I remember waiting for the tube early one morning. The tube station was absolutely packed. It was crowded with the usual morning rush, and everyone was drinking their energy drinks. The tube would pull into the station, everyone would pile on, and I remember thinking,
“Gosh, there must be more to life than this.”
In that moment, I realized that I had been living in my little bubble, my little routine, day in and day out. I was spending so much time commuting to and from work, and so much time working, that going out after work or even trying to enjoy the sights of London on the weekends was too much. My lifestyle had really worn me down.
And I knew there had to be more to life than what I was doing.
This moment was what kick-started me to think about what else I might like to do. What else was out there for me? I didn’t really know but I knew I had to do something. I was so inspired to change this pattern that I took what was, at the time, a quite drastic action: I quit my job, and decided to go off exploring and see what else the world had for me, what else I could find. And I decided to follow my instinct, follow my interests, my passion, and my intuition, rather than just staying with the work-sleep-commute grind any longer.
I had always had a fascination with New Zealand, and when I was looking around online, trying to figure out what I was going to do next, I found this amazing-sounding course in New Zealand—a Sustainable Living Internship. It was being run in a community in a really beautiful part of the northern South Island. I took a huge gamble. I bought a ticket and booked myself on this course, not knowing entirely what to expect. In September of 2009, I flew to New Zealand to start this internship.
The program was a 6-month course focusing on all aspects of sustainable living. We studied permaculture design, learned to live off the land, and studied organic farming, learning to grow our own vegetables. I remember one morning after I’d started the course, I was outside, planting seeds, and I looked up and thought what a massive change this was from my lifestyle in London. I was out in the fresh air, sitting in the sunshine, with my hands in the earth, doing something practical and amazing. It was a far cry from commuting on the underground in London and sitting at a computer in an office all day.
This was the first skincare product I had ever made, and it really captured my imagination.
As part of this huge lifestyle change I was undergoing—from very urban to an appreciation of a more natural, organic lifestyle—skincare became part of this. Not only was my diet improving by growing fresh vegetables and learning more about nutrition and cooking, but I had developed a real interest in natural and organic skincare. I started to ask myself, what was in the skincare I was buying and using?
What was in the commercial products I had been using?
Did I even know how to read an ingredient label, and understand what was in the products I was buying?
The more I asked myself these questions, the more I investigated my lifestyle and learned about other, more natural ways of living, the more I wanted to take what I had learned to a much deeper level, especially the herbalism and skincare knowledge.
Towards the end of my stay in New Zealand, I was involved in a minor car accident, and broke my nose. I had to be given general anaesthetic while it was reset, and while I was still groggy and coming around from it, in that dreamy state I had a vision of myself selling my skincare products at a farmer’s market. I remember telling a friend about this when I woke up. It was a bit strange, but it was significant for me! Clearly, my subconscious knew what it was that I was meant to do, what really spoke to me.
Eventually, the course came to an end. I was sad when it was time to return home to England, but I had been so inspired by what I had done and what I’d learned that it caused a massive shift for me. I knew I didn’t want to just go back to the way things had been before. I certainly didn’t want to go back to London, and I was exploring my options to see how I could take the knowledge I’d learned and the passion that I’d developed so I could use this back home.
I continued studying natural skincare.
I also wanted to make preservative-free skincare products, so I developed a small range of products for sale that were preservative-free, anhydrous products, and I used as many local ingredients that were grown in the UK as I could. Although that selection was quite limited, we did have hempseed oil, a variety of essential oils, lavender and chamomile grown in the UK, so I combined those things with things like shea butter from fair-trade cooperatives. My brand back then was called Goodness and Wonder, and I sold these products in local farmers markets and craft fairs and things like that.
I started really small, selling to friends and family who were early supporters.
I went to Christmas fairs and also ran at-home parties. A lot of my friends were very generous and I went to their homes and that’s how I started, with a small but lovely (in my opinion) range of skincare products.
In those early days, selling my products at fairs and farmers markets, I found myself quite often explaining all the ingredients in my products and the process of making them. I began to realize that people were actually really interested in not only buying natural, organic, and locally-made products, but learning how to make them for themselves. This was back in 2010, before there were hundreds of tutorials on the internet.
This was in the very early days of natural skincare, way before sites like Pinterest and YouTube made all these DIY tutorials popular.
It was kind of the start of a natural skincare revolution!
