From one apothecary to another
It's International Women's Day and this year’s slogan is ‘Choose to challenge’, very apt for an apothecary, a trade that’s provided with its fair share of challenges for women. I want to respect the memory of one of those early challengers and showcase women in business that I respect and admire today.
Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Women were initially forbidden to become official apothecaries although many helped their husbands in their apothecary work. In those days, the apothecary was a profession that we would liken to the modern-day pharmacy, involved in the creation of medicines and drugs.
The oldest apothecaries date as far back as 2600BC!
You may have seen apothecary tables and cupboards in antique shops or replicas designed by modern furniture brands and it’s easy to imagine all the tiny drawers containing naturally sourced, perhaps foraged, ingredients that would be combined to make natural medicinal remedies. And the iconic amber glass apothecary bottles that we use for our very own apothecary products.
The ‘poster girl’ of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, though, is Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. She is celebrated for being the first female doctor and surgeon in Great Britain but to secure those roles, she had to learn some of her vocations via apothecary. Garrett Anderson was a real trailblazer and pioneer but found that the door was closed to her studying medicine alongside men, despite her academic excellence.
She did persevere, though and found a fellow advocate of women’s progression who identified a loophole in the system; Garrett Anderson could train as a physician via the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries which, according to their charter, could not exclude her based on her gender. In 1865, she qualified as a physician thanks to said society, which promptly amended its charter to forbid future female wannabe doctors from obtaining a licence (eye roll galore!). Her apothecary skills were critical to her training and came to the fore later in her career when she opened a dispensing clinic that allowed poor women access to medicine and, in some cases, treatment from someone of the same sex.
Garrett Anderson really challenged the male establishment, and she was determined to make it as a physician in 19th century Britain. Apothecary & me in the Kent countryside may not be an avenue into a career in medicine but I believe that the oils and scrubs I create, have their own positive impact on our mental and physical wellbeing, and most certainly our skin.
And Apothecary & me are choosing our own battles. We want everyone to be able to combine their favourite scent and mood oils even if, traditionally, they haven’t been blended together. We want to shake up the beauty and skincare industry and stop it from pigeon-holing us into ‘citrus & energising’ or ‘woody & balancing’. Everyone is different!
We wanted to provide skincare without added water or nasties so that everyone can benefit from 100% of the amazing benefits these natural super-oils provide. As a mum concerned with her daughter's exasperated skin problems, what was in the bottle become increasingly important and I turned to natural remedies to heal the skin which lead to the creation of Apothecary & me.
We also want to reduce the number of plastic bottles that we’re all using and be more environmentally conscious. The realisation of the mountain of plastic bottles that we as a family of four had amassed in the bathroom has driven Apothecary & me environmental ethos and we are on a mission to simplify skincare routines for men, women and teens – reducing the number of products and, therefore, plastic bottles. Ensuring that the packaging of our products contains the least amount of plastic. You can read more about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it here.
Let me introduce you to some other female entrepreneurs that we would like to shout about on International Women's Day!
Mae Jum Thai Curry Pastes
Mae Jum my Thai sister-in-law, after years of cooking delicious Thai food for her family, decided to go public with it! Creating her very own Thai curry blends, her mouth-watering pastes are made with 100% natural ingredients, vegan and are so easy to use. Mae (meaning mother) Jum, is one of my inspirations to turn to natural remedies, always showing me natural remedies for everyday skincare & hair care.
Chambers & Beau
If you like handcrafted, special jewellery pieces then do take a look at Chambers & Beau – I’m a big fan! Chambers & Beau’s collection is contemporary, perfect for layering and stacking and I love that she’s creating modern pieces for all women. Amy Elson makes many of the pieces herself and she models them beautifully. Do check out her Instagram page but be warned that it’s hard not to purchase!
This is a lovely Instagram account that supports Apothecary & me, but that’s not the reason I admire her. Kirsty is a breath of fresh air to me in that world of tiny squares with her bright clothes and positive attitude. It’s clear to see how she’s a teacher too! How she does it, maintaining her nearly 17k following on social media and teaching, especially over the last year I will never know but for an injection of colour and an infectious smile, do give her a follow!!
We are told so often to enjoy nature and you know, that can apply to your garden. However, if you’re not happy with your garden, enjoying it can be the furthest thing from your mind! Emma and the team at Appleby Gardens are excellent at doing the hard work for you whilst also making great suggestions. They are a lovely bunch too - polite, friendly and a joy to have around. I really admire Emma as she has taken a passion and turned it into a business.
The Meek Boutique
Lynne Meek worked in retail for many years before becoming a stylist, taking women and men around the High Street shops and boutiques of the south-east to help them rediscover their style and often, their inner confidence. A couple of years ago, she decided to use her expertise to establish The Meek Boutique, selling clothing, that Lynne and her clientele love. It has gone from strength to strength which is fantastic; Lynne continues to work as a stylist whilst also showcasing her own on-trend pieces.
The TN Card
Jess at The TNCard works tirelessly to help promote local small businesses and give the local community discounts from the list of shops signed up to the scheme. Donating part of the membership fee to support West Kent Mind, Jess is doing a fantastic job of supporting the community all round. And a mum of 4, I’m not sure how she finds the time or energy!
On top of the challenges of starting up and running successful businesses is that all of these fantastic ladies are mums too. With mother’s day around the corner, let's make sure we shout out to the women in our life that we admire and if you have that seed of a business idea, do make sure you challenge yourself to take it forward. Challenge the status quo! Ground-breaking like Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, or ground healing like Appleby Gardens, you’ll make a great role model for change for others around you and those still to come. Real inspiration for International women's day, wouldn't you agree?