We love a brand with a kick-ass woman behind it and Bramley is one such brand. Inspired by the beauty and therapeutic properties of plants and made in the British countryside, it a gorgeous natural collection for bath, body and home products . Masterminded by Chloë Luxton, who used to work for Cowshed, and now lives in Wiltshire with her husband and 3 children, Bramley not only smells divine, but has some of the prettiest packaging I’ve ever seen (which let’s face it is important!) To find out how she manages juggling a small, growing brand whilst at the same time looking after 3 growing smalls, it’s over to Chloë….
Why did you decide to start Bramley?
My husband, Charlie, bought a pub with 8 bedrooms and because I had been working in natural bath products for 5 years, it was important to me that we put an appropriate natural brand in the bathrooms. I couldn’t find one so I saw an opportunity and pulled all my contacts together and created Bramley! I was adamant that I wanted each product to be the best of its kind, so each product has its own characteristic fragrance and therapeutic essential oils, but they are all tied together by a fresh citrus base. We had friends who had restaurants or hotels and they started asking if they could stock Bramley in their loos or bedrooms, and it just took off from there. Eight years down the line we’re in over 300 sites and haven’t looked back.
How has living in Wiltshire influenced Bramley?
Living in the countryside has influenced Bramley in so many different ways – the most obvious way is on our packaging, I spend my day driving on the school run past hedgerows and fields and I find it so inspirational. I used to live in London and you don’t notice the seasons or weather as much as you do in the country. I find it so uplifting and end up stopping the car to take a photo of an amazing flower or sunset (it drives my children mad!). It has also put me back in touch with nature and how important it is to try and live with the seasons (ie seasonal vegetables etc.) and to take care of yourself and your lifestyle using natural, fresh, organic products where possible. I think green fields, blue skies and fresh air are so good for the mind and soul.
What were you doing before you started the business? I was working for a brand called Green & Spring, launching it in to Liberty & Harvey Nichols, having moved there from Cowshed.
What did you learn from working at Cowshed? Please tell me what you did there On my first day at Cowshed I was put in front of a computer and told to basically get on with it! It was a massive learning curve because I had to learn very quickly on the job and I was doing everything from product development to sales to invoicing. It was a baptism of fire and it was the best experience for starting Bramley. Previous to working for Cowshed I worked at Paperchase starting on the shop floor and working up to head office so I had a lot of valuable experience on both sides of the industry – being a retailer but also a supplier and that has been invaluable in my creation and development of Bramley.
Do you have a favourite product? I use most of my products daily (the shampoo, conditioner, body wash plus the body lotion when I’ve got time) and I love them all especially the shampoo and conditioner because I think it’s really hard to find natural hair care that actually works. I am really looking forward to using our new Bath, Body and Shower Oils because I love the way the oil absorbs into the skin and leaves it feeling so soft and nourished.
Please describe a typical working day to me. Drop the children at school and nursery, and then I head over to our office at The Talbot Inn, Mells, which is one of my husband’s pubs. We’ve converted an old garage and it is where we store all the product and send out wholesale and mail orders. I’ll get myself a cup of tea and then sit down with Jen, who is there full time, and we go through what needs to be done that day. A lot of my time is spent on product development so it might be that I’m talking to our graphic designer about which flowers we’re going to use on the next product or it might be brainstorming about what new product to launch. I also look after all our social media and marketing so I spend time taking photos or trying to think of fun things to write about which can be a challenge! I also really enjoy collaborating with other brands and developing relationships with them, such as Molly Mahon, a print maker, with whom we’ve created a beautiful wash bag, or Yeo Valley who we run competitions with from time to time. It’s incredibly varied and it’s always exciting. We’ll get a bite to eat at the Talbot (always a treat) or we’ll head out to visit a potential new customer, it’s really important to me that we meet the people we supply to and develop a relationship with them. I’ll check in with my PR company, Imagination, and finally head home to pick up the children and hear about their days.
What is the best bit about running your own business? There are lots of great aspects to running your own business, my favourite bit is when an order comes through – I still get a little leap in my stomach that someone is actually buying it, and I love seeing new products launch. The aspect I most appreciate is the flexibility I have around the children.
What is the most challenging bit around running your own business? It is still a small business so I think the most challenging bit is having to juggle all the different aspects to it, so one moment you’ve got your marketing hat on then your financial one and then the sales one. But that’s also what I love about it – it keeps me on my toes!
Do you ever have time to switch off? If so, how do you like to unwind? There’s not much time in the day for switching off because once the children are in bed I make supper for us and then I might catch up on some work or we watch something on iPlayer. Charlie and I try to get away for a couple of nights every few months to rejuvenate and spend some time together, eating too much and browsing in antique shops and art galleries.
As a mum of 3 young children, how do find the whole work/life juggle? Any tips you can pass on to our readers? It is hard! There is a guilt, but I love Bramley and I am lucky that, because it’s my own business, I can work it around the children. I also have help in the mornings and the evenings, which is something my husband and I have prioritised that ever since our second child was born – it’s a lifesaver and it allows me to spend time with the children and work. My tip would be to ask for as much help as you can, both my parents and in-laws are brilliant.