Search
Generic filters
Exact matches only
Filter by Custom Post Type
Jazz Shapers

Shaper: Oliver Mennell

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Good morning, this is Jazz Shapers, I’m Elliot Moss, hello, thank you for joining. Jazz Shapers of course is the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business we call them Business Shapers. My Business Shaper today is Ollie Mennell, Co-Founder and CEO of Neom Organics an aromatherapy and well-being brand using natural ingredients. A former investment analyst, Ollie founded Neom Organics in 2005 with his friend Nicola Elliott – that’s where the Neom comes from just in case you were wondering. Nicola had spent seven hectic years working sixty hour weeks she says, as an Editor for Glamour Magazine “I noticed my own well-being and that of my close friends was being affected by the stress and demands of a modern-day busy life. The worst offenders, poor sleep, stress, low energy and mood swings.” I think we can all relate to that. Nicola decided to train as an aromatherapist and nutritionist and she and Ollie scrabbled together £15,000. In fact, Ollie won some of his on a TV game show, a classic entrepreneurial fundraiser. Launching with natural candles, most candles are still made with paraffin wax, you may not know that, they have since expanded their range into an additive free luxury lifestyle and skincare line, that’s a mouthful, sold online and across high end stores in the UK. Their retail sales were around £25 million, not bad. We’ll talk to Ollie in a few minutes. We’ve also got brilliant music from amongst others, Georgie Fame, Wayne Shorter and Al Jarreau. That’s today’s Jazz Shapers. Here’s George Benson with Livin’ Inside Your Love.

That was George Benson, the one and only, Livin’ Inside Your Love. Ollie Mennell is my Business Shaper as you heard earlier, Co-Founder of Neom Organics, they make beautiful smelling candles and the like and many other things now and they’ve got rather a big business, it’s like one of those things, you haven’t heard of and suddenly you have and then its everywhere. Hello.

Oliver Mennell
Hello.

Elliot Moss
Nice to see you.

Oliver Mennell
Thank you for having me.

Elliot Moss
They’ve let you out. I know that Nicola does lots of these things but today Ollie this is your moment.

Oliver Mennell
You see Nicola has been keeping me in a little cupboard up in Harrogate for the past fourteen years. You’re right she never usually lets me out but today’s my lucky day.

Elliot Moss
So, tell me about how this, firstly the friendship and secondly the business. Why would a man like you decide to do a thing like this?

Oliver Mennell
So, first of all so Nic and I go back quite a long way. Our fathers are both really good friends living up in Yorkshire. They’re both entrepreneurs, both of them left school quite young and went into the car trade. My dad had a car garage near Scunthorpe and Nic’s dad had a motor auction in Leeds and so we both kind of I guess were destined somewhat to follow the entrepreneurial path. Indeed like my dad would do various entrepreneurial training things with me growing up as kids and one of the ones I remember really vividly was at age ten telling me I could have a pair of trainers, taking me into you know a proper Nike shop allowing me to choose said trainers and then telling me he wasn’t going to give me all the money to buy them so they were £50, he gave me £40 and I had to go as a ten year old to the Store Manager and say ‘I haven’t quite got the money would I be able to get them for less’ and yeah obviously completely dying with embarrassment and the Store Manager says ‘no I’m afraid that’s not how it works’ and then me limping back to my dad and him saying ‘well you know why don’t you ask for the Store Manager and seeing if he will do a deal for cash’ and so, also hand him the cash as well so it kind of feels like he’s already kind of you know be hard to give you the money back. And so there I went trotted back again and asked to see the Store Manager, did those things dying with embarrassment and actually they gave me the trainers for £40, £10 off. So, there were little things like that all the time. This entrepreneurial training camp as I call it and I think Nic’s dad did similar things to her and so we both just said to each other you know wouldn’t it be nice one day to you know have our own business and do our own thing and Nic went off into the world of magazines, so she rose really quickly to become the Associate Editor at Glamour and then I went into private equity straight out of school, something I had been working really hard you know for the previous five years to get into, I had a really lucky break actually trying to get into that and then, and then about two years in Nic gave me a call and said “I’ve had an idea for a business” and so I went round to hers and we talked about it and that’s where it began.

