We caught up with Gary Butterfield, a member of the 2023 PARSE cohort, to find out more about his journey as a tech founder.
Tell us a bit about your company, and your role, in your own words.
I’m Gary, Co-founder and Executive Director at Everyday Juice Limited (EJL). I started my career in the fitness industry before moving into HR.
At EJL, we believe that everyone has the right to be healthy and happy at work, connected to a community of people who want to make a positive impact on themselves and their workplace.
By mixing a combination of technical infrastructure through our Saas product, Juice, and consultancy services, we work with HR and wellbeing leads to build communities within large organisations. We bring people together through shared experiences, interests, passions and hobbies, to create remarkable places to work.
What was the inspiration behind setting up your business?
Unlike many businesses, we didn’t start with the intention of being a commercial opportunity.
In 2011, we were wellbeing leads at the University of Sheffield within their HR function, and at a time of significant sector-wide change we initially designed Juice for our then 8,200 colleagues. We wanted to show our people that the university was a community that they belonged in, that they were appreciated, and it was a place that they wanted to stay. We wanted to show our 8,200 colleagues that we genuinely cared about them.
The University was already incredibly siloed, with colleagues rarely engaging with others outside of their usual teams, and we didn’t want to compound this with further individual interventions (i.e. mindfulness apps, personalised gym programmes etc). We wanted to bring people together, and Juice would enable us to do this whilst making the user journey, internal comms, and our administration, incredibly simple.
We won loads of awards for our work, including the Sunday Times Top 100 Wellbeing Special Award in 2016, but we cared most about what our users were saying. We presented at conferences across sectors about our work and it was clear that other large organisations faced similar issues. EJL was born on Friday 13th February 2015.
Why did you decide to take part in PARSE, and what are you hoping to achieve from the experience?
Over the years I have faced my fair share of adversity and conflict as well as experiencing some of the many high points that can come with running a business. I’ve learnt a lot in this time, and I want to share what I’ve learnt with others. However, I am absolutely no expert, and there’s much that I don’t know – I am looking forward to learning from others.
From your experience so far, what has been the most valuable thing you have found within the Leeds tech community?
Leeds is my home city and has a bustling tech community. The UK generally has a strong tech culture with large cities leading the charge in numerous different industries and sector, but I think Leeds is different.
A massive range of industries are represented here, from financial and professional services like mine, to technology-driven pet brands and death-tech support services. What makes Leeds truly special is the community-wide approach to support and learning. Competitors and non-competitors alike, we’re all in each other’s corners through thick and thin.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a Startup currently?
The answer to this question is always the sales cycle. As a B2B company working with large organisations the decision-making process is incredibly slow, expensive to navigate, with small chance of conversion. If someone could give me the silver bullet to this I would be forever in your debt!
Looking forward, what are your hopes and ambitions as a company over the next 12 months?
It’s been an incredibly difficult couple of years for us because of the pandemic. For a business that specialises in bringing people into one room, Covid was a major blow to our cashflow. I’m hopeful that we’ve seen the back of the worst of it now.
My goal for the next twelve months outside of cash flow recovery is to move into a new market where we’ve already had a bit of traction. It’ll be using Juice but in a slightly different way.
How do you personally define success?
I first joined the fitness industry because I wanted to help people with their wellbeing, 10-15 people at a time, in whatever way that meant to them. I then moved into HR because I saw an opportunity to support not just 10-15 people at any given time, but to support 8,200 people. We created EJL because we saw the opportunity to not just support 8,200 people, but potentially hundreds of thousands of people.
Success to me isn’t cash in the bank, it’s the number of people whose lives have been impacted for the better by our work.
Who, or what, has been the single biggest influence on your working life?
This is a difficult question to answer because there isn’t one person or thing.
Andy Dodman, then HR Director at the University of Sheffield, now CHRO at Leeds City Council, for believing in me and for allowing me to lead on such a large project at the tender age of 24.
Andrew Wood, for supporting me and EJL since day one, and for being there during the pandemic when everything was crumbling around me.
Rob Baker, for his friendship, support, and for giving me a friendly ear whenever I needed one. Also, for being open to experimenting, like when we co-created Three Good Things.
Myself, for being open to opportunities, having an eagerness to work on projects, and reflective enough to look back on past experiences and think up solutions, some of which form part of EJL’s offering today.
There are many, many more..