Our,’ Ten Minutes With,’ series of interviews gives businesses the opportunity to tell us about themselves, how they’ve adapted to Covid-19 and what their plans are for the future.
This week we’re talking to Marc Cotterill, Business Architect and Creative and one of the first people in the UK to benefit from a new drug to help manage his life-limiting condition, Cystic Fibrosis.
2020 was an incredibly tough year for Marc as he was shielding for most of it, and very sadly lost his Dad, yet together with his business partner still managed to launch his new company eurikah, as well as creatively supporting two Cystic Fibrosis charities.
With such a powerful story to tell, here in his own words, he explains how a new treatment has transformed his life and how he can’t wait for things to return to normal
What five words would you use to describe yourself?
- Family Orientated
Tell us about yourself?
I’m 39-years old, I live in the Staffordshire Moorlands and have developed a career over the last 12 years as a Business Architect – helping businesses improve or transform – after starting my working life in the post room at Britannia Building Society in Leek many years earlier.
I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a life-limiting condition that affects around 100,000 people worldwide and causes the body to produce thick mucus within many of the body’s organs. For me, CF led to a significant reduction in lung function impacting my ability to breathe freely.
When parents receive a CF diagnosis, there are two key things that are emphasised. The first is treatment compliance to ensure you treat the symptoms and stand the best chance of fighting infection, and the second is exercise to help keep the lungs clear, fit and as healthy as possible. Following this guidance offers an individual with CF the best possible chance of an increased life expectancy, which at the time of my diagnosis at 18 months old was just 15 years.
From day one, my parents instilled both of these principles within me. Daily treatments were a normal part of everyday life and I took part in lots of sports including gymnastics, competing at regional and national levels.
I often liken living with CF to a race; despite early complications, I started out in life way out in front of CF, it wasn’t in my way, but it could certainly see me ahead and was trying it’s best to catch up. Fast forward, and not only did CF catch up, but it massively overtook me, leaving obstacles in my way, some of which were seemingly way too difficult to climb or avoid.
Slowly but surely CF was asking more of me, demanding more of my time. A year ago I was doing physiotherapy and treatments three times a day, spending up to two hours per session to shift the thick and sticky rubbish on my chest. The only reason I stopped was through exhaustion or simply admitting defeat. CF was just too far ahead for me to even attempt to catch up.
Towards the end of 2019, my lungs were functioning at around the 30-32% range when compared to a healthy individual of the same height and weight, and it’s really difficult to explain how that feels. Gone are the controlled, deep and rich breaths that I was once used to, the most ordinary and basic tasks seem that much more strenuous and exhausting and at this stage, CF is something that consumes life, it demands focus, it demands attention and it has to come before everything else.
Regular IV antibiotics are required to treat the infections caused by CF and due to poor vascular access having had so many IVs, I was very close to agreeing to invasive vascular surgery to help construct new veins in the hope that this would improve access. This was before I heard about a new CF drug.
Depending on which side of the Atlantic you find yourself on, they call it Trikafta or Kaftrio… but as for our community, we call it: the game changer
After doing my own research, whilst still without license for use in the UK, I wrote to Vertex (the company that manufactures the drug) and applied for compassionate access to it. After hearing the amazing results of patients in America, I saw this as a potential solution to my diminishing lung function and the need for IVs in the first place, let alone vascular surgery.
Luckily, my application was successful and I was one of the first in the UK to receive Kaftrio and overnight, almost like magic, it has transformed my life.
At 32% lung function, I remember what 50% felt like and I longed for it. That was my ultimate goal, to have lungs that would function just half as well as they should. But improvement like that, from 32% to 50%, beforehand was basically unheard of certainly without serious intervention and even then it was a stretch. Somehow though, lung function shot up to 50% over night and from there climbed even further, and now sits as high as recordings from back in my teens.
As a result of this improvement, everything feels easier. I still have CF, I’m still not ‘healthy’, but I have a longer deeper breath, exercise is easier, energy is through the roof and life is fuller.
As one of the first in the UK to receive this amazing drug, I began sharing my story by creating content in 2020 in the hope that campaigning would support a UK licence and roll out, and since then in June 2020, we received the great news that all eligible CF patients would receive the drug and within a matter of weeks, they did.
Over the last year I have been working with the Cystic Fibrosis Trust creating digital content voluntarily, and also on the board of trustees with the CF Holiday Fund Charity. I have been doing this around my main line of work (Business Architecture) and whilst building and launching a new investment platform eurikah.
Tell us about you and your business?
My business partner and I launched eurikah last year. eurikah is a ‘do-it-for-me’ investment platform with two key differentiators:
1: A time-based approach to investment portfolios: a truly accessible approach to investing that leads to better outcomes for members more often by aligning a portfolio to you based on the amount of time you have to invest (for example, if you’re investing for a child’s future, you might have 18 years. If you’re investing for retirement you may have longer still. Or perhaps it’s for a house deposit and you might have a shorter time frame).
2: Subscription fees: unlike every other managed investment service out there (think Money Box, Nutmeg, etc.) we reject the idea of %based fees for our service. Instead of that approach, we simply charge just £5 per month and what this means is that not only does it cost members less but it boosts their potential to achieve their investment goal as more of their money is left working for them.
