Shaper: Linda Pilkington

Show aired on 14th July 2018

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was Shulia Bop from Sarah Vaughan starting off this mornings’ Jazz Shapers. Hello I am Elliot Moss and welcome to another hour of great music and inspirational conversation with a Shaper in the world of business. Our Business Shaper today defines a Business Shaper in a rather unique way, she spent fourteen years travelling the world through Africa, the Far East and Latin America where she established and ran a range of businesses including a soya bean farm, a boutique hotel and even ice cream parlours. She returned to the UK in 2000 when following a chance meeting with a family friend who recalled her homemade candles commissioned her to make a candle for Channel. From that the fragrance brand Ormonde Jayne was born. Today you can find this unique brand of perfumes and scents for women, men and the home in high end department stores including Selfridges and Harrods plus through their own successful boutique outlets. My Business Shaper today I am pleased to say is none other than Linda Jane Pilkington, the founder and owner of Ormonde Jane. Plus, and if that’s not enough, Paddy O’Connell returns with more from the recent News Sessions podcasts with Mishcon de Reya’s Susannah Kintish on the subject of the gig economy but before all of that can happen, let’s take a breath for some brilliant music, this is Bill Withers with Ain’t No Sunshine

That was Bill Withers with the brilliant Ain’t No Sunshune, I love that. Hi there, you are listening to Jazz Shapers here on Jazz FM as I said earlier and my Business Shaper today, I am very pleased to say is Linda Pilkington, Founder and Creator at Ormonde Jayne and they make things that smell very nice and that go on your body and also around your home, and lots of other things. Hello.

Linda Pilkington
Hello.

Elliot Moss
How are you?

Linda Pilkington
I’m very well thank you, how are you?

Elliot Moss
I’m very well thank you, it’s really exciting to have you here.

Linda Pilkington
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
Tell me why you decided to set up your own business, because you’ve, we’ll go back as well but I want to get to the point where you went, ‘I am going to do that’?

Linda Pilkington
There was never a day where I thought I am going to own a Perfume House, a British Perfume House and it’s going to be very high end and fabulous. It all happened through happenstance, I am quite entrepreneurial and hard working and just through a series of different events led to where we are today, purely because I just happened to meet somebody who knew me when I was young and we got chatting, they asked me if I could create some scented candles for the Chanel Store that was opening in Old Bond Street and I didn’t want to let him down, I didn’t want to let myself down, I knew I could do it because I used to do it as one of my hobbies when I was young, and it just went from there. So you know, after six months they bought fifty odd candles, I had to then send an invoice, they said you have to have a Company, I formed Ormonde Jayne so I could send an invoice to Chanel, then I thought it would be good if I could do this for a living and there we are today.

Elliot Moss
And today, just tell me about now the size of the operation and the turnover and things?

Linda Pilkington
So, the turnover is 5.2 million and I have twenty four members of staff, and they are all great fun and nice to be with and we are like one big family. We are based in London, we make everything ourselves, we have five studios just by Regents Park. We have got our little boutique in Old Bond Street and then we’ve got about another hundred and sixty eight points of sales around the world.

Elliot Moss
How many countries then, that must be a fair number, you probably lose count it probably changes doesn’t it on a daily basis?

Linda Pilkington
I know which countries we are not in, so we are not in South America and we are not in, we are in the Far East but only one or two countries, South America is quite a difficult nut to crack because they have these massive import duties, so you have got to find a way of finding and getting into that market.

Elliott Moss
I mean that’s amazing isn’t it, you’ve got the 5 million sales and a bit more, all these countries, do you ever catch yourself and go eighteen years ago I was making these in my kitchen. I was doing things that really hand to mouth, I mean, do you ever do that, because many people I speak to, go no, no I haven’t got time?

Linda Pilkington
Oh, no, no I definitely do.

Elliot Moss
Oh good.

Linda Pilkington
In the morning when I go for a little jog, I just think through everything that is happening, and I am very grateful. So I get this natural feeling that I should say, give thanks out to the world within myself, to say thank you I’ve got this great company which I love working in, and thank you for my children’s’ health and thank you for my lot, and I promise I am going to be a good person.

