A Day in the Life of a Duck Pond Member – Rachel Mills
In the first of this insight into the days of actual, real-life Duck Pond members, I’m so excited to welcome Christen Gilchrist to feature first. Christen is a Mindset Coach, specialising in working with eco entrepreneurs.
Thanks so much, Christen, for taking the time to share this with us – over to you!
Eco Curious Family
Hi, I am Rachel Mills, educator, professional animation producer and founder of start up Buttercup Learning. I’ve been on my own sustainable journey for about 25 years. I am more aware of the impact I and others have on the planet now that I am a parent. After quickly entering the “why” stage, my daughter wanted to learn everything she could about the world around her. Listening to my daughter voice her concern about climate change, plastic pollution, and habitat loss made me realise that a learning portal with quality education resources was needed.
Buttercup Learning aims to empower young children to make positive change in their families, communities, and back yards/gardens. Founded in 2020, Buttercup Learning helps nature-loving and eco-conscious children, their families, and teachers. An idea that had been brewing for more than four years, that first idea was sparked while I was on maternity leave. As a teacher, animator, and applied learning technologies specialist, I combine my interests in nature, education, animation, and technology to support children’s exploration of the world. Even though I’m busier than ever, I finally feel like I’m doing what I should be. It’s in my nature to share new knowledge, and that love of learning new nature facts has never left me as an adult.
Starting the day
My husband brings me breakfast in bed every morning when I wake up naturally around 6.30 to 7. Yes, I know that sounds spoiled. Every day when I work on my social media, I have a quick breakfast of crackers and nut butter with some rooibos tea. If I can, I avoid checking emails at this stage.Using my batched images across a variety of topics; sustainability tips, poster images, quotes, freebies, and staff profiles, I upload one into Content Studio for posting on Facebook and Instagram. The captions are usually done at this stage, and I plan to batch them too at some point. On social media, I check to make sure I’ve responded to everyone. Then I either have an animation teaching day at the University of West of England in Bristol (UWE Bristol, where I am a joint programme leader) or it’s a Buttercup day and I head to the garden studio.
Favourite day of the week
Monday is my favourite day of the week because I meet on Google for a weekly briefing with Grace, a graduate illustrator from UWE Bristol who joined Buttercup Learning as an intern for 3 months in the summer of 2020. Since her intern contract ended, she became a part-time employee, and I hope I will be able to offer her a permanent full-time position later this year. A remarkable young woman, she’s an exceptionally gifted illustrator. It’s a pleasure to work with her. Every time she gets a brief, she quickly turns around pencil sketches and produces vibrant artwork. She is great at research, and she pays attention to detail, so I know that she takes special care to represent animals’ patterns, colours, and body details in her artwork.
We work together on one of the following projects most weeks: social media artwork, nature posters with augmented reality, artwork for an e-learning course for parents or book artwork. Also, I enjoy supporting Grace with her freelance commissions with other companies and individuals. We have established a mentor-mentee relationship. We discuss our weeks and share snippets of our lives. I get to celebrate our company’s success with her and show her what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. It’s also great to have someone else on the team who is passionate about nature too. If grants or incubation schemes don’t work out, she shares in the disappointment.
Motivation and team spirit
Grace’s meetings always leave me feeling very motivated and I either work directly on a project or have another meeting immediately after. There are times when these meetings are about forming new partnerships, and there are times when it’s a coaching call. My goal wasto create a company that values their employees, and I know I have benefited from the support from the coaches at more happi both personally and professionally.
Afterwards, I usually answer emails from a business support scheme I have signed up to. In particular, Business West has been a huge help when considering how to grow Buttercup’s workforce and how to support Kickstarter employees. After the three Kickstarter members join the team, I know my days will be even busier. Most days, I will upload Grace’s artwork to our website, create new course pages or e-learning content, or tweak the augmented reality content in the UniteAR app. The work is pretty diverse, from web development, copywriting, graphics, photography, sometimes basic app-building, testing out software, researching topics, or finding out about ethical and environmental policies of our suppliers.
Learning and development
I attend a training session or a talk most days. These usually focus on some aspect of business or, more enjoyable, on a topic related to sustainability. My favorite talks have come from Startups magazine and Positive Community. If a topic appeals to me or if I need to learn more about it to run my business, I will spend ages reading about it online. I am taking courses on carbon and the environment, as well as donut economics. To break up my day, I usually dip into these.
With both of my jobs being digital, I’ve become somewhat sedentary. It has been the busiest year of my life, and that is saying a lot! I often take a walk around the village at the end of the day, and if I can, I will sit outside the Buttercup HQ, my garden studio, and listen to the bees. It might be a good idea to invest in a standing desk so my bottom doesn’t become chair-shaped.
In several Facebook groups, I participate in accountability threads, which usually help me figure out when I’ve set myself too much work to complete in a week. Though I make lists in my planner, I have learned that sometimes more urgent or timely business comes up, and I must adapt.
Reading sci-fi books in bed is my favorite way to end the day. It’s not uncommon for me to fall asleep holding my kindle and open my eyes when my arm begins to numb.
It has been a pleasure to share the wins of the week each week. It has been fun sharing mine and learning about other Pond members’ business successes. During a session that was entirely focused on my business, pond members helped me overcome some blocks I had when it came to moving forward with the e-learning platform. Their collective experience was really invaluable.
What is your favourite feature of The Pond?
The quick wins and action suggestions are very helpful. Whether it’s repurposing content, setting up a links page to get people to your website directly from social media or giving little accounting tips.
The future of Buttercup
As long as I am developing my business, my days will continue to be busy, but I have enjoyed the experience so far. I’ll keep going to build up Buttercup Learning.