Elliot Moss
Just like that.

Oliver Mennell
Well…

Elliot Moss
I mean it’s amazing, but it sounds like you were kind of, it was twenty years in the making as it were?

Oliver Mennell
Yeah, I wouldn’t say twenty years in the making, I think we were always going to do something. I thought I would be at least thirty before I went and did my own thing.

Elliot Moss
But you were how old?

Oliver Mennell
Well I was twenty one when I went into private equity.

Elliot Moss
Wow.

Oliver Mennell
Which had been a series of lucky events that had got me into that position in the first place and then I was twenty three when I left and that was actually one of the hardest things I have ever done is going into my boss’s office having been given a dream job and having you know a fortune spent on my education by the private equity firm to say that I was leaving to set up a well-being brand and it was quite emotional actually and so, and so yeah that’s when it started and Nic basically was living this quite stressful lifestyle working late, working hard, getting quite stressed out and at the same time I was doing fourteen/fifteen hour days albeit quite young and could do it and she started blending these essential oil blends at home to help her friends and herself to get better sleep and lower stress and they started to work and people started to give her really good feedback and then she said, she got me round for dinner and showed me what was, what she kind of happened upon and she said “why don’t you do the business and I’ll do the creativity and we’ll make it up as we go along” and that was the first conversation. Then I went away and had a good think about it and then that’s when it started.

Elliot Moss
And here we are, fourteen years later so something’s working. Business plus creativity equals lots of fun and a successful business too. So, you got together and, in the beginning, obviously money was tight, and you know I mentioned earlier you won some money on a game show Vernon Kay was the Presenter, Boys & Girls was the name of the programme. He’s dying here, slowly in front of me it’s quite funny and I think it was produced by Chris Evans and you won a few thousand quid and that was the few thousand quid that got sunk into the business.

Oliver Mennell
Well yeah actually…

Elliot Moss
Lucky.

Oliver Mennell
…it was more than that, it was a hundred grand.

Elliot Moss
Ooh. Was it?

Oliver Mennell
And I was twenty years old.

Elliot Moss
Oh, blimey I didn’t realise it was that much, I thought it was like ten thousand quid – hundred.

Oliver Mennell
Yeah, I was… I think it was the biggest prize on television before Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I was twenty years old; I was in my final year at Uni and they came round saying we’ve got this idea for a game show; we’ll have people come down and audition and I did. Four of my friends got on the show, one hundred boys against one hundred girls. Embarrassing process for who gets into the final but that was me, I was one of three in the final. I then had to recreate a dance routine live on air, Vernon Kay opens the show with a 1960’s dance routine with ten backing dancers either side, the three finalists had to recreate said dance routine and then the live studio audience vote for their favourite which was me and then you basically go on what I can only describe as a blind date with a hundred grand so you choose your favourite member of the opposite sex, a lady called Gemma and then you get put up in a penthouse in Battersea for a week and you’ve got every day, you’ve got to spend the money and there’s little challenges each day and if you don’t spend the money you don’t keep the money of the day. So, twenty grand, ten items from ten streets in alphabetical order starting with A, go. If you haven’t bought the tenth item by 5.00pm you lose all the money and then you go back on the game show a week later and you’ve got to answer three questions out of five otherwise everything goes back to the shops anyway to cut a long story short I answered the questions correctly and then a week later a forty foot container on an articulated lorry arrives outside my family home and all the stuff that I bought arrived including a Porsche 993 Carrera, Bang & Olufsen sound systems.

Elliot Moss
What did you do with it all? Sold it all?

