October 24, 2022 5 min read
I became a business owner in 2012, when I opened the doors on my business, Powder Butterfly. Since that time I’ve been asked by friends and fellow business people about why I started out as an entrepreneur. That’s why I’ve written this blog about my ‘why’.
The early years
After leaving school I pursued a photography degree at the University of Northumbria.
I’d earned my place on my degree as a result of standing out, creatively. I always knew I didn’t want to simply print my photographs onto paper. I was fascinated by finding more diverse surfaces to bring my work to life and so, when I turned up at my interview with a photograph framed on soft wood using nails, wires and dried flowers I think I really intrigued my lecturers!
The first year of my degree went really well but I struggled with the second and third year. I didn’t realise at the time but that was down to my undiagnosed dyslexia. I found it really hard to fit into an academic world.
I’ve worked in the retail world since I was 19 years old and, although I wasn’t a fan of employment, I loved dealing with people. Interactions with consumers, especially unhappy ones, made my days fly by. I loved seeing a customer come in unhappy for some reason and working really hard to put that thing right. They’d leave happy and I’d get a huge buzz from that.
Flexibility for my family
When I first started Powder Butterfly back in 2012, I had a young family. I’m also married to a FE lecturer which means, while the school holidays are flexible and fun times, juggling work and young children was a challenge.
Applying my skills
I wanted to be present for my children but I also needed my work to give me a sense of self other than being a Mum. Having studied a photography degree at university and learned a great deal during my time spent as a retail assistant in my teens, I wanted to combine my skills and creativity to do something I’m passionate about.
Having moved to the North East, from London, in 1998 I didn’t have family around me to help with childcare so that flexibility was absolutely crucial. It has always frustrated me that women aren’t supported to make more of their potential because of the need to be a caregiver. So many times girls outperform boys at school but aren’t given the support into the working world to reach their potential. And when you add in my undiagnosed dyslexia, I faced huge barriers to reaching my full potential. It’s such a common place to be.
I wanted to use my creativity but not be constrained by the ‘norm’. Even then I wasn’t aware that my dyslexic thinking was a skill I could nurture rather than be embarrassed or limited by. I was also looking for something that would allow me to work in collaboration with other people. I love doing research, planning new products, finding new suppliers… Powder Butterfly allowed me to do all of those things.
I started out making handmade jewellery. But I soon realised that the standard I expected of myself for handmade was extremely high. I had to charge a lot to cover my costs and it just wasn’t commercially viable.
I existed in art circles at the time – referring to myself as an artist – and I realised I needed to create some brand awareness in order to be successful. I found the art scene extremely competitive, and extremely funding-centric. I didn’t want to be part of that and so I went in search of a more commercially focussed option for my work.
And so, Powder Butterfly was born.
People love my products because they’re not only aesthetically pleasing, but they have a use, a purpose. There’s great value in that.
‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’— William Morris
Collaborations and aspirations
Over the years I’ve worked with charities like The Millin Charity which is a charity that supports women. Captured for Creatives at Newcastle University has been incredible too. Almost all of the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with there have been female because we all need to find work that gives us flexibility.
When we look at brands like Jo Malone, Cath Kidston, Holly Tucker (founder of Not on the High Street) and Emma Bridgewater it’s easy to beat ourselves up wondering why we haven’t achieved the heights that they have. Because they’re the kind of brands we all aspire to be.
But I’ve realised that, as a neurodiverse parent, I need to be kinder to myself. I can’t do everything but I always do what I can. I’ve seen so many people let their businesses destroy them and I don’t want that for myself.
My children are now teenagers so it’s easy to assume they don’t need as much support any more. But actually, the decisions they’re making at the moment are life-changing so they need just as much, if not more support.
Powder Butterfly allowed me to bring together all the skills I’d learned in my previous life. It allowed me to harness my curiosity, autonomy, creativity and experience while allowing me the flexibility and financial independence to thrive.
And that’s my big ‘why’.
However, imposter syndrome set in when I was nominated for the Rising Star category for the WIN Awards this year. Powder Butterfly isn’t a brand new business - I’ve been developing the brand for the past ten years. However, when the pandemic hit it really took the wind out of my sails (as it did with so many other businesses). When we finally came out of the lockdowns, I felt as if I had to start from scratch and reinvent the way my business worked. The pandemic really did change my outlook to a ‘if not now then when?’ attitude which really made me reassess my lack of confidence and self doubt - why keep letting it hold me back?
Applying for awards for my business is definitely out of my comfort zone, but being shortlisted is a real honour. Whatever the outcome I truly feel as though I’m already a winner, taking my place alongside so many inspirational women.
I feel truly honoured and privileged to run my business in such an incredible and challenging environment and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.
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