Growth continued briskly in 2004 and 2005, spurred on by attending lots of ‘natural products’ shows and particularly by a wonderful piece of publicity in the Guardian in May 2004. It was a three part supplement called ‘A Chemical World’ exposing issues around synthetic chemicals in foods, household products, and personal care. We had just a small mention in an ‘A-Z of the Best Natural Products’ written by Hazel Curry, but it was enough to set the telephone ringing with a stream of enquiries.
Until this point Mum had been making Essential Care’s products in an annexe at the back of her house in Suffolk. Orders were taken in a little office at the front of the house, packed on the kitchen table and whisked off to the Post Office by Dad at 4pm every day. I had moved back to the UK from France by this point and was working on business development from a corner of my dining table in London.
But as packaging supplies started to seep out into bedrooms, and utility cupboards were bulging with cosmetic ingredients, it was clear Essential Care had out-grown my parents’ house. The business needed a new home, close by so my parents didn’t have to travel too far and not, if possible, in an overtly industrial location as we didn’t want to be a ‘factory’. The building lease was also a new and considerable expense and it is always a risk for any business to take that plunge.
The search was long. Too long. We saw buildings that were too old, asbestos-ridden, too big, too expensive. Through sheer exhaustion I crashed and wrote-off my car in late 2005 while out on remote country roads searching for premises. Fortunately no-one else was seriously injured, but it’s an experience that still haunts me to this day.
Shortly after that we settled on a unit at 26 James Carter Road in the small west Suffolk town of Mildenhall. It was within the industrial zone and next to the noisy RAF base, but close to the Breckland woods and next to a field with some delightful piggies in.
Yet it wasn’t long – thanks to an increase in trade to other countries and listings in retail stores -including Waitrose, that we ran out of space again. A good problem to have, but it looked like being another painful search. – Essential Care is quite unusual in that we make all our skin and hair care; many brands outsource production to contract manufacturers, so for us our ‘in-house’ production makes finding premises somewhat harder. Now we had all our production equipment in situ and working nicely; moving it all would potentially be a nightmare. So it was with some luck that our neighbours in unit 25 moved out and we could spread ourselves into an additional part of the building.
Our dream has always been and continues to be a purpose-built production facility with impeccable sustainability credentials. We’d like to have the space to invite visitors and explain more about the powers of the ingredients we use and how the skin care is made. In 2012 we spent a considerable time looking for the ideal site for this, but drew a blank. Right now the search is on hold while we focus on other more pressing and exciting projects (which I’ll reveal when I get to the end of this blog series!) and instead we’re investing in the working environment and using greener energy sources. But one day, one day…