Oliver Mennell
So basically, I spent forty grand on myself, forty grand on my family and twenty grand on Gemma and the forty grand that I spent on myself was mainly the Porsche and I drove it for about a month…

Elliot Moss
And then what I can’t do this.

Oliver Mennell
…looked like a complete idiot and I was like, who is this guy, it just wasn’t me.

Elliot Moss
So, did you sell it? You did sell it?

Oliver Mennell
So I sold it and then I used that money to buy a little Council house in Harrogate with a friend in my final summer at Uni which we renovated and sold and then I moved down to London to get the job in private equity and that allowed me to buy my first one bedroom flat in London and then when it came to setting up Neom I was able to remortgage and take I think it was £7,500 out and Nic sold her car and that was our start-up capital so I’ve got Chris Evans to thank as my… he wouldn’t know this but he is my unofficial start-up angel investor.

Elliot Moss
If he listens, he will know after this, wait, very good. £7,500 that’s really good that you could do that. I didn’t realise there was £100,000 which started here.

Oliver Mennell
Yeah, yeah.

Elliot Moss
And Gemma and you don’t talk to each other anymore? Are you still…

Oliver Mennell
We kept in touch for a few years, we got on really well, we’re friends on Facebook but no I haven’t seen her for a while now actually, she lives in London.

Elliot Moss
Maybe you should be sending her a parcel of Neom goods you probably haven’t done that.

Oliver Mennell
Maybe, yeah.

Elliot Moss
So in terms of those early years once you got the money from this the nefarious ways that you just described, what was it like? I mean you talked about this for a while with your friend and as you said entrepreneurs in the background. Actually doing it in those few first years I imagine was quite tough and a bit scary?

Oliver Mennell
Yeah, well so Nic had the genesis of this idea that really high quality pure essential oil blends can help you sleep, lower your stress, increase your energy, lift your mood but then we were thinking what’s the right kind of vehicle to put this thing in to make it interesting and so we looked at candles initially and we didn’t know anything about how to make a candle I mean literally nothing. But we are both quite inquisitive and curious people and we managed to kind of locate a few candle manufacturers in the UK and then we went to them and said look we’ve got this idea we want to put these oils that help people sleep into candles and they were like ‘well people don’t do that they use synthetic fragrances which are a kind of chemical compound made in a lab’ and we’re like ‘no we don’t want to use that we want to use pure essential oils’ and so a lot of people turned us down and then we found someone who was prepared to use them but it had to go in paraffin wax which is a derivative of crude oil and we were like ‘well it doesn’t really make sense to use a natural ingredient and then put into something which comes from oil and its not sustainable so can we make it with vegetable waxes’ and they were like ‘what’s that?’ and so anyway we went away, did our research and found out that you can actually make candles from soya, rapeseed and castor so sustainable vegetables essentially and so it took us another year or so to find someone who was prepared to make a natural vegetable wax candle with pure essential oils and we went through hundreds and hundreds of samples. It took us about eighteen months or even two years and eventually we came out with a range of five candles. We launched it at the Harrogate Gift Fair which is actually where I am from. We took a two metre by one metre stand, Nic and I stood behind it, the five candles on the front bench, you weren’t allowed to burn candles in there either. So, we waited for the officials to leave the room and obviously lit them all up and then within a few hours we just had queues of people. I say people, these are small independent stockist, boutique owners in the UK, its business-to-business and we opened up fifty accounts in the first three days.

Elliot Moss
And why do you think, in a nutshell, why did they buy it so quickly, why did people go wow because at that point there must have been other candles around?

Oliver Mennell
No one was doing what we were doing. Everything else was just a nice smelling candle in a paraffin wax base. We had created something 100% naturally, clean and it didn’t just smell nice the fragrances had a therapeutic benefit for you, so it was candle plus and then so those stockists bought in and then yeah, the rest is history.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more to find out what else happened, what next happened in this very very cool story of following a little dream and keeping on going. It sounds like you had to do that for a while to find the right manufacturers. More from my guest Ollie Mennell in a couple of minutes and first we’re going to hear from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business.

