Julie, where did you grow up and what is your most vivid childhood memory?
I grew up in Essex and my most vivid memories are of winter picnics in Epping Forest. We would take a stew and a gas burner to heat the food and then run freely in the woods, building dens and picking berries.
You seem to show a deep love and understanding of ingredients, both in your skincare products and in your attitude to food, complemented by your knowledge of the benefits of local and native botanicals. Can you tell us about when and how this passion started?
It is something I have always been interested in, the benefits of herbs in cooking and then this moved on to skin care. I would like one day to train as a herbalist. It is my dream to have as many different herbs in my garden as I can.
What is the philosophy behind your brand?
Simplicity – nothing that I make and sell is too complex for anyone to make if they had a mind too. I don’t believe in over complicating where simple ingredients will suffice. There are many of my customers who could tell you that I will happily spend time advising people on how to make their own soap and skin care rather than push them into buying mine.
What about the philosophy behind your lifestyle?
I don’t think about my life in terms of having a philosophy. I just try to live my life by being conscious about what I put into the world and what I take from it day to day.
You co-founded Wild Sage & Co together with Rosanna and Georgia. What are your greatest strengths as a team and how do you complement each other?
I make things, Rosanna makes them look pretty and Georgia makes them sound good :)
Where do you source your ingredients from?
We grow what we can, rosemary, calendula, chamomile. We get our cold pressed virgin rapeseed oil from a local farm that delivers and collects the empty containers to reuse. Our essential oils and many of our other cosmetic ingredients come from a supplier that is only 30 miles from us. There are things like coconut oil that can’t be locally sourced, but we try to ensure that all of our suppliers are as ethical as possible.
What is the most challenging aspect of running your own business?
The headache that is paper work.
Beside your online shop, where can one find your products? Do you have any stockists?
You can come and find us at markets. The Bristol Harbourside is a staple of ours but we have a calendar of events we’ll be attending listed on our website. We have a growing list of stockists which currently stands at over 30. Many of these are Bricks and Mortar however there is also a large list of online plastic free shops. We have stockists all over the UK; also in Italy, Cyprus and Ireland.
What is your main client base?
We actually get quite a variety of people, there doesn’t seem to be a certain type of person who buys our products. We have all sorts of people coming back and becoming long standing customers. I guess the one thing that they all have in common is an aim to reduce their impact on the environment and a desire to reduce the chemicals they put in and on their body.
What does a regular workday look like for you?
I wake up early because of the noise from the birds and the sheep, the joys of living in the countryside :)
I like to start the day with a mug of hot coffee that I take with me to my workshop in the garden. Then I sit down and sift through emails, print out any orders that need doing and try and get all the boring paperwork stuff done before I get down to the making.
People don’t really think about how much admin there is in what I do, luckily Georgia is taking over this side of things which frees me up to get a bit more creative.
I spend between 5 and 10 hours a day in the workshop making soaps and balms but I like to get out into the garden when I am taking breaks to do a bit of weeding or propagating.
Soap for Calais has been a wonderful initiative. Can you tell us a bit more about the ethos behind it and its impact on your experience, both as an entrepreneur and as a human being?
We just like to help out where we can and raise awareness, the conditions out there are awful and we really wanted to do something to help, even if it’s not lots of money it’s still raising awareness. We try to support lots of little charities where we can.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
My commercial sized stick blender for making soap, when I first bought it years ago it was a game changer.
You must be spending a lot of time in your workshop and garden, but what about your living space? What makes your house your home?
Plants, lots and lots of plants. We lived in a wooden cabin for years and have only just moved into our house, now that I have the space and the light I'm filling every corner with life!
What are you planting and harvesting at the moment?
As we’re coming into Autumn now we are getting ready to plant broad beans, garlic and oriental greens. We are also taking cuttings for new rosemary and lavender plants so we can increase how much we grow in the coming years.
You attend local markets regularly. Do you buy products from other makers and artisans?
Always, if ever I need to buy anything I always look to other makers first. Especially when looking for presents.
What is the most frequent question that people ask you at the market?
Is that cheese :)
Julie, Rosanna and Georgia, if you were to pick one favourite soap from your range, which one would each of you pick?
Julie – the plain old olive oil soap, you can use it for everything from face, body to household cleaning.
Georgia – The Himalayan pink salt, I love the exfoliating quality of the salts and the eucalyptus, it’s an amazing soap to wake you up in the morning.
Rosanna – The Mama + Baby, as I have two small children and this soap is so gentle and smells so sweet.
Could you name a few things that are essential to have in the skincare cabinet?
Our Argan Beauty balm is a pretty vital essential for us, we all use it and panic when we start to run out. Also Lavender essential oil, we use it for everything from burns to popping on our pillows before we go to sleep.
What are some of your favourite places in your area?
To be honest our favourite place is opposite our house. You can walk along the river through fields of cows and sheep and end up on a beautiful old bridge above the water. There is an ancient church and a few old oaks, it’s so peaceful and the landscape feels as though it hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Into my garden.
What other exciting products can we expect from Wild Sage & Co in the near future?
We have just brought out a liquid hair conditioner and are hoping to release a beard oil in the spring.
What are your dreams and ambitions for Wild Sage & Co?
We want to continue as we are, making everything here at the cottage. We don’t have any intentions to move to bigger or more industrial premises. It might be nice to retire someday, but I’d find it hard to stay out of my workshop!
Thank you, both for the wonderful experience, heartfelt conversation and insight into your world. Also, many thanks for the amazing Sunspell balm!