Olivia talking with Witty Scholars on a screen

December 1, 2023, by aczht

A midwife, her memoirs and a mountain of marketing.

Alumni Olivia Swift (BSc Direct entry Midwife 2015, MSc Marketing 2022) is the founder of Lotus Maternity, providing award-winning, unique and premium, UK-made nursing tops that allow women to breastfeed in public with confidence and complete discretion. Lotus Maternity is also passionate about expert care for families after pregnancy and offers an expert service ‘designed by midwives for mothers’.

Based in the Ingenuity Lab in the Ingenuity Centre, Olivia has been able to receive support to help grow her business.

Olivia shares her journey and what she’s learned so far:

Olivia in a graduation gown standing in front of large green letters, UON

Midwifery and the Business School don’t traditionally marry in terms of subject matter, but it rings true in this instance that the key lies within your network.

Having been the only Masters of Marketing graduate to hold a midwifery undergraduate degree, there were no surprises regarding the route to market in my story. It was unconventional, to say the least. My success story – and I do deem it so, having stood on the David Ross stage not once but twice in the Summer of 2022, graduating with both a distinction and winning a prestigious alumni award – began with a chat to the Dean of Nottingham University Business School, Professor David Park.

I have been affiliated with Nottingham University Business School since 2017 when I first incorporated my business, Lotus Maternity, and received the warmest of welcomes from Terri at the Ingenuity Lab, which has now become my second home. During the pandemic, I parked business as usual however, since there was a national recall for healthcare professionals to don their PPE so I opted to return to clinical practice to help support the NHS.

Olivia wearing a pregnancy belly standing in the Ingenuity Lab holding some leaflets and tampons

Olivia wearing a pregnancy belly.

At that time, David was Professor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and feeling somewhat disheartened by having to put business operations on hold, I thought about how I could strengthen the business whilst it was dormant.

You can have the best product in the world but if you can’t market it you are dead in the water. We have multi-award-winning products and services at Lotus Maternity but I had zero formal training on marketing then. So, I decided I would return to the University of Nottingham, nine years after starting my undergraduate degree to master (literally) the art of marketing. The only problem was that I had a 2:2 and the entry requirements were 2:1 or higher.

There’s a lot to be said in business regarding tenacity, and I have plentiful, but I also have peers and allies who appreciate that experience counts equally as much as good grades. So, I called David. He put me in touch with the module convenor, we had a chat, I applied based on my business experience and got accepted.

Front page of Nottingham Post newspaper with a picture of Olivia in nurse uniform with caption, Olivia puts business on hold to return to hospital as midwide.

Doing university remotely was strange, being seen as a ‘mature student’ aged 30, also somewhat odd, but I think what I look back on now and smile upon is the continual support received from the school despite being the ‘odd one out’.

Most of my peers had graduated from business school, I’d graduated from the school of midwifery. I remember speaking to the professors on commencing the course about getting support with academic writing because a large proportion of my undergraduate degree was clinical placement and I lacked experience in essay writing for Higher Education. I remember Dr Anastasios Pagiaslis (Tassos) being really encouraging and I always think of him fondly remembering when he sent a rather stern email at the beginning of the strategic marketing module, asking why I had not outlined the members for our group coursework. I was working as community clinical manager on the COVID-19 vaccination programme for Nottinghamshire and our undertaking was enormous with needing to inoculate an entire population. He was wonderfully forgiving and understood exactly why it was perhaps not a top priority.

Olivia in a yellow suit talking to colleagues in front of stands Exhibiting with HGI at The Power of Partnerships event June, 2023

Exhibiting with HGI at The Power of Partnerships event, June 2023

Nottingham University Business School continued to understand that my MSc was very much a vocation and that I had chosen to enhance my business operations when I was eventually relieved of my clinical duties. Sally, my dissertation supervisor, seemed somewhat bemused when I submitted the outline for my dissertation – which focused on television marketing of infant formula milk and how it influences women’s choice to breastfeed. It’s paramount to produce work that you are passionate about and supporting breastfeeding was the genesis of Lotus Maternity. For Sally to say to me on graduation day what a fantastic piece of work it was, cemented for me the nature of Nottingham University Business School and how passionate it is on supporting business and championing innovators, who dare to do things differently.

Cheers to that and long may it continue.

Women’s reproductive and gynaecological health in organisations workshops: 

Olivia and Claire Mann, CEO and founder of ChangeXtra, hold sessions designed to give an introduction to reproductive and gynae health issues at work. They introduce menstruation, maternity and menopause and give an idea of the impacts and some actions businesses can take to support women. ChangeXtra is passionate about enabling conversations about the Menopause and empowering women through positive change. Together, Olivia and Claire have developed collaborative consultancy and training designed to empower workplaces to support women. They won NTU Enterprise ‘Partnership of the Year’ 2023 award.

For further inform, contact Claire or Olivia.

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