There are many ways for you to enjoy all our former Jazz Shapers and indeed to hear this programme with Ollie again. You can ask Alexa to play Jazz Shapers and you can hear many of the recent programmes. If you pop Jazz Shapers into iTunes, Spotify, Deeza or whatever podcast platform you happen to use you can enjoy the full archive there. But back to day and back to Ollie, Co-Founder and CEO of Neom Organics, an aromatherapy and wellbeing brand. You have been hearing Ollie talking about his very auspicious beginning actually. So, you get these fifty people and I remember speaking to the Innocent guys a couple of years ago, one of the Founders and they did that thing at the festival and then would you buy it and people bought it and they went we’ve got something here. Did you know pretty quickly ‘hold on a minute we’ve got something here’ or was there, was it a bit like ‘that didn’t just happen did it?’

Oliver Mennell
No, we didn’t, I mean we didn’t know what to benchmark, we didn’t know what successful looked like for a trade fair. For all we knew it was normal to open up fifty new accounts at the trade fair. So we didn’t really know what good looked like but then what happened about six months later is Kylie Minogue, she basically bought our range of candles and took it on her European tour with her and that kind of just came out of nowhere and that didn’t necessarily have a material effect on the sales, it wasn’t like we’ve never had one of those moments where suddenly overnight sales just jump but certainly like awareness for the brand started kind of creeping out and then we took a phone call from Selfridges and they said ‘can we stock the product?’ and we’re still in Nicola’s flat by this point as well so literally her spare room had floor to ceiling cartons of candles inside.

Elliot Moss
I wanted to ask you also in that eighteen months gestation where you were trying to find people to help you make what you wanted, how did you get by?

Oliver Mennell
Oh man I look back and think how did we do it?

Elliot Moss
I mean just financially.

Oliver Mennell
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
So, you had a bit of savings and stuff, is that what you did?

Oliver Mennell
I mean we were both in the situation where we owned our house, me in a little studio flat and Nic living in a flat in Islington and honestly, I don’t know. I mean not just that for the first eight years we paid ourselves about £25,000 a year. I mean and then all your friends are high flying this and that and Nic’s given up basically you know an incredible career in journalism, she would have been an Editor for five or six years in a row by now. I would have been a twenty eight year old private equity guy. Most people don’t go into private equity until they’re thirty. I would be a seven year veteran of it and here we are literally scrubbing two coins together. So, it was really, really difficult, but we chose to do it ourselves. We chose not to take any backing and actually I kind of feel in this day and age with entrepreneurs you have the hare and the tortoise and the hare goes straight out the gates and raises Series A, Series B, Series C before even twenty four months is up and the tortoise is like slowly doing 30% growth year after year but they own the whole thing and eventually that starts to become a very big business. If you can hold on for the long run and it is a marathon, and you do start to get fatigue at times, it is really difficult.

Elliot Moss
So those first few years obviously in about 2013 things looked like they sort of started to pop and go you know that exponential curve suddenly happened because the 30% on becomes some scale.

Oliver Mennell
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
You go from a couple of pounds to a lot more than that.

Oliver Mennell
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
At that moment was there a, do I, were you clear on the key principles of why this business was working and were you able to then, have you then been able to continue to scale those?

Oliver Mennell
Yeah, we realised we were something unique. We were, we are not a candle brand or a skincare brand, we’re a wellbeing brand and if we can help people sleep better, lower their stress, increase their energy then there is interesting ways that you can do that and no one in the world is doing it and like actually the last two/three years there’s been a few copycats coming up but the fact that we did this fourteen years ago means we’re, I think we are the brand with the momentum now. So, there wasn’t necessarily like a pivotal moment where we just realised, we were onto something it has just been this slow incremental growth. 2011 we took a small amount of investment money from an angel, the guy who built a brand in our territory and then a year ago we took some private equity money from a company called Piper that’s a consumer brand, a private equity company but we waited fourteen years to do that which means we only had to sell a relatively small amount in order to kind of achieve what we want to achieve which is now opening retail stores, international expansion, kind of going into the US this year, we’ve got a very big online business, just opened a beautiful store in Guildford, it’s a three floor store with treatments on the first floor and a corporate showroom on the top floor. So, we needed a bit of capital to start doing that because we’ve been reinvesting the profits of the business every single year and you can grow quite well at that point but if you want to accelerate it at some point you might want to think about a capital injection.