As a takeaway, eurkah allows anyone to invest, even if they don’t know where to start or what to invest into, with the aim of helping anyone achieve goals that currently may feel out of reach, like getting onto the property ladder, building a nest egg for family, paying for university rather than getting into debt, or any other financial goal.
We have high aspirations and already have a growing community of members who love our service. For those who like the sound of eurikah, if you’re worried about low interest rates on cash savings and you have a financial goal that you’d like to work towards, check out our website at eurikah.com.
What did you do before launching your business?
At the start of my career whilst at Britannia, I was introduced to a very inspirational guy who had quite possibly the coolest job title ever: ‘Master Black Belt’. I decided to apply for a new role that would allow me to work for this person, still within Britannia, and it led to a career that I never knew existed. Smart(er) trousers and shirt became my Gi and Tony (the Master Black Belt) became my Sensei. As opposed to martial arts, however, the art-form in question was known as Lean Six Sigma. ‘Lean’ is about making a business more efficient by removing waste and ‘Six Sigma’ is about reducing defects, with both practices serving the end goal of improving customer experience. Since Britannia, ‘Ive been able to use the tools and techniques I was taught by Tony and help many other businesses improve or transform and I love it.
When working to change and improve a business, there is also a people side of change to consider, and I became really interested in using technology to simplify really complex messages in creative ways. Along the way, I became passionate about this and studied eLearning design, graphic design, video and audio editing, and cinematography. These tools proved really useful in helping deliver new ways of working and explain the benefits of change to colleagues and customers.
Since then I’ve offered these services in a freelance capacity to the likes of Reebok, David Lloyd Gyms, Dynamax, the Medical Protection Society, Cavefit, and I have shot promo films in Scotland, London and Spain for various brands.
I also work for free with various brands in the CF space too to help promote health and fitness within the CF community
What has lockdown been like for you?
I’ve been shielding for pretty much all of lockdown, so just over a year now and I’ve been through my highest of highs thanks to Kaftrio and my lowest of lows after losing my dad to (what I believe was) Covid last year.
It was particularly difficult because I was advised not to go to the funeral due to the risks and we still have not had an opportunity to get together as family to process our loss together. But through work, new health and the ability to throw myself into fitness at home, I have managed to keep a positive mindset.
In order to celebrate the news of Kaftrio in the UK last June, I produced and recorded a song called a Thousand Years, which made it to the finals of a national songwriting competition and together with various other projects, I‘ve been able to put my energy into good things rather than feeling lost.
What are you looking forward to most about restrictions easing?
In a word, Family. My sister lives in Wales and I’ve obviously not been able to see her and the family now for a year, so it’ll be fantastic to visit with my mum and be together. We’ll be able to give my Dad the memorial he deserves too which I know is going to be very emotional for all of us.
I’m also excited to see my friends again, eat out, socialise and go to the gym – all the normal things that we’ve not been able to do for so long.
What are your plans for the future?
In the CF space, I want to share more content and stories about those living with the condition. I have begun a visual podcast where I chat with every day CFers to share what CF means to them, you can catch this on my YouTube: Marc Cotterill
Work-wise, we want to grow eurikah into what we believe it could be and compete with some of the biggest platforms in the UK. We built eurikah in a way that truly puts our members outcomes first and we believe that will resonate with a lot of people. We also have additional services that we want to bring to market to add further value to members too, so lots to be getting on with there.
Health-wise, I want to take advantage of my increased lung function. Fitness is a huge part of my life and it’s now enjoyable again, so I plan to take advantage of that and make the most of life in general.
Who is your inspiration?
Definitely my family: Mum, Dad and my sister Lisa.
My Dad’s work ethic is something I always admired and I like to think that some of that has rubbed off and has been instilled in me.
My Mum was also a hard worker but she played a different role on top of that too. As a kid she managed everything to do with my CF, hospital appointments, physio and treatments, prescriptions, making sure I was always compliant with everything to give me the best chance of survival. She did this whilst still looking after Lisa and giving her the attention and focus she needed whilst studying at night to move up the career ladder also.
They both span so many plates to make sure my sister and I had everything we needed and I’ll be forever grateful to them.
Lisa has spent her entire working life in healthcare for the NHS, so you can only imagine what that’s been like over the last year. She’s given us the most amazing and beautiful nieces and she’s always looked out for me too.
I feel inspired by many outside of the family too. My best friend Matt Oakes who quit his very well-paid job in the oil and gas industry years ago to study for a degree has now just submitted his PhD and my friend Chris Marsh, who has helped me secure some really exciting contracts over the years too.
What was your dream job when you were at school?
Gymnastics was my thing at school. I admired Olympic gymnast Neil Thomas and was lucky enough to train with him a few times. Outside of the gym, it would have been music. As a lead guitarist for a band called Orchard and having signed a record deal whilst still at school, I was certain that rock stardom was the only plausible outcome, but it wasn’t to be.
Looking back though, it was less about the ‘what’ and more about ‘how’. Having the ability to be creative is something that was important then and is still really important to me now. Creativity keeps me inspired, hungry and excited about what might come next.
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