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OM Interview with Emily Butterill – Founder of Glow Lighting

The OM Interview with Emily Butterill (nee Appleyard, 1997) Founder of Glow Lighting

Emily studied at Queen Mary’s from 1992 – 1997. She is the CEO of Glow Lighting, an interior lighting company that she founded in 2015, that designs and manufactures beautifully crafted, bespoke lighting in Ripon, North Yorkshire. We talked to Emily about her time at Queen Mary’s, the responsibilities of running a manufacturing business and what she has learned along the way.

What is your first memory of Queen Mary’s?

I remember feeling very welcome. I joined in Form 6. Everyone seemed to have tuck boxes.  I had never seen them before and was fascinated  as they were all full to the brim with treats! 

How would you describe your time at the school?

It was full of good, honest, innocent  fun. I made some of the best friends, who are still very dear to me now. Looking back I feel very blessed to have had a great education in such a safe, loving environment.

Who were the most influential members of staff?

I always remember Mrs Cragg-James very fondly. She was very strict, but in a good way. I recall failing dreadfully in a French verb test and being made to stay at school on a Saturday afternoon to learn my verbs properly. I got an A in my French GCSE and studied it for A-Level,  all thanks to Mrs Cragg-James.  I had a lot of respect for her.

Mr Carter was also a wonderful teacher, and was very inspirational. I loved my time in Chapel Choir. I took music for GCSE and A-level and have always sung in choirs, thanks to the passion for music inspired by Mr Carter.

 What was your favourite subject and why?

My favourite subject was Food Technology with Mrs Creyke, she was the most kind and caring teacher. We had such a great year group taking the subject. Mrs Creyke was like an agony aunt to us all, giving us fantastic advice about our lives. 

 Do you have any funny stories about your time at school?

I have too many to recall, I often chuckle to myself about all the funny things we used to get up to!

What are the biggest lessons you learned at school?

Queen Mary’s was such an inclusive school, we had such a range of girls; from highly intelligent and super sporty to pupils with challenging learning difficulties. I think it taught me to be kind and empathetic.  Mr and Mrs Belward were such wonderful Head teachers with such a magical ethos: they encouraged us to be true to ourselves and be proud of who we are.

 Do you keep in touch with any old pupils today?

Yes, my best friend went to Queen Mary’s with me! I also have a group of very dear friends, one of whom I knew prior to Queen Mary’s, who I see regularly. It is like being back at school when we all get together. We still giggle like school girls together.

How did you embark on your career?

My Fathers’ business was in the commercial Lighting industry, I worked there for many years. During this time I learned all about the lighting industry and made many contacts which transferred over into interior lighting. When I decided in 2015 to set up my own interior lighting company I had many years of experience in the industry. This gave me the confidence  to set up on my own.

What were the biggest obstacles you encountered?

If I am completely honest, as a woman running my own business the hardest challenge for me has been dividing my time effectively. I have three children and a full time job. However,  anyone who runs their own business will understand that it isn’t just a job – it is a 24/7 responsibility which you never switch off from. When I read in the media about women working for themselves it is always delivered to the reader as empowering and offering a fabulous work/life balance.  Don’t fall for the myth! In real life, it entails hard graft, sheer grit and determination. I once heard a quote which resonated with me and I often recall it when I am feeling fed up: “The harder I worked, the luckier I got”. In short, hard work pays off!

Can you describe a typical day at work?

I am usually in the office by 8.45am (after school drop off). We produce all our lights in Ripon, using British components – mornings are usually spent producing orders, wiring up and testing lamp holders, making ceiling roses, table lamps and other products. We are also busy packing any orders and dispatching them to customers. In the afternoons I concentrate on ordering components, designing new or bespoke items for customers, advising customers about their lighting projects – there is always something to do. I am lucky that I now have a few great people working for me who make my working life much more balanced.

I also love going to visit suppliers and customers, and see what is new and innovative in the industry. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to embark on a career in your industry?

Knowledge is power, learning the basics is the most important. Start at the bottom, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty (mine always are!), look for jobs with companies who will give you access to courses to progress your career.

 What are the best parts and worst parts of your job?

The best part is being my own boss!

The worst part is that my hands are always sore – oh, and I hate doing accounts!

If you look back now at your school days, what would you tell a 13 year old you about your time at school and your life ahead of you?

Well. That’s easy as I tell my children this all the time – while you are young you have the time to work hard AND party. Don’t waste these wonderful years, embrace your education and work hard while you have the opportunity and are surrounded by inspirational teachers who really care about you. Use this time to progress, you don’t want to be resitting your GCSEs in your 30’s when you have realised what you want to do. I really regret not working harder at school.

How would you sum up Queen Mary’s?

My years there were some of the best years of my life. I was very lucky to have such a wonderful year group and inspirational teachers. Thank you Queen Mary’s.

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