Elliot Moss
In terms of the team that you’ve grown, how many people now work in the business?

Oliver Mennell
A hundred now.

Elliot Moss
Okay and are they all in one place or are they all over?

Oliver Mennell
Circa fifty at our head offices in Harrogate.

Elliot Moss
Yeah.

Oliver Mennell
For the first nine years we were in London, but we moved back.

Elliot Moss
And what made you move back out of interest?

Oliver Mennell
I think family. You know I was living in Notting Hill for seven or eight years and had a wonderful time living there. I married my beautiful wife, Sammy and she’s a Londoner born and bred and I was commuting up to Harrogate once a week for two days and that’s fine but then when you start to have babies and stuff, we’ve got two little boys now, it starts to become a very slow erosion on your soul a bit doing that much travel and living out of a suitcase the whole time and so Nic moved back a bit earlier than me with her family. She’s always wanted to move back I think and then we eventually moved back about three years ago so we now live in the Yorkshire Dales and the boys can actually, I call them free range boys now where in Notting Hill it’s more of a battery boy.

Elliot Moss
So, fifty people in Harrogate.

Oliver Mennell
Fifty people in Harrogate yeah that’s like the central staff.

Elliot Moss
Yeah.

Oliver Mennell
And then about fifty people across all of our retail stores and concessions and counters and stuff.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of the way that you both lead the business.

Oliver Mennell
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
You talked about your business and Nicola’s more the creative side, I imagine that morphs as well, it’s not one thing or the other.

Oliver Mennell
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
But in terms of your own way of managing people how would you, how would people describe you?

Oliver Mennell
How would people describe me? I think, well it is actually an interesting question because its how do you perceive yourself?

Elliot Moss
Yeah.

Oliver Mennell
How do others perceive you? And I think the closer they are to me the more it will be aligned and the further they are away the more you will see the email version of me which can be quite curt.

Elliot Moss
Right.

Oliver Mennell
Whereas the real version I would say is very honest and to the point of it being uncomfortable. I really believe you should never leave a room feeling like you should have said something to that person, but you didn’t, and you harbour it because that can start to eat you up inside. So I’m a real believer in having uncomfortable conversations with people you know both ways and someone coming to me and saying ‘Ollie you know that thing you said like it really made me feel this way’, I really want people to believe they can say that to me and vice versa so hopefully people will say that I am honest. I’m like optimistic to a fault so what I mean by that is in the old days I would interview people and if they didn’t know the answer to a question I would answer it for them and then I’d walk away thinking they’d done a brilliant job at answering that question. So, I kind of look for the good in people and I gloss over everything else so I’ve had to train myself really to not do that any more and the good thing about all these things is I think any character, trait or value can be changed and learned.

Elliot Moss
Do you?

Oliver Mennell
Oh 100%. There are some things in life that you are in control of and I believe that character is one of them and there are some things you are not in control of you know, whether the sun rises in the morning, whether it rains tomorrow.

Elliot Moss
Yeah.

Oliver Mennell
There’s no point in worrying about those things but you can absolutely change who you are. I do believe that.

Elliot Moss
And Nicola her view of the world? Is she similar to you?

