As a black, female, independent pharmacy owner, Waheedat Owodeyi is fairly unique and, perhaps not surprisingly, “is not afraid to challenge the status quo”, according to her nominator.
Owodeyi first graduated as a pharmacist in Nigeria, before moving to the UK in 2004, doing her preregistration placement and carefully building experience working in Boots, Asda and as a locum, until she was ready to take the brave step of owning her own business in 2016.
It is a business that straddles the divide, offering online dispensing but also meeting the needs of the community, with a wide range of NHS-commissioned and other clinical services. In the six years since she started it, the pharmacy has offered a new medication service, emergency contraception, smoking cessation, NHS health checks and flu vaccinations, as well as travel vaccination, earwax removal and weight management as private services.
Owodeyi runs the only pharmacy-led COVID-19 vaccination centre in the town and, after almost a year, it has administered 11,000 vaccinations. She also runs a growing flu vaccination campaign for staff in 25 local care homes, boosting uptake by up to 80% in 2021 by going to the staff, rather than expecting them to come to her.
It takes determination to get a new business off the ground, something Owodeyi learnt from her entrepreneur father, but it has not always been easy, particularly coping with the loss of income during the early months of the pandemic.
“It was a big learning curve having my own business, but you pick things up as you go. It was just me, but I had a lot of support from the LPC [local pharmaceutical committee],” she says. Owodeyi didn’t get the go-ahead for the pharmacy the first time she applied but she appealed. This is typical of her approach, her nominator explains: “She learns, grows and evolves”.
It didn’t take her long to realise that relying on prescriptions would not help her grow the business. “We have grown a lot and grown the services. We are not where we want to be but we’re way ahead of where we used to be.”
While travel vaccinations and earwax removal are becoming more popular, she would like to expand her range of services further. “I have been an independent prescriber for a few years, so I would like to make more use of that, maybe through a minor ailments scheme.”
Her NHS services are helping to take pressure off local GPs, with only a short wait for smoking cessation. “I like keeping busy,” she notes, which is a good job given that she also has a skincare business and a travel agency service, the latter a more recent addition.
“I have learnt to juggle things and now each business thrives by itself. One of the reasons I went into travel is to switch away from pharmacy and it is more relaxing. Part of it was wanting to do something completely different, but it could help me get more insight [into the travel clinic she runs].” This year, she has been to Mecca, Portugal and Canada, as she learns more about the business.
“I’m a woman with many colours,” she explains, and that is certainly true.
“I am truly inspired by this pharmacist”
“A female pharmacy owner who is an international graduate and, not only does she have the online pharmacy, she also runs the COVID vaccination centre”
Meet the rest of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Women to Watch 2022 here