Rachel Mills, Founder at Buttercup Learning
Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Rachel Mills: Buttercup Learning was born from a desire to combine my passions for sustainability, ed tech, animation and nature. The idea for our first product came from my own daughters passion for the natural world. Buttercup was named by my daughter and inspired by a beautiful buttercup field near my home. Our company was founded in 2020 and at the height of the first lockdown we raised through crowdfunding to enable us to create a mini demo version of the Insects' Alphabet Book - a multisensory book that supports early years literacy with insect facts and conservation.
Great Companies: What are the various services provided by Buttercup Learning
Rachel Mills: Buttercup Learning provides innovative nature-based products that combine physical, online and augmented reality learning and play. Our products have been developed specifically for children aged 4-8 years old. Our current range includes
Nature prints with augmented reality, in sizes A4, A3 and A2 in a choice of digital download or print versions. Scan the screen image or art print to reveal further layers of content, augmented reality creature animations, scientific illustrations and a button link to a mini elearning page.
Nature activity subscription box and online community group. The Nature Curious Box is packed with nature-based activities for children. Designed for children aged 6 and above to read independently. 8-10 items, in eco packaging that support english, maths, crafts and environmental science. Each box comes with a nature print with augmented reality. Plus access to an online community to share further online resources and build a tribe of nature curious families!
The Nature Curious Podcast (a podcast for parents/carers/home educators and teachers about wildlife, nature, sustainable living and outdoor activities)
Buttercup Learning also offers a nature based curriculum in development that is rooted in natural history and offers nature conservation challenges for families and schools.
Great Companies: What makes Buttercup Learning different from hundreds of other similar service providers?
Rachel Mills: We’re committed to being a regenerative business, which means we are trying to go beyond sustainability and create something positive for the environment. As a founder, I've always been interested in environmental issues and believe that businesses have a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth they rely on.
Buttercup Learning wants all its customers to know, what they are purchasing from us is natural and safe for their children. We consider each and every product's life cycle to reduce its environmental impact from design to end-use. Our prints are printed with water-based vegan ink and delivered in the UK with DPD C02 neutral delivery.
We are the world's first sustainably hosted and designed elearning and educational product company. We've rebuilt our website to be one that is cleaner than 71% of the pages tested across the internet.
We are embedding regenerative principles into the company's business model, and take great efforts to reduce the impact of all our physical and digital products. We give back to nature by donating ten percent of every print sale to a matched nature or education charity to support their conservation and humanitarian projects.
We aim to give back more to nature through local biodiversity projects and support families with eco and conservation activities.
Great Companies: What were the struggles and challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Rachel Mills: One of the biggest challenges I faced in building my business was managing my time. I had to do everything myself initally: bookkeeping, project management, web design, and marketing on a shoestring budget. I overcame the juggle with time blocking, having set days to carry out each type of role and task. I've spent a lot of time on learning new skills in marketing and business operations. I've utilised support and asked for help from government schemes to bring in staff, I've had some fanatstic support from Business West, a certified B Corp and worked with schemes that support start ups with free business mentoring.
Gradually, I've been able to hire others to fulfill the various job duties, allowing me to focus on what I do best: managing and producing educational content. I'm looking forward to the day when I can brief a marketing manager and they do all the Buttercup marketing work.
Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for Buttercup Learning?
Rachel Mills: Buttercup Learning is a small business with a big vision. Our goal is to become the leading eco-friendly learning and nature education provider across the globe. We want to help children learn through nature exploration on their doorstep, empowering them with knowledge to take steps for local nature conservation.
In 5 years’ time we plan to have expanded our operations into other countries; US, Canada, Australia and across Europe, as well as continuing our current growth of providing original outdoor learning for home educators, private tutors, teachers and families across the UK.
As well as our core activities, we have plans to expand into other areas in the future. These include the production of educational resources, support for teachers and training courses on sustainable living. We are also committed to building a large database of learning materials that can be used by schools and nurseries and home educating parents who don’t have access to nature experts or a local forest school.
We are also committed to supporting local communities through our work by providing jobs for women in tech and training opportunities for graduates and young people.
Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Rachel Mills: I would say to be persistent. If you have a great idea or solution and you’re passionate about it, then don’t give up. You have to be willing to take some knocks along the way because there will always be people who don’t believe in what you’re doing. There may even be moments when the progress doesn't seem like it's coming as quickly as you'd hoped for, but if you keep focused on your customer and what they need, eventually things will change for the positive!