Twelve years ago Nicola Elliott launched her wellbeing brand Neom. Catherine Scott meets the Leeds mum and businesswoman.
Walking into the Neom Organics shop in Leeds’s Victoria Gate shopping centre is a haven of tranquillity.
It is the opposite of the life its founder Leeds-born Nicola Elliott led when she came up with the idea for the wellbeing brand famous for its essential oils and candles.
“I was in my late 20s, working 60 hour weeks as a journalist for glossy magazines in London, burning the candle at both ends and getting increasingly stressed and anxious,” recalls Nicola, now 39.
“I looked around the office and realised that it was full of women feeling the same way as I did.
“We were all stressed, struggling to sleep and probably neglecting our wellbeing. I realised then that it was a modern malaise.”
Nicola decided to look after her own wellbeing and, after work, retrained in aromatherapy and nutrition.
She started creating little essential oil blends and tinctures for her stressed-out friends.
“It was really obvious to me from the beginning that my products had to be 100 per cent natural and, where possible, organic to actually work.”
At the same time, her sister was having trouble sleeping.
“She is a staunch ‘greeny’ and was working for Friends Of The Earth. She has an OBE for services to tackling climate change – she only ever uses organic products,” says Nicola.
She realised quite quickly there was a gap in the market.
“Twelve years ago there just weren’t the organic products using essential oils around.
“There were either glamorous products full of chemicals or else you had to head to the health food shops and get something in a brown paper bag.”
To crack the market, she realised her essential oil blends had to look good as well as do good. “That was never my main intention and packaging was never the most important thing but it was part of it.”
And so, with her business partner Oliver Mennell (Neom comes from their initials), she started with just five candles which she says were the first candles on the market to be made only with 100 per cent natural wax and pure essential oils.
“We took them to the Harrogate Gift Fair and there was a huge queue around our tiny stall,” recalls Nicola, who moved back to Yorkshire seven years ago and now lives in Harrogate where Neom has its HQ.
“People were really interested in what we had to say. It made us realise that we had hit on something unique. I had a career I loved and so I needed to be certain that we had something that people really wanted, and above all, would help them.”
For Nicola, Neom is far more than beautifully packaged organic candles and diffusers, it is about helping people improve their wellbeing.
To this end she has a panel of 11 experts who make up Neom’s wellbeing panel and provide blogs and vlogs as well as ebooks which are freely available. She even has a sleep school to help people with sleeping problems.
She now has three Neom stores, the other two are in London, which she says are more than just shops.
“The idea is that people can go into the wellbeing stores and get help with whatever is bothering them.
“Half of all women say they don’t take enough time to look after their health and wellbeing, and Neom offers advice on the small steps that we can all take,” says Nicola. “The issues people face, from poor sleep to stress, tiredness and feeling low, are often inter-linked. If left unchecked, they can really impact on long-term health.
“And that’s what keeps me inspired and always seeking new solutions. I am the Neom customer – I’m a busy mum of two.”
Nicola says she moved back to Yorkshire when her son Charlie was two, although she travels to London once a week.
“Everyone needs help from their mum when they have little ones,” she says.
Charlie is now nine, and Alexa seven, and Nicola says she finds the constant juggling easier than when they were little.
“There isn’t so much guilt,” she says. “They are old enough now to want to go to after school clubs and also my daughter is old enough to understand that mummy works and I think that is really important. My husband Dave also gets involved, it has to be a partnership.”
Neom now boasts celebrity fans including Gwyneth Paltrow, Daisy Lowe, Kylie Minogue and Nicole Scherzinger.
As well as the three wellbeing stores and on-line shop, Neom is stocked in top department stores including Selfridges and John Lewis - the Leeds store staged a Neom event yesterday.
This month Nicola is holding a series of workshops in John Lewis in a bid to get her message across.
“I think we have a good story to tell and it is difficult to do that on three shelves in a department store. I am excited about the events at John Lewis as it is a chance for me to tell my story and take questions and to bring my brand to life.”
So who is the typical Neom customer?
“When I started out I used to think that it was the person like me – 28, ambitious and working all hours.
“But we do regular lifestyle audits and our customers range from 20 to 70. At 39, I have different issues, I am a busy working mum who gets tired and anxious and you think when you get to your 50s and 60s it will be fine, but this generation are juggling even more.
“Some may be looking after grandchildren or elderly relatives. Everyone needs help with their wellbeing and that’s where Neom can help.”
York John Lewis will stage a Neom event on Wednesday, June 21. There will be a Neom Organics Wellbeing Scent Discovery Workshop, hosted by Nicola Elliott. The event showcases Neom Organics Scent Discovery Test, which customers use to find their underlying wellbeing needs. Nicola will also take part in a question and answer session.
Tickets for each event cost £15 per person. (Redeemable against purchases on the evening)
For more information, see www.myjl.uk/events/index.aspx?ID=NSGRP1