Excelling Against the Odds
Sarah Berthon tells us how her experience of running a business alongside chronic illnesses led her to set up her own business, community and podcast to share inspiration and advice about work and self-employment with other people with chronic illnesses.
How do you identify as disabled, and what does it mean to you?
I have a number of chronic illnesses: postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS), Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and chronic migraines. They affect my life on a daily basis as I am in constant pain and there are days when I struggle to achieve anything. It has, however, made me resilient and determined. I might have to make alterations to the way I do things, but I can normally find a way around.
Tell us a little about your business.
In 2019, I set up Excel against the Odds to support business owners with chronic illnesses to run successful businesses while also looking after their health and to advise companies on how to look after their employees with chronic health issues. I also run a Facebook group, Entrepreneurs against the Odds, and I’ve just launched my Excel against the Odds podcast.
I also have a business called Crafty by Nature Skincare, through which I sell natural vegan lip balms and bath bombs together with make-your-own lip balm and bath bomb kits, and run make-your-own lip balm and bath bomb parties for children aged 6+ and skincare workshops for adults.
Why did you start the business? Share your story so far.
When I started running Crafty By Nature Skincare, I found that a lot of the advice I was getting online wasn’t compatible with my health conditions, and I wanted to find a space where I could talk about business with people who had similar struggles, who understood the journey I was on, and were travelling alongside me. I had also developed a number of techniques and strategies for running a business with a chronic illness and was keen to share them with others.
What do you see as the main challenges facing your business and its continued operation or growth?
For me, my main challenge is time and managing my business around my health issues.
What can we do to encourage more disabled entrepreneurs to start businesses – what is holding them back and what can we all do to help change that?
We need to raise awareness about the fact that having a business can be a great option for a disabled entrepreneur, because it offers flexibility in both time and location, which isn’t always available in a traditional job. Sharing inspirational stories and having conversations can open up the idea of running a business as a possibility. It can be incredibly daunting both setting up a business and learning all the different aspects of running that business, and this is particularly hard when you have a chronic illness, as you need to ensure that you look after your health as well. Providing support and advice can make all the difference.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or the proudest moment in your life so far?
Raising my two happy children who are thoughtful and kind and who are already planning their own businesses!
If there was one thing you could change about peoples’ perception of disability, what would it be and why?
That not all disabilities are visible. There are a lot of people with hidden illnesses that really affect their quality of life, and just because someone looks well it doesn’t mean that they are.
Who or what inspires you?
The members of the Entrepreneurs against the Odds community, who are all facing different types of disabilities and illnesses which greatly affect their daily life. They are all at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey, but they have all come so far and are a great support to one another. It is inspirational to hear their journeys and what they have overcome to achieve success.
Do you have a recommendation for a book or a podcast which has helped you along your journey?
I really enjoy the Conversations with Inspiration with Holly Tucker podcast as I find the stories of other business owners’ journeys very inspirational. I have also just launched my own podcast where I give advice on running a business with a chronic illness and interview other business owners with chronic illnesses in order to share their inspirational journeys.