Harrogate-based luxury aromatherapy brand Neom started 11 years ago with just five candles. Now it’s blossomed into a comprehensive wellbeing range with stores in London and Leeds and has just celebrated the launch of its first perfume. I recently caught up with the inspirational co-founder and creative director Nicola Elliott on how she started the brand, her favourite wellbeing tips and balancing her work and home life.
DESCRIBE YOUR ‘AVERAGE’ WORKING DAY / WEEK
My husband and I are always up early before the madness of getting two children (aged 6 and 8) up and ready for school. I’ll take our little Westie puppy Harry out for a run before having a refreshing shower with our Great Day Body Scrub. It gives me the perfect burst of energy before a busy day! My day in the office is a mix of meetings, creative brainstorms and catching up with the team, and I leave work at 5pm so I can spend time with my children. I try my best to stay unplugged until 8pm, and when the kids have gone to bed I usually respond to emails and brainstorm ideas for projects we’re working on. I always try to take time for myself to unwind and relax by having a bath with a few drops of Tranquillity Bath Oil, practising a mindfulness exercise or even just reading a chapter of one of my favourite books. I’m a big reader and we have a bit of an informal ‘Wellbeing Book Club’ in the office.
Myself and business partner Oli have had the business for 11 years. I love that every day is different, I can go into the office first thing for a meeting with our Product Development team, then I’ll go into a meeting with our Digital team on our ‘Sleeptember’ campaign, and then we’ll be Christmas planning. I have final sign off on anything creative that leaves the office, whether that’s online, in store, or for press events. I have made sure that I have the best team around me – great people are everything. Their skills, their insights, their passion are the biggest asset. The Neom team all believe in our joint goal – to inspire busy people to lead naturally healthy lives.
DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO BE YOUR OWN BOSS?
I was in the glossy magazine industry for 7 years, working mainly on the entertainment side with celebrities which was great fun, but towards the end I was crying out for a ‘normal’ job, where I wasn’t being called in the middle of the night to change a celebrity’s nail appointment or something similar! I was burnt out at the age of 26. It was then I thought “I have to take stock and look at taking a different angle.” I was surrounded by women who were really stressed – they were either having problems with lack of energy or sleeping badly, or were just generally in need of a mood boost.
So it was something that happened organically, I have a true passion for women’s health and wellbeing. Plus at that time there was a growing awareness of green and organic beauty, which wasn’t necessarily in easy reach for consumers so I knew there was a little gap where Neom could sit perfectly.
I started training as an aromatherapist and nutritionist after work, so I started creating little essential oil blends and tinctures for friends and work colleagues. It was really obvious to me from the beginning that my products had to be 100% natural and, where possible, organic to actually work. It’s all about the purity of the essential oils, the complexity of the blends and the highest level of inclusion. At the same time, my sister was having trouble sleeping. She is a staunch ‘greeny’ and was working for Friends Of The Earth – she only ever uses organic products. So I made her a blend and called it ‘Tranquillity’ and it really helped her. My next lightbulb moment was when I was looking for some organic pampering gifts, again for my very green-minded but glamorous sister. Eleven years ago, what was available to buy in the shops was pretty uninspiring. I had to either choose something glam that was full of synthetic chemicals or head to a health food shop, buy something with great organic credentials but stuffed in a brown paper bag. To crack the market, I realised my essential oil blends had to look good as well as do good. So my business partner Oliver and I started with just 5 candles, the first candles on the market to be made only with 100% natural wax and pure essential oils.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT LIVING IN THE NORTH?
I love the north, I love the fresh air and country walks. I love what Leeds has to offer in terms of shopping and restaurants. I love that my family and most of my friends are here – it’s a great place to raise a family. I’m lucky that I have the best of both worlds as I travel to London for work every other week, and sometimes I’ll go for the weekend to see friends that still live there; I love the energy that the South Bank has to offer.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE
My style during the week is pretty casual; jeans, shirts, several gold necklaces, and an oversized bag and coat, and at the weekend it is pretty much the same but with trainers as I’m usually dashing around with the kids! I love M&S for jumpers and shirts and Russel and Bromley shoes and bags.
AND YOUR SKINCARE ROUTINE?
My skincare routine is very simple. I love a Balance Me Cleanser and anything with Rosehip Oil in it as it’s so soothing for my skin. I use products that are multi-tasking and take minimal time to use! The same goes for my fragrance, a quick spritz of our new 100% Natural Energy Burst Perfume not only scents my skin beautifully but gives me a natural burst of energy too – it’s like a natural hit of caffeine in the mornings, in fact you can use it whenever and wherever!
HOW DO YOU USE NEOM IN THE HOME?
It’s difficult to choose a favourite product because I like different fragrances at different times of the day or week or month! But one of my favourites has to be the Perfect Night Sleep Pillow Mist. We conducted the most brilliant survey on our Scent to Sleep range last year… 88% of people said they had a better night’s sleep after using our sleep regime and this has been a constant sell out because of it. My husband and kids all have bottles beside their beds, we have a panic if we travel without it now!
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR PERFECT WEEKEND?
A relaxing weekend with my husband, kids and dog Harry, where we’re all getting along and the kids aren’t pulling each other’s hair out! We love going on country walks, eating delicious food with a few splashes of wine. A chance to unplug and really switch off. I always say that making time to do this is a necessity, not a luxury!
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN?
80 per cent and done is better than perfect. After hearing this advice, I’m now pretty good at seeing the big picture and that’s so important for not tying yourself up in knots. Yes, details are crucial but sometimes you just have to move forward above everything else.
Big thanks to Nicola for taking the time to answer my questions. I always get a buzz hearing from entrepreneurial women, who’ve managed to make a living from their passion. Take a look at some of the other Q&As in my series 5 minutes with… if you’d like to meet a few more.