This week I would like to introduce Pamela Spence the founder of Plant Potential to my weekly Parents in Business series. Here Pamela shares her story about how she moved from a film and TV career to becoming a medical herbalist, and it sounds fascinating. It’s a brilliant story, and I found myself nodding along to the part about working long hours and trying to find a balance, which I know can be hard when growing and running your business.
Pamela shares the same motto as me – ‘just go for it’. You do just need to make that leap of faith, and I completely agree with her on getting a business coach, they are vital for a push, for guidance and a little bit of steering in the right direction. I would love you to have a read of Pamela’s story….
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
I am a medical herbalist. That means I’m qualified to a similar level as a GP and an expert in plant medicine. I help people to understand what’s happening to their bodies when they experience ill-health and guide them back to being the best they can be. I do that in a number of ways. In my clinic I see patients on a regular basis and prescribe and dispense medicines that are tailor made for them. I also try to spread the word as much as I can with articles and making short factual films. My background is film and TV, so I love to get back into production from time to time. Then I teach – professional and lay courses – keeping herbal training alive is the only way we will ensure we will have herbalists in the future so that is very important to me. Lastly, I advise the food and drink and cosmetics industries on how best to use herbs to get real results – rather than creating products that are all gloss and hype. I’m the Twinings’ herbalist and my first project with them, the Twinings Superblends range, hit the UK market in January last year. That was a big milestone for me.
What were your motivations for setting up your business?
When I started learning about herbal medicine, I felt like I had found a calling somehow. I can’t really describe it. I threw in my hard-won career in film and television production (much to my family’s horror!) and went back to studying fulltime. Had I realised it was a medically based degree I may never have taken the plunge! In production we were always under so much pressure and looking for alternative ways of staying well. Long hours and job pressure meant we never managed to get to the doctor – so I suppose that started me off on the path. Crew members would come to me for advice and eventually I decided to make the training formal.
How do you balance the business around your family and childcare?
The biggest challenge is definitely my work/life balance. I struggle with that a lot and often end up sitting up late at night working. However, I’ve recently got some extra admin help and that is such a huge relief. I get enthusiastic and I want to do ALL OF THE THINGS – but I have to realise that with a young family I need to make sure my own wellbeing is tip top. So, I am currently reviewing the ways that I work and getting better at setting out clear work hours so that I can really be present when at work, and when I’m with my family.
Since setting up your business what’s been your biggest success to date?
It may sound contrite but watching my patients on their journeys is incredibly rewarding. The fact that they trust me with their health and often with their inner fears is a real honour. I get a real kick out of helping people pull together all the different overwhelming symptoms and reassure them that there is a pattern to why they are happening. Not so much ‘don’t drink that coffee’ more ‘at the moment the caffeine in that coffee is doing this which is making you feel worse’. Seeing the lightbulbs go off is so rewarding. I’d say about two thirds of my patients are women, many trying to keep juggling all the balls while navigating their way through peri-menopause.
In terms of my work as an advisor to industry it has to be my involvement with Twinings. Getting to work with them as their herbal expert and seeing the products make it to the supermarket shelves gives me an immense thrill! The teas in the Superblends range are like my babies and I love to see people buying and enjoying them. I also recently got signed by a literary agent who wants to bring my work to the world in a book which is an unbelievable rush. Hopefully we will have news to share on that soon!
What are your top tips for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
Stop worrying so much and just go for it. I spent a long time with one foot in my business and another in a steady job. I would have jumped earlier and taken the risk if I were to do it again. Recently my husband said to me – you’re not the apprentice anymore. He’s right. Even a year ago I wouldn’t have thought of myself as a businesswoman. Now I’m comfortable with that title.
Also, have a look around and see what support you could call on. I didn’t really ask for any advice starting out. It is only now – 13 years in! I have realised that the transferable skills I had have served me well but are no longer enough and so I went searching for some online groups where I could learn how to take the next steps. I also contacted my accountant and legal team to help me understand the skills gaps I had. I now have a business mentor, a mindset coach and I’m in a couple of business support groups that really help.
Thank you so much Pamela being part of my series, it has been lovely to feature you and I wish you all the best in the future.
If you like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Parents in Business series just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in the series: Oliiki, Sprout, and Talented Ladies Club.