because of separation anxiety when away from her family. By using Clementine’s hypnotherapy tools with her parents, this kid had finally started making it to school by walking with one of her friends. “This always keeps me going, remembering that what we’re doing with Clementine is important. We’ve actually created something that can change people’s lives.”