In Conversation with Nicola Elliott of NEOM
Describe your business in a few words?
NEOM is a natural wellbeing company whose mission is to help people FEEL GOOD, and to inspire people to live naturally healthier lives! We believe wellbeing starts with the little moments, those small parts of your day that ladder up to overall improved wellbeing. Our fragrances are all 100% natural with true wellbeing benefits, to help you sleep better, stress less, boost your energy or lift your mood.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
After spending seven years working 60 hour weeks as a journalist on some of the UK’s top consumer publications, I felt the stressful pace of life and noticed my friends rising stress levels, lack of sleep, energy and low mood too. I loved my job… BUT boy did I feel it! So, I kick started my wellbeing, trained as an aromatherapist and started creating effective pure blends – I quickly realised the benefits of aromatherapy and started learning all there was to know!
It was of course scary taking the leap but I was confident that my business partner, Oli, and I had an idea for something really special! All those 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!
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
No! I loved my job as a journalist, I was doing really well, but I was burnt out and knew something had to change.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
At the beginning my business partner and I, Oli were storing the candles in my small flat in Islington, London – we did a lot of Trade shows in the early days to get the word out and we used the good old fashioned way of marketing – we picked up the phone and spoke to every buyer we could – we were persistent thats for sure!
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Oh we come across challenges and make mistakes on a daily basis! But one of the big challenges was right at the beginning – when we set out, we wanted to create 100% natural candles, which is actually a really difficult thing to do. Everyone said ‘you definitely can’t do that’ but eventually, we found a way and ‘Scent to make you Feel Good’ is still our mantra! I would be here all day if I listed all the challenges, all business start-ups face difficulties, but you have to stay positive, focused and remember why you started your journey.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Every time I get an email or a message from a customer telling us how we’ve helped to boost their wellbeing I feel accomplished! Our aim at NEOM has always been about boosting the nation’s well being through the small steps that make a big difference. It’s in our DNA and it’s why we come to work every day! So hearing stories from our community about how NEOM fits into their daily life makes me proud and inspires me to keep going!
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Whilst we have always been about supporting the wellbeing of the Nation, the Pandemic has resulted in us having a much deeper connection with our Community. When our stores got closed, we very quickly pivoted and transitioned into a community-led, digital first business serving our community virtually with not only natural, wellbeing-boosting fragrances but the timely wellbeing support that people needed more than ever.
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we commissioned a research survey to find out how our customers were REALLY feeling. Our community is placed firmly at the heart of the brand, and it was important to understand more about what well being meant to them during that time – it was crucial we were equipped with the insight. We received over 2,500 responses and it was no surprise to hear people’s wellbeing was significantly impacted. We very quickly built out a dedicated hub of wellbeing across our channels offering expert led blogs, anxiety and sleep clinics, weekly workouts, “Wellbeing Wednesdays” and virtual events, all to inspire and guide our community through the toughest times.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Well, our launch into the US is huge for us, we’re so excited to be able to build our community in the US and serve them with our expertly blended 100% NATURAL fragrances for their homes, bath and body! We are currently stocked on our US website and are partnered with Nordstrom and Look Fantastics Skinstore but we have some more exciting openings coming up so watch this space!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
I already knew this but 2020 really highlighted it even more – our well being is more important than EVER, it’s an absolute necessity and although life gets crazy sometimes, it doesn’t mean our wellbeing should drop off the list, in fact, it makes it even more important for us to get small steps into our day. EVERY DAY.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
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 labour later down the line!
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Family time (a lot of it!), walks and fresh air – we’ve gone back to basics and I think that’s the biggest positive of the Pandemic.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
100%! In many ways 2020 has given me the ability to achieve more of that balance. Pre-Covid I was on a train to London at the crack of dawn 2 or 3 days a week, I’d miss bedtimes with the kids and quality time with my husband and I was constantly juggling home, work and social life. But this year has taught us all to SLOW DOWN. When the world does return to normal, I’ll be taking a lot of learnings from this time, and I’ve got my “Wellbeing Toolkit” in my back pocket, made up of those things I turn to keep my well being in check!
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
At the ripe old age of 43, I’ve taken up a new hobby and that’s horse riding. I love it and wonder why I didn’t do it sooner!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- A good night’s sleep – a great day starts with a good night’s sleep!
- A manageable to do list – getting overwhelmed results in a massive productivity dip.
- Sounds obvious, but lots of water.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Waking up each day with the fire and passion in my belly to get stuck into whatever life throws at me, and to kick ass, every damn day! (well try anyway!)