What I realized after explaining this to all these people was that I could combine my background in event management and teaching with my new knowledge and passion for skincare. It was a recipe for running and teaching classes.
Once all of that clicked, I started organizing some workshops and classes in Bristol, where I was living at the time. I remember putting fliers and leaflets all around the city, contacting all my friends and anyone I thought might be interested.
In May of 2010, I ran my first workshop, and it was an amazing experience!
I loved leading it, and it was great to see how much the participants enjoyed it. Everyone finished the class with this amazing range of products they’d made themselves, and it was really a wonderful, positive experience.
Funnily enough, though that first workshop nearly never happened. I had a run of unfortunate events that led up to it, including my car breaking down the night before. I didn’t know how I was going to get to the workshop with all the equipment and everything I had spent weeks preparing. At the last minute, my brother loaned me his car, which was this really old, clapped-out car that I didn’t even feel confident driving, and didn’t even know if it would get me to the venue, but luckily (thank goodness!) it did get there. And then, during the workshop, we got to the point where we had to heat some ingredients, and I couldn’t get the cooker to work, and I had about 15 people there who were ready and waiting to make some products… it wasn’t always smooth sailing! But we found our way through it, and I learned quite a lot, and ultimately the class was a great success.
I had a good few years of running live workshops like these, taking what I had learned each time and incorporating it into my classes. I ran them in Bristol, and then started running them at colleges, and even ran some corporate events when companies started asking me to come in and teach. I went to all sorts of different venues around the UK, and was excited to get a job with the magazine called Country Homes and Interiors to run a series of workshops for them during one summer. I traveled round to York, Bath, London, all sorts of places to run workshops on their behalf, and that was really fun.
Along the way, I had built my first website by teaching myself how to get a very simple one up and running. In those days, I was a one-woman show! I also had a part-time job on the side to help support me, so it was a real juggling act to work that job, keep the website up to date, refine my courses, make and sell my own products, do some marketing, all of it by myself. But not for long.
By November of 2010, I’d been running workshops for about six months or so.
My best friend from university said she’d started a new job and was working with a guy she thought I’d really get on with. She said he’d just finished an aromatherapy qualification, and he’s really into his essential oils and natural products, so she set us up on a blind date.
Of course, this guy turned out to be Gareth.
We had a joint passion for teaching people and sharing our natural skincare knowledge.
After a while, we began running weekend workshops together, evolving and expanding our half-day courses across a whole weekend. One day would be facial skincare, and another would be bath and body care. These workshops were really popular, and we had people traveling from all over the UK to attend. And then one weekend, we had a student that had flown all the way from the Philippines to join us for a weekend workshop. That was what made us realize there really was a global market for what we were doing. We had other students fly in from Portugal, Ireland, all sorts of places, and we knew that there were a lot more people who were interested who might not be able to fly to the UK, so we decided to turn the courses that we’d created into online courses.
We took all the materials that we’d been using, created videos and workbooks, and set up an online classroom. This was in the very early days of online education, and there wasn’t the same availability for software as there is now. It wasn’t easy, but we did it, and as soon as we launched online, our reach expanded enormously.
We had become a global, international skincare school.
From all of the in-person workshops, and all of the studying we had done and experience we had gleaned, we developed our workshops into online courses that really brought what our students were learning to life. We had experience teaching our practical workshops, and we know what kind of questions came up and what kind of challenges students might face, so we worked that into the online classes, which went on to become what’s now our Certificate in Making Natural Skincare Products. We knew our students wanted a great course for beginners that were very practical and came with loads of recipes to help them make their own products.
From a question in the middle of a crowded tube station to an epiphany half a world away, School of Natural Skincare has grown from a tiny, one-woman shop to a global school serving students every day. We are so proud to help our students learn, expand their skills, and launch their own skincare businesses. Since those early days, and even since our first official online launch, we’ve added so many courses and broadened our availability to include so many more kinds of skincare products, bodycare, and even hair care as well.
It’s been ten tremendous years, and in that time we’ve achieved ten milestones we never thought possible. Our team has expanded to include other experienced cosmetic formulators and cosmetic scientists, plus all of our support team—editors, videographers, customer service, marketing, everyone who helps keep School of Natural Skincare going.
We couldn’t have done it without you!
So, from our home to yours, thank you for being with us on this tremendous journey. I hope all of us can continue on learning, making, and changing the world, one product at a time.
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