Having established a successful career and business in interior design, it was a fascination for natural and homeopathic cures and the discovery of a Victorian herbal recipe book that led Julia Roberts in a different direction.
Hi Julia! How would you describe Yellow Gorse, in a nutshell?
We’re a wellbeing company who aim to bring a little ‘joie de vivre’ into people’s lives, through our freshly made wellbeing skin care and fragrance products, and through our lifestyle collection for the home. Our products can be found in our two bricks and mortar stores in Swanage and Bridport, and also online through www.yellowgorse.co.uk, plus a selection of other lifestyle shops throughout Britain.
How did you choose the name Yellow Gorse?
I chose it because of the prolific amount of yellow gorse bushes growing locally in and around Isle of Purbeck and along the coast, especially because the plant is uplifting to look at, uplifting to smell, and to me it also signifies happy holidays in the country. So, when people step into one of our stores, it’s important to us that people get that happy, uplifting and calming vibe.
Who are the people behind the business?
Myself of course, plus Emma, who has just recently come aboard – she is a qualified actress but has had to take a side step during the pandemic, she helps me out with making products and looking after customers in our Swanage store. We also have Helen, a registered nutritionist, who helps out with looking after the Bridport store along with Lily and Tash.
How did you first discover your love for what you do, and realise the direction you wanted to take?
I had a love for natural cures on the homeopathic side from very early on in my life and repeatedly turned to that when I was going through troublesome times. Back in 2006 my son and I had moved into Poole town and during the winter would visit the local library regularly to while away the long dark evenings. I came across an old Victorian herbal recipe book, based on remedies for the body, mind and home, along with a soap and candle making book. From then on, I started to create and make, so this has gone from being an interest on the side to a full-time passion.
What did you do before setting up Yellow Gorse?
I spent the first 20 years of my working career in interior design. I ran my own business which was based in Canford Cliffs.
What inspired the idea of setting up your business, and how did you develop it?
After working in interiors for 20 years I felt like I needed a bit of change, but didn’t want to lose the creative side, so I feel this is just a sidestep from that. It is still about creating a beautiful home that you can retreat to at the end of day and revive yourself.
Which values are a focus for you?
The environment is very important to us, working alongside and with nature. We want to provide simple skin care solutions that work, and ideas to make a home, a home. It’s also important that all this is affordable to working people.
Describe a typical working day…
It can vary quite a bit and could include making up products from scratch, packing up orders to go out to stockists, replying to emails, working on displays in-store, working on our website, through to working on the accounts.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
Everywhere! From conversations and listening to the radio, to reading books and walking in nature.
What is your creative process in making products for Yellow Gorse?
I take a lot of inspiration from my customers. When I create a product from scratch I look into what ingredients would be needed for the product, for example if I create a sleep mist then it might contain valerian root, which is proven to help sleep, plus I may add some lemon balm which is good for calming nerves, and chamomile, which is also calming and soothing.
I’ll then create the recipe, which can take some time, testing out lots of different variations before I narrow it down. First, I’ll test it out for myself, then give it to some other people to try and test before making up into an end product. Finally, I’ll ensure the labelling is straight-forward and to the point, and of course environmentally friendly.
How did you design your space?
The design of our stores is quite simple and rustic. Made up of natural wood surfaces combined with different textures for interest: metal, glass, wicker, natural wood, painted wood, brick and raw plaster surfaces. I also introduce plants and dried flowers into the space to add even more emphasis on the rustic finish. I usually go for a painted floor, because its cheap to do along with being practical. I use a lot of enamel ware to display the products in, along with rustic wooden plates and bowls.
Tell us about Yellow Gorse’s location…
Our Swanage store is based on the Isle of Purbeck, which is absolutely beautiful. You can drive to many diverse and different places of natural beauty – beaches, walks in the woods, and coastal walks -all within about 10 minutes in every direction. Luckily, we also have a microclimate here, so more often than not, the sun is shining!
How did you choose your location?
I chose it first as a place to live. The shop doesn’t have a particularly good foot-fall, but being online and using social media helps up the sales to a viable amount.
How has your business changed since you began?
Yellow Gorse has evolved quite dramatically. In 2014 I started off trading, creating and making in a tiny shop in the artisan area of Swanage – basically a back street. I was then approached by some other stores to see if I would sell my produce to them on a wholesale basis, which I did. From there, I attended trade shows where Yellow Gorse products proved to be quite popular. The brand has grown mainly through word-of-mouth as I have been extremely poor on advertising and putting myself out there, apart from a little bit of social media and the trade shows.
In 2017 I started up the Bridport shop, and my son joined in the venture when he left university. He also became involved in helping with the production of Yellow Gorse products for a while. Then in 2019 we moved from the tiny Swanage store to a slightly larger shop.
How important is the online community to your work?
It’s hugely valuable in getting known for what we do. It’s amazing actually, and you can do it all for free. I also find it’s another creative outlet.
What are the joys, and the challenges, of working as an independent store owner?
Cash flow and time are the most challenging aspects, along with meeting deadlines, running payroll, and producing accounts. Most of the joy comes from being able to be creative, along with meeting lovely people that you may not normally meet.
How do you approach marketing and PR?
I mostly rely on word-of-mouth to spread the news and social media. That’s it really! To be honest, at the moment we couldn’t cope with any more work due to the production side still being very small.
What are your favourite products or bestsellers?
Our best sellers are the bath soaks, especially the Himalayan de-stress soak. Our arnica muscle balm and calendula and chamomile soothe balm are favourites, and the hand and body balms are also popular. On the home fragrance side, our room diffusers, candles, and aromatherapy oils do well.
What have been your business highlights so far?
Being approached by certain stockists who I already admired. It was very exciting to be involved in the trade shows and opening up our store in Bridport alongside my son. I also love working in our new shop in Swanage!
Do you have any creative pastimes?
Gardening is definitely a passion, one which I find extremely therapeutic. Recently, I have spent a lot of time doing up a flat that I moved to during the first lockdown. I really enjoyed getting stuck into the building side and woodwork – interiors will always be my first love. I’ve also recently converted an old school minibus into a camper which was very enjoyable! I really love getting out and about exploring the local area, walking as much as possible, and spending time foraging for food with my friends and then having a creative cook-up with our finds.
What does your ideal day off look like?
It would just be getting up whenever I like, pottering around, even cleaning – I’m probably one of the few that actually likes to clean. Then I’d probably just going off for a walk somewhere local, with no time pressures whatsoever. Having some time to read is also something I enjoy on a day off.
Any good advice for aspiring store owners?
Don’t have a store thinking you will be rich in the monetary sense, do it because you love to be creative and you enjoy meeting people. Peace of mind should always come first, so it’s important to watch the overheads – even if it means that you need to learn new skills such as creating your own website, or doing your own book-keeping.
Along with keeping promises, it’s important to always do what you say you will do and deliver on time, and ensure that every choice you make for your business from the start is based upon being environmentally sustainable.
Yellow Gorse stores: 8 Kings Road East Swanage, BH19 1ES and 25 East Street, Bridport, DT6 3JX