Mumpreneur profile: Pamela Spence, Medical Herbalist

Your Name and Age: Pamela Spence, 46

Tell us about your family

My husband Charlie is from Germany and we have a 5-year-old son. We also run a complementary health centre together in the town where we live.

What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?

Before training to be a medical herbalist I worked in film and television production. It was a very demanding job with long hours. It was fun, exhilarating but ultimately exhausting and not compatible with family life. I am a bit of an all or nothing person, so I quit and went back to university to study the four-year BSc in herbal medicine.

When did you launch?

I graduated in 2006 and after a short break started seeing patients in 2007.

How did you get started?

I rented a room in two different complementary health clinics and set up my website. This kind of business really only works by word of mouth – so I ran workshops, herb walks, talks to help get my name known locally.

What research did you do before launching?

Not much if I’m totally honest! My degree was very focussed on going into clinical practice and I was lucky to have the opportunity to take on two clinic spaces. So I jumped at the opportunity and thought about it afterwards!

How have you funded the business?

For the first few years I kept a part time job that I had while I was studying. This stable income really helped while my business was growing. Once I resigned from my part-time job my business income almost doubled! In retrospect I should have left earlier.

How do you promote your business? What has worked best?

Word of mouth is definitely key for me. I am restricted by the advertising I am allowed to do. Part of my business is also writing and teaching I find that this is a great way to promote what I do.

What has worked well about your business?

I have flexibility to take on opportunities I never dreamed of, like being the Twinings Herbal Expert. I get to help them create great herbal blends and this work has opened other doors for me. I have now launched another business called Plant Potential where I work as a consultant to brands who want to include herbs in their products for their functional benefits.

What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?

The biggest challenge is that the brand IS me and the qualification are mine too so it is hard to delegate work. At our clinic we have recently employed an admin and marketing officer and I am learning how to delegate some tasks to her. It’s a slow process!

How do you fit in work with the family?

My husband and I can choose when we work which really helps. It’s not always easy, but we are definitely in a better place than if we were employed by someone else.

What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?

I would say that it is important to be flexible in what your work actually IS. Being in clinic all week would be exhausting and it’s never what I wanted to do. I have three clinics a week and the rest of the time I work as a consultant to industry, I teach and I write. It gives a variety of incomes and means that I never get bored.

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