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We meet Rachel Mills, Founder at Buttercup Learning

“Building up Buttercup, creating a sustainable e-learning and publishing business”

Green Tech South West are looking forward to welcoming some of the most innovative pioneers in our region as part of our event for Bristol Tech Festival.

Buttercup Learning creates educational content to inspire children, their carers and teachers alike to care for our planet. Rachel shares her experience developing sustainable web design and digital products that match her larger vision for Buttercup Learning.

Rachel will be joining us on Thursday Oct 14th at 12.30pm and we caught up with her ahead of her talk.

Can you tell us more about Buttercup Learning?

Rachel: We are a micro team creating educational content on nature, conservation and sustainability aimed at young children aged 4-8 years old. We aim to create physical and digital products that consider the footprint and the products impact at all stages of a products life cycle. I’m on a mission to support and create a generation of environmentalists. 

How did you come up with the idea?

Rachel: I wanted to combine my interests in ed tech, curriculum content, and sustainability into a meaningful business. Educators and parents who home school are seeking age-appropriate educational content on conservation and climate change, and because I have a background in animation production, I’m familiar with creating educational content that kids will enjoy. There is a growing home school market in the UK, and many parents are combining this with outdoor learning and e-learning content in the form of interactive and traditional downloadable worksheets. My own daughter’s growing curiosity about the world around her as she grew into an infant and began school inspired me to investigate this market. 

At a young age, she wanted to learn to read, but she didn’t want to read about other people’s families; she wanted to learn about bees and butterflies. She was the driving force behind the first project, an augmented reality phonics scheme. One of her favourite books was a bee pop-up book, and that little book inspired me to create an Insects Alphabet book with augmented reality insects. During the height of the first lockdown, we crowdfunded for this project and have since completed a demo product with Zubr VR. Since December 2020 we have launched three nature posters with augmented reality in house.  They are available to purchase as digital downloads and prints through Inkthreadable, a UK-based print on demand company that has strong ethical and environmental credentials. 

What are the challenges you’ve faced so far and how are you overcoming them?

Rachel: I’ve had the most trouble managing my time between bookkeeping, project management, web design, and marketing on a shoestring budget. Gradually, I’m able to hire others to fulfil the various job duties, allowing me to focus on what I do best: managing and producing educational content. I am most proud of our company’s website. Originally, Buttercup had a beautiful WordPress website that loaded slowly. We made good progress with our physical products’ environmental impact, but our site wasn’t doing so well. This year I completely redesigned it. I went from not having much experience designing fast-loading websites to becoming an advocate for building sustainable websites.   

What can people do to support Buttercup Learning?

Rachel: We are seeking product testers for our products, especially those with experience in ed tech, home schoolers, parents, and teachers. Our e-learning subscription portal will be developed with a group of these users. Get in touch if you would like to become a user tester. 

What has the response been so far to Buttercup Learning?

Rachel: We have received positive feedback from parents and teachers. There are many who are eager to buy our Insects’ Alphabet book and support us as we develop our e-learning subscription platform. The Creative Industries Council named us as one of 2021’s CreaTech companies ones to watch. Our sustainability and ed tech work has also been recognized by Tech Round, and we were included in Start-up Magazine’s issue on Ed Tech companies. 

What are your plans for Buttercup Learning going forward?

Rachel: With support from the Loop programme in Bristol and the Female Founders Squad, we are getting investor-ready and hope to raise seed funding in 2022. We hope to raise the final funds needed to finish the Insect’s Alphabet book this year. In addition, we plan to apply for grants such as Women in Innovation. Our desire is to grow Buttercup Learning to a global audience through augmented reality nature posters, phonics-based nature learning, and companion e-learning. We hope to have created an e-learning platform by this time next year that will enable young children to not only live-in touch with nature, take positive environmental action in their communities, but also do so using a world-first sustainably built e-learning platform.

Thankyou Rachel for the chat.  

Rachel will take the virtual stage at our meetup on Thursday 14th of October at 12.30pm. Head over to the meetup page to RSVP for free. (https://www.meetup.com/GreenTech-South-West/events/279218957/)

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