Nicola Elliott was so passionate about the positive effects of natural oils she decided to change her career and launch a business around them.
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THE INSPIRATION BEHIND STARTING NEOM ORGANICS
She says, “I was working as a journalist and had an incredibly busy lifestyle. I often burned the candle at both ends, and my well-being suffered as a result. My sleep was poor, I had no energy, my moods were up and down, and I began to feel anxious. It was clear I’d not been looking after myself and that things had to change. It was natural, due to my training, to research potential answers and solutions. I became interested in nutrition and what I was putting into my body, as well as aromatherapy and similar methods to make myself feel better. Once I changed my diet and explored natural products further, I saw my moods and energy levels lift, and I also began to sleep better.”
As Nicola shared her experience with her friends, she found that no matter what their age or lifestyle, almost all of them were suffering from one or more of the same symptoms she had experienced. “Their issues and discomfort seemed to be dismissed as simply the fallout of modern times. I knew this wasn’t the case, and I felt passionate that I could help people.”
Nicola subsequently retrained as a nutritionist and aromatherapist. She left journalism to launch Neom Organics with her business partner, Oliver. They cobbled together their savings, and she also sold her car in order to create their own complex, targeted blends using 100% natural oils.
As a skilled storyteller, it was easy for Nicola to bring the brand to life. Her passion helped to make Neom Organics’ products amazing, and the duo were very clear about their message. Nicola admits she’s always working on the oils. “I’m tough on our products and meticulously test everything. I ask myself: is it the best it can be? Does it really work brilliantly?”
Customers clearly liked what they bought and returned for more. It also helped that the brand received an early endorsement from Kylie Minogue. “Kylie turned to natural products when recovering from cancer and said she often burned our ‘Feel Refreshed’ candles before she went on stage. That’s no surprise, really – they’re fabulous for giving users a boost of natural energy.”
However, the company’s growth wasn’t an overnight success, even if Kylie did love their candles. Nicola recognised early on that the business had the potential for scale, but she says building such growth was done brick by brick. “There was no one thing that contributed to the company’s success. Word of mouth and the strength of the brand grew with every new listing in a beautiful spa, every new product and every new shop we opened. The latter is always amazing; people really get to know the story behind the brand and come for treatments. They also take our test to see what their own well-being needs are. All we aim to do is tell people what we are about and how we can help them.”
The products sound fantastic, but are they all that’s needed for a successful business? “People are important, too,” adds Nicola. “Our people have the power to make or break the business. We do everything we can to keep our brilliant team engaged and inspired. We’ve just moved into a gorgeous new office and offer free Pilates sessions each week. We also hold wellbeing festivals, encourage book clubs, dog walking, feel-good gatherings and parties – it’s the little things that make a big difference.”
The company uses various technological solutions and systems to help things run smoothly. “That said, we’re in the process of getting them to talk to each other,” Nicola laughs. “Aside from external systems, nothing beats face to face – in other words, simply talking to people. I get teased for liking notepads and paper diaries, but it’s just that my brain works better if I can jot things down. I draw everything – all my ideas come to me in picture form.”
Has entrepreneurship come as naturally as the passion for her products? “It’s way harder than I thought it would be! The line between work and hobby has become blurred because I love what I do so much. I don’t always want to switch off. I enjoy blogging and chatting on Instagram, and I test products in the bath with my little girl … it doesn’t seem like work.
“Success at the outset would have been Neom being the biggest and best brand in the industry – and I think we are there. Oliver and I still have lots of plans for the company – we’re both ambitious. Now that we know how much people love our products from the chats we have with them online and in person, we want to spread our story and message even further. I think success now is about enjoying everything we’ve achieved.”
Unsurprisingly, Nicola’s core motto is “small steps make a big difference”. “It’s plastered all over our office, on the walls in our stores, on our packaging and within our blogs. It’s my key belief. Take the little moments and make them work for you. You could sit in the office toilets and create your own oasis of calm. It doesn’t have to be ‘yoga on the beach’. I personally make sure I eat good, nutritious food. I take a long bath every night, without fail, and ensure I get eight hours’ sleep. Exercise helps, and I use our ‘Scent to De-stress’ several times during the day. I also make time to see my family and friends and take 10 minutes a day to meditate. If all else fails, I unplug altogether.”
Nicola’s day starts with a cup of tea in bed with her kids. “We chat about the day, though they probably spend most of that time fighting over who has more toast! I try and keep my cool as I put a million bags – which should have been packed the night before but weren’t – into the car. After I’ve dropped the kids off and can hear myself think, I make calls in the car on the way to work. Most mornings involve a meeting with the marketing director and creative team, where we discuss product development and promotional campaigns.
“My diary constantly changes, and I always seem to have too many meetings. Towards the end of the day, my husband picks the kids up. Most nights, I’m home to make tea, though, as I like cooking.”
Nicola has gone from writing about the news to being in it – with fantastic achievements under her belt, better health and a richer quality of life in the process. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better definition of success.
“Opening our first shop in Wimbledon was as significant as giving birth to my kids. I’ll never forget it.”
“I’ve learned how to not sweat the small stuff. I did far too much of that in the beginning, but it taught me to keep focused on the bigger picture … to ask myself, ‘Will this issue still be as significant three years down the line?’”
“Be original. Don’t copy anyone, as someone will find out, or your customers will see through it.”
Advice for others:
“A well-known name once told me it would take nine years to become a household brand. I think they were right. That’s why you’ve got to have fun, as it’s a long road – if you don’t enjoy it, you’ve lost already. The journey really is as important as the destination.”
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