Oliver Mennell
So Nic and I are very different brains, she is really creative, very entrepreneurial, she is also commercial. I am much more logical, organised and in terms of managing people I say I do more of that now while Nic is kind of left to create. Our view on the world I would say Nic was slightly more pessimistic than I am and so where I am slightly too optimistic somewhere in the middle is about normal and we challenge each other all the time but its like a healthy challenge. That’s actually a really important point if you’re thinking about starting a business, I would really recommend choosing a business partner, but I would really really recommend that you choose someone who has complementary skills to you and shared values. If you choose someone who is fundamentally quite similar to you from a skill set perspective you will end up fighting over the same turf at some point and if you are also from a values perspective, if one of you is just in it for the money and the other one wants to change the world eventually you’re going to fall out so shared values, complementary skills and Nic and I think got lucky with that – we do absolutely have shared values and complementary skills, we didn’t know it at the time and so it is like a marriage we’re now fifteen years, I’ve actually spent more time with Nic than any other human in this world. If you think about that its eight hours, nine hours a day for fifteen years it’s more than my mum and more than my wife.

Elliot Moss
And your wife will say ‘yes that’s absolutely more than me and that’s got to change in 2019 Ollie’. Final chat coming up with Ollie plus we’ll be playing a track from Al Jarreau stay with me here on Jazz FM.

That was Al Jarreau with You Touch My Brain. I’m with Ollie Mennell just for a few more minutes. You talked about your values and you and Nicola have obviously got compatible values. As you look to the next few years, you’ve now got investment from you the business you almost went into, into the world of private equity, what are your expectations of yourself as a human in that? What do you want from it because the money is coming, you are not paying yourself £25,000 anymore? You’ve got revenues going this way, you’ve got ideas to go international, you’ve got concessions over here, Selfridges over there. It is all pretty good and you’re a thirty six, thirty seven year old guy. What do you want for you? What will satisfy Ollie?

Oliver Mennell
Well first of all I think those things, I think those things change over time. I think when I first set the business up with Nic aged twenty three you know I wanted to have a really nice car.

Elliot Moss
A Porsche?

Oliver Mennell
Well yeah, I sorted that before the business.

Elliot Moss
The Porsche didn’t last very long.

Oliver Mennell
Yeah, I wanted, you know a nice watch. I wanted all these material things and then I think as time goes by and I want those things less and less and less now, in fact you know I don’t have a watch, I have a basic car, I have a lovely home that was really important for me and now that I’ve got that I don’t really aspire to be wealthier from a monetary perspective, I just want to be the master of my own time. I feel like there’s no greater privilege than waking up every day and choosing to do the things that you’re passionate about. Being, like for me, you know we’ve got two little boys, I want to be a really good dad. Do you know what I mean? I want to be able to take my children to school in the morning and sometimes pick them up and be there for them when we have dinner in an evening, read them books and sometimes its hard and you’re knackered and you haven’t got the energy to read a book of an evening but like I think that’s really important to me I want to be the best dad I can possibly be, be a really good husband you know and just like, just choose and do interesting things and actually the lovely thing about what we’ve achieved with Neom is that you know we have got our house sorted now and it doesn’t feel really risky anymore. For the first fourteen years it always felt like a massive risk and if it were to fail, I’ve got nothing and now that that safety blanket is there, I feel like life is just about choosing things that you’re passionate about and having fun.

Elliot Moss
And do you think you’ll be passionate about this and having fun about Neom in three/five years’ time and if you’re not what would you do about it?

Oliver Mennell
Well that’s the beauty about being your own boss you know you can, okay one of the things I would love to do one day is make a documentary. I feel like there’s a film maker inside me. Well okay just do that through Neom. Let’s think of an interesting topic where Neom’s going to have something to say on it, let’s make a mini documentary out of it and we’ll get a director in and I’ll work experience on it for three weeks. Neom could be used as a wonderful platform to pursue the things that you’re interested in in life and of course there has to be you know financial success that comes along with it. We’ve got investors on board now and you know we need to have, we need to create a return but I just think like life is not just about profit its about purpose and you know you have to have a life of meaning and at the end of the day no money is going to change that. You know you want to be able to get out of the bed in the morning and enjoy what you do and that is what I aspire to do.