Elliot Moss
And you do that pretty much every day?

Linda Pilkington
I do it every day yes. I do it throughout the day as well.

Elliot Moss
Do you? And does that sense of happiness or gratefulness as you said, do you try and inculcate that in your team, is that the vibe?

Linda Pilkington
Yes. Yeah no definitely, definitely, everybody is very kind in the company. We do have you know good times, you know, if we have great sales we crack open a bottle of champagne, we quite often have a little dance and jigs at the end of the night if we have had a particularly good day in the store, or we have just got some good news, or we won something. So, we always celebrate. So, I think you know you get the best out of your team and everybody is very relaxed, there is no hierarchy, you know we all make the tea, we all take the recycling out, it’s just like that.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my very uplifting and happy Business Shaper today, that is Linda Pilkington, the Founder and Creator of Ormonde Jayne. Time for some more music it’s Mr Gregory Porter with Ballerina.

That was Gregory Porter continuing the uplifting theme with Ballerina here on Jazz FM. Linda Pilkington is my Business Shaper today, Founder and Creator at Ormonde Jayne. I mentioned the eighteen years and you look back and all that, but I want to go back in time a little bit, my sense is immediately talking to you, you are quite a free spirit and you are, I think there you know, some people go through life and they are a bit angry and they feel entitled, it feels that you are the antithesis of that. Why do you think you are so free spirited? Where has that come from, you travelled as well didn’t you?

Linda Pilkington
I’ve travelled a lot. Well I grew up in Bowdon, Cheshire, there wasn’t a lot to do there. It was two pubs, a Church and a corner shop that sort of sold everyday bits, milk, stamps and that sort of thing, and so you had to create your own fun, and in Bowdon all you practically did was on a Friday night you went to the Girl Guides, on the Sunday night you went to the local Church or the Youth Group Sunday afternoon, and mid-week we had a theatre in Altringham, Altringham Theatre so you could go and join these different studios and I think it was just a very nice childhood, because you were with lovely people doing lots of lovely things, in the theatre, dancing, singing, going to the Youth Movement, going to the Girl Guides, you know working to get all your badges, so there was no pressure. School in those days was very different, it is not like my sons going to school today, my sons are like forever having exams or you know, this test, that test, whereas when I went to school there were seven girls in my class and we had a great time and we used to do ballroom dancing, we learnt how to iron a napkin, that sort of thing so I suppose I have been just a naturally upbeat person. I was always very busy, I was always a very busy little girl. I was in the play at the theatre, I was in that play, I was in the school play, I was busy in school, busy at home, so I think I have got an energy that I, you know, keeps me going.

Elliot Moss
Is it something also to do and tell me if I am wrong but just a hypothesis that your Dad was a refugee?

Linda Pilkington
Yes.

Elliot Moss
He came here and obviously like the story of many refugees at different times, you come with nothing.

Linda Pilkington
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Again, you have to start again. Do you think that sense of gratitude comes from the fact that his life and he made his life, do you think there is a bit of that in you as well.

Linda Pilkington
Yes. Well to be perfectly honest, when I was growing up I didn’t even know my Father was a refugee, he kept that, I think it must have been very painful for him, because his actual story is really tragic, so he kept that under wraps. But, my Father is quite strict actually, compared to my Mother, my Mother was more like a good time girl, and she would have a dance and she like, whenever she would make the tea, she would always be singing ‘Tea for Two’, so maybe I had her spirit. My Father was a little bit more, ‘Eat your muesli, exercise, jump up and down in the morning’ and you know ‘you should go to bed early because it’s good for you’. So, he was quite, he had a lot of fixed ideas, I mean everyday he used to take cod liver oil, all his life, because his Mother gave him cod liver oil when he was in Germany, when he lived in Germany. So, you know we all had to have cod liver oil every morning.

Elliot Moss
So maybe the exuberance is more from Mum?

