I’m Anne Welsh from Painless Universal and I’m a #WORLDCHANGER

This week on the #WORLDCHANGERS series, we speak to Anne Welsh who, despite being born with sickle cell disease (SCD), transformed her illness into a strength becoming a successful entrepreneur, published author and an international speaker. 

Anne Welsh
Anne Welsh

Current job: Founder and CEO of Painless Universal; Executive Board member for The Business School (formerly Cass).

One word that best describes how you work: Passion

My inspiration: Everyday people making a difference in extraordinary circumstances

My role model: My former boss. He is my role model because he believed in me and gave me strength and motivated me when I was at my lowest point. He inspired me to believe in myself, to be fierce and relentless in everything I did.

My favourite place in the world: Home

A quality you like most in people: Honesty

A food you can’t live without: I enjoy a good doughnut every now and then

First of all, tell us a little about you and how you have transformed your chronic illness into a strength?

The mental and physical effort that was needed to overcome the daily challenge of living with sickle cell disease (SCD) has pushed me to space where I can clearly see my own potential. I have been able to transform a chronic illness into a strength by surrounding myself with people who believed in me and never gave up on me, even at my weakest point. Also, I made a strong mental decision to approach life positively after a trip to Nigeria. It changed my internal thinking from one of feeling self-pity to one of feeling grateful; appreciating that my life is not the worst off and that so many people needed more than I could possibly imagine.

When was the moment you understood you could become a role model for all people struggling with chronic illness?

It started when I joined the Sickle Cell Society UK charity and became its Chairperson for two years. In this role, I heard so many stories of pain and realised my leadership could influence many everyday positive changes for people living with SCD. I really understood that I was becoming a role model for many people struggling with Chronic illness in 2016 when I started being approached for my advice on how to deal with issues of pain by patients and carers. I was also invited to give a large number of talks on these issues. I believe this happened because I have always tried to build on positivity, compassion and empathy by mentoring and reaching out to people with chronic illness through business, my charitable undertakings and with the launch of my book Pain-less.

Tell us about the journey to becoming an Instagram influencer, and how did you build up more than 700K followers? 

This was not an overnight success. I built the number of followers gradually by speaking at events and encouraging people to follow my page. Big strides happened in 2017 when I changed the content focus and simultaneously improved the quality of my posts. The interest really started growing when I began to share stories of places I was visiting, how to deal with pain and my family adventures.

It’s fantastic to see a social media platform used to deliver and share a positive message about pain, do you believe digital transformation can make our life better?

Of course, digital transformation can make life better. Already I am seeing this outcome for the Painless Universal business. On this platform, we use the digital space to share stories of inspiration, hope and how people have found joy along the way. It is a really strong example of how the use of digital technology facilitates the sharing of inspirational stories quickly and to a global audience. Some people will have better lives because of access to this information. 

You have a wide variety of video interviews on your social platforms, how do you choose your guests?

It’s all in the story – how the person being interviewed is able to share and inspire. The story must come from the heart with deep feeling. I read a person’s profile and can immediately tell if they are the right fit. I also do basic research on the person. The method is a very holistic process by which all types of media are researched to match the individual to the right story. I also listen to current events and take suggestions from my team to help choose and appreciate a pain topic of interest to the audience.

Where the idea of founding Painless Universal came from?

It came purely from my book “PAIN-LESS – Living with Pain, Finding Joy”. During the launch of my book, I was speaking to guests at the event and I realised it was not just my story that was important but that of so many other people facing the same challenges as myself. I felt empowered to help others by understanding their pain and helping them find their joy.

Tell us about the journey of writing ‘Pain-less‘ your memoir about living life with sickle cell anaemia?

The journey was long, about five years long. It was long because I started in 2014 and stopped because I didn’t want my life to be out in the public at that time. I just was not comfortable including the negatives as well as the positives in my life. However, in 2018 I just decided to really go for it and get the book completed. My biggest fear of putting everything out there for the world to read was solved after talking to my family and friends and reading lots of positive memoirs form celebrities like Maya Angelou and more. I was no longer ashamed of my story, especially the unpleasant parts of my life brought on by my chronic illness and life circumstance. I felt encouraged to use my story to inspire others which turned into a very transparent life story sharing the journey of success and disappointments, and most importantly how I found joy along the way. I was committed to setting deadlines and working diligently with my publisher so that in the end the publisher delivered the books as promised and the London launch went off smoothly in June 2019.

How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?

I really love what I do and I never want to rest from it! As someone famously said: do what you love and you never have to work a day in your life. Also, I often spend time with my family and my two sisters along with their children, and this really gives me an emotional lift. With so many young children around you don’t have time to think about work. I take a warm bath, exercise and sleeping without a setting a wake up on Sunday’s to ensure I get my rest.

Tell us about a movie you could watch over and over again?

Honestly, it is very had to choose just one film. I will say any movies on the Christmas channel – I can watch those over and over again any time of the year. It just gives me so much joy!!

To finish on a light note, as a fashion icon, who is your favourite designer?

Gianni Versace, for his opulence in life and how he projected that into his fashion experience. As a guest of a corporate event, I was fortunate to visit his Miami Beach mansion after his untimely passing. The detail and beauty of his home captured so much of his fashion personality, and for me, showed why to this day his classical designs live on and influence new generations of designers.

You can follow Anne Welsh on Instagram @ladyannewelsh

We love to interview #WORLDCHANGERS and listen about their challenges and their achievements. We can help you to optimize your Brand Strategy to reach your business goals.