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Podcast: My life as a serial entrepreneur pharmacy owner

In the latest episode of the A Coffee With... podcast series, co-owner of four independent pharmacies Sobha Sharma Kandel tells C+D about her path to entrepreneurship and the importance of community pharmacy for people facing barriers to healthcare

Sobha Sharma Kandel and her husband bought their first pharmacy in Abbey Wood, southeast London, in 2009. Ms Kandel was expecting her third child and worked at Boots as a pharmacist.

Going from working at a multiple to becoming an entrepreneur is challenging, said Ms Kandel. “If you have a passion for what you do, where there is a will there is a way and you make it work,” she said. Her entrance into independent pharmacy ownership went so well that she purchased another business, buying Woolwich late night pharmacy in 2013.

Now owning four pharmacies across southeast London, community pharmacy is still a good place to own a business, she says, but not as profitable as it was when Ms Kandel bought her first pharmacy 15 years ago. “It has got more challenging with the NHS funding cuts. We’re doing a lot more work now for less or similar remuneration,” she told C+D.


Access to healthcare


A proud member of the Nepalese community, is it important to Ms Kandel to support members of that community that may have trouble accessing healthcare for multiple reasons.  “There is a big Nepalese community here, a big ex-Gurkha community, who have a lot of barriers accessing healthcare. We became a community hub, especially during COVID-19 with vaccinations, and it was a natural progression to offer more branches in the area,” she says.

In 2019, the third branch in Plumstead was opened, and after the pandemic the fourth branch in Welling was opened.


Work life balance


If her career as co-owner of multiple pharmacies, and the role of superintendent pharmacist at Neem Tree wasn’t enough, Ms Kandel is also studying for her PhD at the Medway School of Pharmacy and works part time as a clinical pharmacist in GP practice.

Balancing your life and career is difficult, says Ms Kandel. Often the caregiving responsibilities for children and elderly relatives can fall to a woman. “These challenges are quite unique to women, and they were more apparent during COVID when children had to be home schooled,” she said. "Compromise is needed in order to achieve success,” she says.

Kandel says she is lucky because, being an entrepreneur, she can plan her own workload which, along with a strong family support network, makes a big difference.

Read more: Number of would-be first-time pharmacy buyers shot up 91% last year

She wishes she had been given more advice or information about where else pharmacy could take you apart from community, industry and hospital pharmacy, and she loves her role as a prescriber within a GP surgery.

“Think outside of the box from what is already there,” she advises. “Create your own pathway and what you want to achieve in your career, work hard toward that goal and be brave in your authentic self. Don’t miss opportunities and be confident,” she said. 

Listen to the podcast to learn about:

  • The challenges of running a pharmacy business

  • Advice for female entrepreneurs

  • Connecting with the local community


You can listen to the podcast above. Alternatively, follow C+D’s podcasts by searching “Chemist+Druggist podcast” on your preferred app or on Soundcloud


Join C+D's Women in Pharmacy group for free by registering for free on the C+D Community

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