Linda Pilkington
I think so yes.

Elliot Moss
And maybe the discipline because it takes…

Linda Pilkington
So, my Father was like, you know, ‘Have you made your bed?’, ‘Have you done this, have you done that’, so he was like that and my Mother would be dancing around the kitchen with her gin and tonic in her hand.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more brilliant insight into Linda Pilkington, my Business Shaper today and why she has ended up being the success that she is, not just it sounds to me as a business person but as human being too, which is nice thing to be able to say. Much more coming up from her, before that we have got some more music and the latest traffic and travel next, and that is coming up after the most recent in our series of News Session podcasts with the fantastic Paddy O’Connell and the subject today is the Gig Economy.

There is a lot to get through on Jazz Shapers today. Before we get back to Linda a reminder that all of the previous three hundred and fifty plus programmes are available on iTunes, just put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’ and likewise it is on demand via Jazzfm.com, your Alexa and Google home devices, just ask it to play Jazz Shapers for this and all previous episodes. But right now, right here it is Linda Pilkington and she is my, I was going to say happy go lucky, but I don’t think it is quite that, I think there is my grateful Business Shaper and also my very successful one. Her business is called Ormonde Jayne and she makes beautiful smelling perfumes and the like. Let me ask you about the artisan nature of what you do, because there are perfumes and then there is perfumes, and yours is at the very highest end of the market. I know you kind of fell into it, but now that you are in it and you are part of that scene, how do you ensure that you stay at the very top, because I imagine that the minute that compromise kicks in and that the costs you are looking at too closely, you haven’t got the product, what is that you do everyday to ensure you stay right up there?

Linda Pilkington
Well originally when we first launched the perfumes our offer was quite standard actually it was just Spring Jasmine, Sandalwood nothing to talk about that was exceptional or incredible, it was like perfumes that people had already done thousands of times and done very, very well. It was through a conversation with one of my client’s who wanted me to create a perfume for her, she wanted it to be from a tuberose, I was trying to say to her, you know you can buy very good tuberose perfumes, but maybe I could make something a bit different if I could find a flower as heady as a tuberose, and a bit more exceptional and maybe a flower that nobody has ever heard of, this could be something a bit better, and during that conversation that is when I had the idea, that if I could go off and find ingredients not widely used in the perfume industry then I’ve got a good point of difference. And I took myself off for about two years, and I travelled all over the world to Morocco, I met growers, met all sorts of people, very interesting people, met a Yorkshire man in Laos and they were growing beautiful ingredients like sampaguita and they were extracting lychee oil, so I had the idea that Ormonde Jayne should be known for creating perfumes, using these unusual ingredients at a very high percentage, and then absolute, and that way it gives me an identification, sets me apart from all of the other perfume houses. Also nobody has actually really wanting to copy that, because it is expensive. So if your ingredients are costing several hundred pounds, just for the basic ingredients, and several thousand pounds for the main ingredients, it is highly unlikely that anybody is going to say, ‘Oh I’m going to copy that’, because they are going to look at the bottom line and say, ‘They must be mad’.

Elliot Moss
And on that point they must be mad at the bottom line, how have you managed that, because there is a hell of a lot of creativity in this, and cost as you said so how do you not look at yourself and got ‘You must be mad’?

Linda Pilkington
Absolutely. So, two things, one I mean there have been some perfumes that have been on hold for the best part of seven or eight years until I could afford the, Orris butter which is around anything between £14,000 to £70,000, Madagascan Vanilla which is going up in price practically every single year. So some things have to be put to one side until we have got the funds for it, and it is my Company there are no outside investors, no-one is breathing down my neck saying ‘Come on old girl you can do this a lot cheaper’, so I can do what I want and I like perfection and I like aesthetics so if something is costing £16,000 a kilo, but I don’t need a kilo, I need 400 grams, you know I will make the point that is in my budget I am going to buy it, and we are going to use it. I have come a cropper once or twice, I have made a perfume that by the time I had finished it, it was so expensive that I could just sell it at retail, just about and I think I made myself a little bit of money…

Elliot Moss
How much did you have to sell it for, just tell me?

