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Blog : : Company Insights

Darren Collett-Mills, Managing Director of Early Bird Swift and Axis Medicare

Posted in: BlogCompany Insights

24th July 2019

Early Bird Swift, the home pregnancy and fertility test brand, has a history spanning over 30 years, and its success can certainly be attributed to its wealth of experience and quality of product. Little did Darren Collett-Mills, its Managing Director, know just how things would evolve when he started his career in pharmaceuticals in his early 20’s. He tells his story…

How did you begin your career in pharmaceuticals?

In my teens, I was fortunate enough to be acquainted with Denis O’Neill, one of the founders and Managing Director of Kent Pharmaceuticals. He was a huge inspiration to me and when I finished university, it was him that gave me a chance to learn the ropes within his business. I started working there at 21 and worked in most of the departments that they had; from the IT department, to sales, to develop my knowledge. I knew from then that this was the industry I wanted to build my career in. There’s always a need for medicines!

What happened from there?

Axis Medicare was set up initially within Kent Pharmaceuticals, as a supplier of over the counter products. Early Bird Swift, a long standing and successful brand originally launched by Kent Pharmaceuticals in 1986, became Axis’s first trademarked and over-the-counter product. I was then appointed General Manager of Early Bird Swift, driving the future growth of the brand and sales.

How did the success of Early Bird Swift grow?

The brand went from strength to strength after its launch by Kent Pharmaceuticals and Axis has seen it do the same for them. In a sense, the baton was passed from Kent to Axis so many of the team felt a strong affiliation with Early Bird Swift. The pregnancy test was a product that was re-launched by Axis with the intention to be an educational product for women. Although it was always designed to be simplistic, with quality the priority, we wanted it to be more than a commodity as we really wanted to help customers with their next steps after finding out if they are pregnant or not. We genuinely care about the welfare of our customers, and we’ve always supplied advice and recommended contacts for help, whether customers receive the outcome they are hoping for or not. We believe we have now taken it to the next level in terms of advice and support.

You then took Early Bird Swift independent?

Yes. Sadly, my dear friend and mentor Denis became terminally ill and Kent Pharmaceuticals was acquired soon after. I had the backing from Denis’ brother Ken, to buy Axis Medicare and the brand Early Bird Swift outright to continue the fantastic legacy that was built. In 2013 we started off by setting up a small unit (the size of a couple of large bedrooms!) where we only had the space to sell Early Bird Swift and a few OTC medicines. Starting with only a handful of staff, over time we succeeded in developing a substantial and award-winning business. We also relaunched the Axis Medicare brand and as the business has grown, we have had to move to a new premise which has opened up even more opportunities to develop the brand and our offerings. This has taken us to a whole new and exciting level with hopefully plenty more to come.

What’s next for Early Bird Swift?

Early Bird Swift is a brand built on great values. Whilst we are always looking to develop, quality and accuracy is the formula for success in our product. As the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’. We also love the Kent history of the brand. Based in the heart of Kent, we have really stuck to our roots, with a wealth of experience under our belts. A majority of our staff members are the same people who helped to launch the brand all those years ago and are a testament to our continued success.

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