Case Studies . Butterflies Healthcare
Innovative business vision helps eye products online company
Highly specialised eye products
Butterflies Healthcare is an online company selling highly specialised eye products: Swimming goggles with prescription lenses, eye vitamins, cosmetics for sensitive eyes, shields for screens that can affect and tire eye sight, among others. It was launched in 2006 by husband and wife, James and Michelle Sutton in Banbury, Oxfordshire. They both have a background in healthcare with James being an optician and Michelle a pharmacist. James said: “It first started as a hobby, because I had an interest in web design and wanted to start an online business. We realised that there was a gap in the market for specific eye products and looked into what we could do.” For six years they ran the business while keeping their day jobs. The business started to expand and they realised that they needed support to continue growing and provide products to customers that were difficult to find or where there wasn’t much choice.
On the right path towards growth
Business coach, Bernard Goodchild introduced them to the GrowthAccelerator programme (run by Oxford Innovation Services in Southern England from 2012 to November 2015). Business Growth Manager, Lorraine Frost from Oxford Innovation Services gave them impartial support and advice on how to get the best out of coaching.
Bernard Goodchild met regularly with the directors to analyse their business, review all of their commercial activities and to develop a clear vision, a set of timed objectives and a formal written Business Plan to assist in raising funds to fuel future growth. “The directors are very dynamic and closely interested in considering change and debating issues in detail to overcome day to day challenges and to assist future growth prospects.” Bernard explained.
Access to finance
He has an expertise in access to finance and became a “champion” for Butterflies. Their own bank was not helpful and many others thought it was risky to lend money to a “retail business”. “The coach helped us redefine what we were, as healthcare online company with a different offer, as opposed to another retailer”, Michelle Sutton said.
With a compelling Business Plan, Butterflies managed to get the funding they needed to buy additional stock, get serious about advertising and make decisions towards expanding that turned out to have been the right ones.
Bernard commented: “The subsequent focus was on using the new funds effectively: developing a new improved/upgraded international website, creating a marketing plan for new product launches, finalising arrangements to sell product via Amazon”.
“Bernard really worked hard on our behalf, made his contacts in banking available and helped us focus on our core business and on those products that really sold,” Michelle added.
Changing the focus, refining the vision
Although Butterflies Healthcare was already successful, the help the company received allowed it to focus on what was important and refine the vision for the business. The improved business plan to attract investment, the ability to look at the bigger picture were the main achievements of the work Bernard did with the Suttons. The Leadership and Management training put a strong emphasis on communicating and motivating staff, operating as a team and developing the skills to cope with high growth. Although the business has taken off, James and Michelle kept working a day a week in their former jobs. “It helps us keep up with changes in our industries and apply the knowledge we gain to our business”, James said.
Butterflies has won several awards, particularly with make up for sensitive eyes (silver and bronze for two mascaras at the Pure Beauty awards). Michelle also won the Banbury Women in Business Award in 2011.
What’s next for Butterflies Healthcare?
The company is looking to expand. “We are about half way through our international development for our prescription swimming goggles. We have tested systems for multiple currencies and have a good English language website. The next step is to launch foreign language versions e.g. French and German. We are also working hard to differentiate ourselves from our competitors in the eye health supplement market, pointing out the benefits of our supplements over others.” Concluded James.