Linda Pilkington
Well, no the problem was it was my mistake because I put in to our signature range, and ultimately it should have gone into a much higher range, but I launched it into our signature range and then when Scott who is our Chief Operations Officer said to me ‘Linda do you know how much this perfume is actually costing you to make?’, and I said ‘No’. He said ‘Well okay this is how much, you know, we can’t wholesale this or distribute it because you would probably lose on every bottle you sold’. So there have been those moments, obviously…

Elliot Moss
But I guess that is part of the process, and that is part of being in a creative business?

Linda Pilkington
Well, people were asking about Madagascan Vanilla, they all love it, I find it a bit too sweet for my personal taste, so I had the idea that you know I was going to open the vanilla pod, scrape down all the brown sugary bit in the middle, the seeds and re-create that oil using natural ingredients. Once that was re-created I was then going to mature that into the Madagascan Vanilla and then create my own Madagascan Vanilla which is different to everybody else’s but it turned out to be hugely expensive because the length of time it took for this process that ultimately, you know I got a bit carried away with myself I suppose.

Elliot Moss
I think that’s okay it’s your business, you are allowed to. Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper today that is Linda Pilkington on pushing the boundaries on occasionally coming a cropper, but I think you’re okay. Time for some more music this is Ramsey Lewis with Tequila Mockingbird.

That was Ramsey Lewis with Tequila Mockingbird. Linda Pilkington has been talking to me about creative excesses occasionally, about exploring new things. Tell me about this team because you said there are twenty four of you, I think in the team?

Linda Pilkington
Yes.

Elliot Moss
I often hear from people like you that set their own business up, ‘Well they all can do it better than me, they do this, that…’ Is that true for you?

Linda Pilkington
No, I can do it better than them.

Elliot Moss
Good finally a bit of honesty.

Linda Pilkington
Definitely because everything we make, I’ve had to come up with the idea and how to make it, so I have to show them. Now occasionally if I haven’t been to the studio for three or four weeks, because I have been travelling, I go in and I notice that they are not cutting corners, but they are not doing it exactly as I have told them to do it. And I have to like re-group them and explain to them that there is a reason, there is a reason why we are doing it this way and pull them back in very quickly.

Elliot Moss
And that works even if the context of the vibe being a happy one, are they clear that Linda knows?

Linda Pilkington
Oh no definitely, I mean I don’t know you…

Elliot Moss
No whips.

Linda Pilkington
No whips or anything like that. I would just say to her, ‘I don’t agree with the way you are doing that and I will tell you why’ and then she will listen.

Elliot Moss
She will listen. In terms of the growth of this business and keeping control of it, keeping your hands on it, it sounds like that is not that difficult for you, because everyone is in one location, pretty much, or have you got people spread around the world talking to you?

Linda Pilkington
Oh no I have got people spread around the world, so I have 5½ at the studio, and then we have points of sales where it is essential to have your staff running it, so like Accounts Managers in Harrods, Selfridges those type of things, and then we have Brand Ambassadors that travel around the world and they are training, so they will go to points of sales in Europe, in America and they will go and they will train the staff on the philosophy and how we work, and so we all get together approximately every ten or twelve weeks and we have a little evening do, have a meeting and we all talk about what we are doing, what we did, and who did something great and then you know, they all go out, we have drinks there but then they all go out on the night, on the razzle, but they all turn up the next day. That’s rule number one.

Elliot Moss
Do what you like but turn up the next day.

Linda Pilkington
Absolutely.

Elliot Moss
I have that same rule too.

Linda Pilkington
So, I said no excuses, if you are going to go out, go out, but you know I want you all there on time.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of the culture, or the values rather within it, again what are you telling everyone to be, obviously precision sounds important, passion sounds important?

