Entrepreneur Friday: Michelle Sutton
Time for another fabulous Entrepreneur Friday. This week we have Michelle Sutton from Butterflies Healthcare. Time to grab that cuppa – or glass of wine if you are reading this after 5pm!
Entrepreneur Friday: Michelle Sutton
Tell us a bit about your business
Along with my husband James, I set up Butterflies Healthcare in 2006 to import and distribute eye health products to wholesalers, opticians, pharmacies, health stores and online retailers including Amazon. We also sell direct to the public via our 3 websites (you can find all the links at the bottom of the interview).
What inspired you to start it?
Requests from customers in the pharmacy and opticians where we worked plus a personal need. I have sensitive skin due to having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and James has a family history of macular degeneration and a love of swimming.
What is your career background?
I qualified as a pharmacist in 1994 and I still enjoy working in community pharmacies dispensing prescriptions and giving advice as a locum. It was a good grounding for how to work smarter and faster and how precious our health is. It also gave me a love of retail and beauty products including hypo-allergenic brands that I would often recommend.
What is your vision for your business?
To lead the way in eye health by offering innovative products to our trade contacts and retail customers. To become the leading vitamin brand for macular degeneration, leading treatment/cosmetics brand for dry, sensitive eyes and lens wearers and to extend our global site for prescription swimming goggles and diving masks.
You’ve balanced being a successful business woman with raising a family. Any advice for other women?
Simplify your life to save time. I live in a village where as a family we can easily access local amenities on foot including schools, post office and shops. I support the local butcher and fishmonger who come to the door and gave up ironing years ago. This all saves time when I’m having a busy week.
How do you maintain a good work/life/family balance?
I find Facebook is great for keeping in touch with friends and what’s going on locally. In the early days, we started the business alongside our day jobs; packing orders when the children were in bed – often until midnight. Now it’s easier with staff and we made the decision to stop working evenings and weekends a couple of years ago. My parents had a family business and my Dad was a bit of a workaholic and unfortunately died suddenly aged 46 so I really value family time and make balancing it a priority.
When did you realise you wanted to be an entrepreneur/business owner?
When the children started school, I struggled with my pharmacy workload, PCOS and being an employed working mother. I’d dropped down to 3 days a week but felt I wasn’t doing anything properly, my health was suffering as I was too tired to eat well or exercise, which is vital for me. Something had to give so I decided the flexibility of owning a business would be ideal.
What lessons have you learned along the way?
I had to toughen up a bit and not take it so personally when buyers said no to me or a customer complained.
What has surprised you about owning your own business?
Pharmacies have a very set way of working so I felt way out of my comfort zone and have had to learn a lot of new skills, so sometimes I surprise myself.
Who and what inspires you?
I love networking with or reading about other businesses that have started from scratch and grown – it gives me the confidence to keep going. My parents were very cautious business owners so I’m often fighting that inner voice instead of just going for it.
Do you have a daily routine or rituals you do?
I try to do a few yoga stretches in the morning and take a walk or cycle most days. All mums know it’s hard to carve out any ‘me’ time and exercise often drops off the list.
What obstacles have you had along the way?
A couple of legal challenges and funding issues are the main ones. We both needed to stay in employed work to fund the business and the family. The hardest time was when James worked long days (even overnight) in the business and we both worked professionally during the week then he also worked as an optician at weekends while I looked after two under-fives!
What is one thing you wish you’d known when you first started?
That confidence is key.
Tell us your favourite tools that make your life easier (apps, websites, software etc)
I’m not very technical but sharing an Outlook calendar with James and the office stops me double booking myself between my home and work commitments. I also use Hootsuite and myfitnesspal.
What is your favourite quote?
Learn to make the most of life, lose no happy day.
Life can never give you back chances swept away.
Leave no tender word unsaid, love while life shall last.
For the mill can never grind with water that has passed.
Do you have any eye health tips for our readers?
For healthy eyes, eat well, don’t smoke and wear eye protection for DIY/sport and in bright sunlight always wear sunglasses.
Make sure children have an early eye test at around 3 years of age, particularly if the parents wear glasses. It can be too late once they are 7 or above to improve their vision.
Always have an eye test every 2 years with an OCT scan as opticians can detect early signs of eye diseases plus diabetes, high blood pressure and even tumours by looking at the back of the eye.
Try these food swaps to increase your lutein intake and protect your eyes – eat Romaine or cos lettuce, kale, spinach, red/yellow/orange (but not green) peppers, add goji berries to cereal and eat oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna and mackerel.
Never wear contact lenses in the pool/shower/spa, choose prescription swimming goggles instead.
If you have glasses, wear them, especially if they are for driving.
If you have glasses that you can’t get on with, go back to your opticians and tell them. Most will be happy to do a re-check and resolve the problem.
Replace mascaras every 3 months and sharpen eye pencils regularly to prevent eye infections.
Check out Michelle online:
Butterflies Healthcare: Dry eye, blepharitis, macular degeneration treatments, contact lens/spectacle accessories, iPad/iPhone blue light filters plus Eye Care Cosmetics
NATorigin: Natural and organic cosmetics and skincare for sensitive eyes and skin
Prescription Swimming Goggles: Swimming goggles and diving masks fitted with optical lenses for adult swimmers who wear glasses/lenses plus accessories
Michelle in her own words: I started my career in retail on my market gardening family’s fruit and vegetable stall. The highlight for me was being sent to the pharmacy to purchase medicines for my Dad, I was mesmerised and offered a Saturday job and became really interested in the combination of beauty and pharmacy.
I now have my own family run business based in rural Oxfordshire and belong to my local Chamber of Commerce. In 2011 I won a Banbury Business Woman of the Year Award for an Established Business. In 2013 we won Team of the Year at the Banbury Employee of the Year Awards and were Finalists in the Cherwell Business Awards.
I specialise in extremely hypo-allergenic cosmetics and feel passionate about helping the growing number of women with mascara allergy. I am married to James and we have two sons aged thirteen and nine who keep us busy! I enjoy cycling and walking around the local countryside every week, listening to local bands perform live and watching DVD’s to relax.
Thanks so much for taking part in Entrepreneur Friday Michelle and thanks for all the great tips!
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