Nicola Elliott is the creative director and founder of Neom Organics. Aside from being our go-to products when we need a bit of a pamper on a Sunday evening, Neom has built up quite a following, with support from Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Moss to name a few. Nicola used to work 60 hour weeks as an editor for magazines like In Style and Glamour and launched Neom when she saw the adverse affects stress was having on her family and friends. I picked her brain to find out what.
What prompted you to launch Neom? Was it a terrifying prospect leaving the security of your job to launch something by yourself?
Before I started Neom in 2005 I was working 60 hour weeks as a journalist on some of the country’s top glossy magazines. I was really feeling the pace and stress and noticed that most of my friends were also multi-tasking like mad and had poor sleep, energy levels or low mood. I had started training as an aromatherapist and nutritionist after work, and I started creating little essential oil blends and tinctures for my friends and family, and they really worked! Of course, it was scary leaving my job, but I was confident that my business partner, Oli, and I had an idea for something really special!
Eleven years ago, when searching for gifts for friends and family, 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 – that was one of my lightbulb moments!
Have you picked up any tips and tricks on building a business throughout the years?
Getting ahead in business really is all about getting on with it and working hard. Don’t dwell on problems and barriers that you come up against, make finding a solution your number one priority so that you can move onwards and upwards. If you don’t know something, learn about it, there are plenty of resources out there to educate yourself, get online, read the expert business books; these are great places to start.
Do you have any tips for fighting stress in the workplace? Do you think it’s important to have a proper morning and evening routine?
What works for me is a combination of things. A 360 approach. Yoga with everyday mindfulness techniques which works on my buzzing mind, and making the time to incorporate Neom Scent to Instantly De-Stress products into my day. My absolute favorite is using the Scent To Instantly De-stress Real Luxury Scented Candle whilst sinking into a bath full of the same oil.
What does a typical day look like for you?
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 favorite books.
What are your handbag essentials? Do you have any beauty must-haves?
I am someone who believes in natural skincare, simplicity and investing in a handful of products that really work. I use Balance Me’s Cleanser and Radiance Face Oil – both in the morning and at night and that’s it. I also use grapeseed oil for removing eye makeup – it’s natural, so gentle and cheap too! I also have use Organic Burst (potent nutritional organic supplements) every day for lots of energy and clear skin.
What tips do you have for aspiring career girls looking to launch their own business?
You’ve got to truly believe in your idea and I think it’s all about having the right attitude and knocking problems out of the way. You’re going to face problems along the way but it’s just about finding that solution. Also, make sure you make time for yourself. The road to success is long (and hard I’m afraid), says me who’s only a few steps along it! You need to think of it as a marathon and not sprint. If you burn out too quickly you won’t be able to see the real fruits of your labor, so even though it’s tempting to skip the lunch breaks and work late every night, if you don’t make time for yourself then you simply won’t be firing on all cylinders for your team, your family and yourself. Your wellbeing is everything, get the basics right and the rest will follow.
What was the hardest part of your career and how have you overcome it?
All business start-ups face difficulties, but you have to stay positive and remember why you started. When we set out, we wanted to create 100% natural candles, which is actually a really difficult thing to do. Everyone said ‘no you can’t do that’ but, eventually, we found a way and ‘Scent to make you Feel Good’ is our mantra!
How do you stay healthy inside and out? Do you have strict routines or do you allow yourself to have treats?
I love to run. It clears my head and makes the time when I am running, my time, where I can’t be reached. I feel more energized with a focused mind when I enter the office. I take advantage of living near some beautiful countryside and run outdoors most mornings (whilst the kids are still in bed), so I don’t feel guilty. I try to eat clean and cut out processed meals. I don’t focus on restricting my calorie intake; it’s just about making smart choices. If I eat a slice of cake, it’s one that I’ve made with my daughter or son, so we know what’s in it.
At Neom we have a board of top wellbeing experts. A tip I have taken from the Neom Sleep Expert is to try and not eat later than 7pm but that it’s ok to have a pre-bedtime snack if I need it, but something like a wholemeal cracker with almond butter or almond milk with a banana smoothie, which can actually help metabolism at night.
Which Neom Organics product is your favorite (or has been the most fun to work on)?
It’s near impossible to pick a favorite fragrance, as the science behind the Neom fragrances are that you will probably want to use all of them all at different times, because each of our blends does its own job. From blends which de-stress, help you sleep, calm and relax, to boosting your energy and lifting your mood, depending on what your body and mind are telling you is where you will most likely be drawn.
What steps should you take before launching something by yourself? Is there a lot of planning involved?
Take things into your own hands and be a self-starter. When I first had the idea for Neom, I began taking night school classes in aromatherapy so I could learn everything I needed to know about essential oils. At the same time, my business partner Oliver was uploading the latest version of Illustrator onto his laptop to design the packaging. We knew we had a great idea but initially, we had to do a lot of things for ourselves.
There seems to be an opinion that looking after yourself is a luxury, what are your thoughts on this?
I believe that achieving better balance in life can (and should) be possible. (I should know, I am constantly juggling, home, work and life!) With the right products and lifestyle, you can feel good every day and be proud in the knowledge you are doing everything you can to make your loved ones feel good too. Whether it’s a deeply calming bath to bring down stress levels or a positivity-boosting candle, it really is easy to incorporate these essential routines into your daily life, in order to feel happy, well and equipped to take care of those around you. Taking time out, and looking after yourself is definitely not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
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