Linda Pilkington
Well our philosophy is anybody who buys our perfume, anybody that comes into our shop they have to treat them like an A1 celebrity, everybody has to be treated the same, because they have made the effort to cross the threshold and to come in. So, I just tell them, part of the training I don’t care what people look like, it is not up to you to judge a book by its cover, I want you to be grateful and to win them over and make them into Ormonde Jayne clients. Because, I remember fourteen, fifteen years ago when I was serving at the shop this frail looking gentleman came in with sandals on and dirty toenails and a dirty old mac and he was very sweet and very, very kind and I said ‘Where are you from?’ and he said ‘India’ and I said ‘Well I have this perfume called Champaca it’s a flower from India’. He said ‘I know the Champaca’. Anyway we got chatting and he bought the perfume for his wife, he comes in every year, and buys this perfume for his wife, and when I was pregnant he brought in books on Hinduism for me to give to my children. So, I think you know, a successful company is about keeping your clients and getting to know them and treating everybody as if they are, you know, the number one best client in the whole world. And I sometimes like if its quiet, you know my staff say to me ‘It’s been a bit quiet this afternoon’, I say ‘Just look at the doorstep, that doorstep has been there since 1880, look how it’s worn away, that tells you how many people have come over that doorstep to shop and it will continue, so don’t panic’. And in the end there is never a reason to panic because usually somebody comes in, and buys something wonderful and then they are all happy again.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for a final chat with Linda Pilkington, plus we will be playing a track from Diana Washington, that is in just a moment.

That was Diana Washington with Mad About The Boy. Just for a few more minutes I am with Linda Pilkington, she is my Business Shaper today. If you didn’t catch it earlier she is the Founder and Creator of Ormonde Jayne, and they make beautiful smelling things, which you can as I said put on your body or put around your home. The money bit, I want to ask you about the money bit, because obviously now you’ve gone from a couple of things you made for a friend eighteen years ago into a £5 million plus business. Does it drive you and if so how?

Linda Pilkington
I am actually the lowest paid person in the Company. I have grown the Company self-funding, so all the money that has come in to Ormonde Jayne I have put it back into Ormonde Jayne, so I don’t have any outside investors. I have always been a little bit, wary of that, not for any cynical reason but purely the thought of using somebody else’s money if it went wrong, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself, so all the money that has come in, I have put back into the Company and we have been able to grow that way. It is a lot slower, but the plus side is you learn all the ins and outs of the Company because you are doing an awful lot yourself, you are taking on two or three jobs, you know to make ends meet. So I am not, of course having a good turnover with the right profit margin is essential otherwise it’s all a bit pointless, but at the same time I don’t feel that I need, you know a huge salary myself, so I can swan up and down Bond Street, you know kicking open the Chanel door with my stiletto heels. I’m very happy with my lot and I am very happy with the way the Company is growing and like I say my Chief Operating Officer and all the Management above me they all earn a lot more than I do.

Elliot Moss
And I get that, and that makes sense to me, but at some point and I have read somewhere that you were not looking to sell or anything else like that, at what point will you go, well now I think there is a time for Linda to take a return on this business versus growing and growing it, or is there no end, is there an end game in mind like that?

Linda Pilkington
I think you should never say no to anything, and you should listen to what people want to say to you, you know I get venture capitalists and people approaching me and I am always happy to sit down and if I feel it is right what they want to say, invariably they may want to be very pro-active within the Company, whereas at the moment I want to stay in charge of everything and do all the work myself, I prefer it that way. So, I think there will be a day, you know there might be a day when I wake up and I just think ‘It’s time to take some money off the table’ because times are changing, business changes and you have to go with the flow, you can’t be sort of narrow minded about things like that. It is about survival ultimately and you have to be flexible so I’m happy to change my business plan at a drop of a hat if it means that we are going to continue to be successful and we can grow. So nothing is set in stone per se, it’s not like this is it forever and my children are going to be perfumers, it’s going to be let’s see what happens. You never know, you never know what is going to happen tomorrow, life can just change in a click of a finger, so you have to stay open minded, flexible and you know have that survival instinct.