Elliot Moss
It’s been really good talking to you Ollie.

Oliver Mennell
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
Really enjoyed it and a lot of food for thought as well in what you said, you say some very wise things. Just before I let you go what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Oliver Mennell
So my song choice is Better Not Look Down by BB King and I just think it’s a really optimistic song and I think the first line is ‘people moving at the speed of sound all day and all night and looking down’ and like I kind of feel that people are doing that, looking at their phones, looking down, moving quickly and actually you know what just like look up, look around you, it’s a beautiful world, slow down you know have a little bit of sense of wellbeing in your life and you will have fun.

Elliot Moss
That was BB King and The Crusaders, Better Not Look Down, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Ollie Mennell. A guy who was totally optimistic but also really realistic about how hard it was to set up that business. Great advice around whatever you do don’t give up that equity. People really are either hares or tortoises and maybe it is better to be the tortoise and hang onto that equity for as long as you possibly can and finally that point about all he wants to really be is master of his own time – I love that. That’s it from Jazz Shapers and me, have a great weekend.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds more guests available for you to listen to in our archive. To find out more, just search Jazz Shapers and iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to mishcon.com/jazzshapers.

Oliver Mennell is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of NEOM, a wellbeing brand specialising in 100% natural fragrances to boost your wellbeing.

Widely recognised as one of the first and fastest growing wellbeing brands in the UK, NEOM offers natural products that are designed to deliver therapeutic benefits to relieve stress, aid sleep, boost energy and lift moods.

After a career in private equity, Oliver and his close friend Nicola Elliott decided to create a wellbeing brand that harnessed the power of potent essential oils. Widely recognised as one of the first and fastest growing wellbeing brands in the UK, NEOM offers natural products that are designed to deliver therapeutic benefits to relieve stress, aid sleep, boost energy and lift moods.

Based in Harrogate and employing close to 100 people, NEOM is now a fast-growing multi-channel business, with retail sales of over £25m in 2019. Its home fragrance and skincare ranges are sold through leading UK department stores such as John Lewis, Selfridges and Fenwick, as well as flagship international stores. NEOM has a thriving online business and five of its own retail stores with further openings planned. In December 2017, Oliver led a major growth capital investment from Piper, the UK’s leading investor in consumer brands.

Interview highlights

We are both quite inquisitive and curious people.

No one was doing what we were doing. 

There wasn’t necessarily a pivotal moment…it has just been slow incremental growth.

I’m a real believer in having uncomfortable conversations with people

I’m optimistic to a fault.

I think any character trait or value can be changed and learned.

There are some things in life that you are in control of and I believe that character is one of them.

If you’re thinking about starting a business, choose a business partner who has complementary skills to you and shared values.

I wanted all these material things…I want those things less and less and less now.

I want to be the master of my own time.

There’s no greater privilege than waking up every day and choosing to do the things that you’re passionate about.

For the first fourteen years it always felt like a massive risk.

Life is not just about profit, it’s about purpose.

Shaper: Steve Levine

Steve Levine is Founder and Owner of Manmade Soul and Co-founder and Director of radio production company, Magnum Opus Broadcasting. Starting his recording career as a trainee tape-op at CBS studios in 1975, Steve soon progressed to an “in house” recording engineer. He produced all of Culture Club’s classic hits and the bands’ three multi-platinum [...]

Read More...

Jazz Shapers - 5 days ago

Shaper: Tony Wheeler

Tony Wheeler is the Co-Founder of Lonely Planet. Setting off on a trip of a lifetime honeymoon in 1972, Tony and his wife Maureen founded Lonely Planet Publications in 1973 in order to publish ‘Across Asia on the Cheap’ – the story of their journey. Their breakthrough came after a trip to India allowed then [...]

Read More...

Jazz Shapers - 2 weeks ago