Elliot Moss
I think that all makes perfect sense and right now with things changing so fast you have got to move as you said, I mean who knows…

Linda Pilkington
Yes, and people are always asking me you know, when I go to Germany, they always say what about Brexit, these are my German clients and you know, I speak a little bit of German so I just say to them like, ‘Niemand wissen, nobody knows’ we don’t know what is going to happen let’s just see, if the worst comes to the worst and there are tariffs then there will be an Ormonde Jayne.de, you know I will have to set up an office in Germany as well. You know you have to be flexible and it is all about, it’s about survival isn’t it, you know you don’t just like crumble.

Elliot Moss
No. Listen, you are not going to crumble, I can see that, whatever happens you are going to keep adapting. It’s been really lovely to talk to you and get to know you a little bit, thank you very much for that. Just before I let you go what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Linda Pilkington
Well the weather’s so lovely, and I am just thinking in April it was snowing and now we are having this gorgeous sunshine, so I would really, dearly love to hear Summertime sung by Scarlett Johansson, who knew that she could sing, but she can.

Elliot Moss
Here she is just for you.

That was the song choice of Linda Pilkington, my Business Shaper today. Someone who every day acknowledges the gratitude they have for the life that they have. Someone who also is totally precise, totally a perfectionist about what she does every day in her business and someone who inculcates the notion that whoever the customer is they are an A1 celebrity. All really, really good advice.

You can hear our conversation with Linda Pilkington all over again when you want to on iTunes just search Jazz Shapers or ask Alexa or your Google home device to play Jazz Shapers, or if you are up for your Monday morning business briefing nice and early you can catch this programme again just before the Business Breakfast at 5.00am. We are back next Saturday morning from 9.00 with our next Business Shaper, it is the man who created Karma Cola, that’s Simon Coley on the show next week. Plus we will be hearing more from Paddy O’Connell with the News Sessions on the Gig Economy and up next after the news at 10.00 is Nigel Williams with a perfect way to get your Saturday underway with more music plus interviews and live sessions.

Linda Pilkington

Linda Pilkington grew up in the UK had a Saturday job at a tearoom where she learnt how to make ice cream. Her father Ralph was a German businessman who came over to the UK as a Jewish refugee, and mother Elizabeth was a radiographer at Old Trafford General Hospital. Linda left the UK at 18 to go travelling, exploring Africa and the Middle East, before moving to South America and eventually setting up a handful of ice-cream stalls in Buenos Aires and Cacupe, Brazil. In 2002, Linda had a chance meeting with a family friend who recalled her homemade candles and commissioned her to make a candle for Chanel. Linda recounts  her first invoice was for the legendary French fashion house, and thereafter Ormonde Jayne was born.

“It was happenstance; a series of lucky events led to where we are today, but I am entrepreneurial and hardworking.”

“In the morning when I go for a little jog, I think through everything that is happening, and I am very grateful.”

“I get the natural feeling that I should give thanks out to the world. I’ve got a great company which I love working in & my children’s’ health. I promise I am going to be a good person.”

“We quite often have a little dance and jigs at the end of the night if we have had a particularly good day.”

“Everybody is very relaxed. You get the best out of your team when there is no hierarchy, we all make the tea, we all take the recycling out, it’s just like that.”

“When I was growing up I didn’t know my Father was a refugee, he kept that secret. It must have been very painful for him, because his story is tragic.”

“My Mother was a good time girl, and she would have a dance and whenever she would make the tea, she would always be singing ‘Tea for Two’, so I have her spirit.”

“I travelled all over the world, I met growers, met all sorts of people and they were growing beautiful ingredients like Sampaguita and they were extracting Lychee oil. I had the idea that Ormonde Jayne should be known for creating unusual perfumes.”

“Our philosophy is anybody who buys our perfume, anybody that comes into our shop; we have to treat them like an A1 celebrity.”

“I am the lowest paid person in the company. I self-fund, so all the money that has come into Ormonde Jayne I have put it back into Ormonde Jayne – I don’t have any outside investors.”