Hi Katie, when and why did you decide to open Harvest Skincare?
Harvest started in 2009, from my home in Birmingham. Growing up, I spent a lot of my time in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, working in the family’s business and shop and so when I realised that I needed to expand beyond my own kitchen, opening a store was a natural progression and felt like a return to my roots. I opened our first store in Kings Heath in 2015. The business soon expanded and we now supply around 100 stockists worldwide, whilst serving both the local and online communities
What had you done before?
I trained as a holistic practitioner, aromatherapist and skincare therapist and worked in that industry for 15 years during which time I became totally fascinated with the skin. Personally, I had always suffered with eczema and allergies and struggled to find products that worked but weren’t full of chemicals. This led me to train in formulation, cosmetics and retail, and inspired me to start developing my own products at home.
It was really important to me to use only organic and natural ingredients as I found that these products soothed and repaired my skin conditions. As I’d struggled for so long to find anything to treat them, I really wanted to be able to help people in a similar position. My years as a therapist, my knowledge of natural skincare, and my personal experience all combined to lead me to launching Harvest.
How did you decide on the name?
When I started the business, I chose the name ‘Honest’ because it embodied the core values I had for my products, but the end of summer last year brought with it the need to re-brand and so ‘Honest’ became ‘Harvest’!
Harvest stands for Honest Alchemy Restoring Values Ethically Simply Together – all values that are integral to the brand.
How would you describe the interior style of the store?
The store very much reflects our love of nature, with a clean, pared back aesthetic, designed to create a calm and relaxing shopping experience. Currently a crown of dried flowers hangs from the ceiling and there are always plants trailing down shelves. Many of the fixtures are reclaimed, or have been recycled, putting sustainability at the heart of the business. We have a treatment room at the back of the store, where clients can experience holistic therapies using our products, away from the bustle of their everyday lives.
The calmness of the store means our customers often pop by for a chat and soak up the environment, which is so important to us – it’s a space created for them to return to whenever they need.
You’re passionate about using natural products – why is this so important to you?
It is important to me to know exactly what is in our products and where it all comes from. At Harvest, we believe that a few, carefully selected natural products can be incredibly effective – that nature provides us with all we need to protect, heal and nourish our skin and so we only use 100% pure products. Because we believe that nature takes care of us, we feel strongly that we should take care of nature too and so all our packaging is simple, biodegradable and reusable.
Tell us about the full range of wonderful cosmetics you create…
We have three main skincare ranges: CALM, BALANCE and NOURISH, all created with skin-loving waxes and vitamins and blended with the finest organic oils. These ranges have been carefully tailored to nourish and support individual skin types, each containing a cleanser and a face cream and complimented by toners, skin oils and lip care.
Our Nurture range is designed for mothers and their babies, using the gentlest, organic ingredients such as aloe vera, shea butter and calendula to calm and soothe sore skins throughout pregnancy, infancy and beyond.
For the body we have shampoos and conditioners, hand and body washes and balms, skin oils and bath salts and a beautiful library of soaps, showcasing an array of colours and aromas. All of these are made in small batches, containing only the best, organic ingredients, to provide nourishment for the body, as well as the mind through their wonderful scents.
The benefits of scent is integral to our ethos and so we sell hand-rolled incense, scent mists and essential oils for the home. Because we love candles, we make those too, using soy wax which, combined with high quality essential oils, creates a clean burn and gives a long lasting scent. We know the power that scent has to calm and uplift the soul, to create mood, and provide comfort and because our products are handmade in our in-store kitchen, we find people often visit the store, simply to be surrounded and uplifted by the smell!
Which item is your bestseller?
We have a new range of soaps which are proving to be really popular. It’s not really surprising, given the world we are now living in, but I suspect people are being more selective about the type of soap they use, to make sure they are caring and nourishing their hands, now we’re all washing them so much more. The soaps, which we display in our soap library, also make really lovely gifts. Embossed with our name and in pleasing colours, they combine natural ingredients such as Camomile + Alkanet Root; we are seeing them being bought to be sent as a gifts to loved ones all over the country. And of course, they have the added bonus of being cruelty free and vegan, with no palm oil, no parabens or SLS and no synthetic colours or fragrances.
What do you enjoy most about running Harvest?
The thing that I enjoy most about Harvest is our community. Really it’s all about people – the people who shop with us of course but also the team who are share the same values as me and the broader community who pop in to enjoy the space. The store seems to draw people who are looking to find peace and comfort, whether that’s in the Treatment Room itself or by simply being around the scents in the shop and being with the staff and each other. And if someone has a particular skin concern or a gift to buy, it feels really special to be able to help them, and tailor the advice to make a real difference to them. Seeing the customers smile, because of something I’ve created is pretty wonderful.
What has been your career highlight (so far!)?
I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with other, like-minded businesses. We launched an exclusive range of products for Cos at the end of last year, which was really exciting and a big moment. Our re-brand has proved to be a huge highlight – it was incredibly hard work in many ways, but gave us an opportunity to reflect and refresh, which felt particularly important in such a challenging year. It was a re-birth in many ways, and coincided with the coming of autumn so felt aligned with the seasons.
What is the neighbourhood like? Do you have a community of independent stores around you?
Our store is based in Kings Heath, which is a suburb a few miles out of Birmingham City Centre. It’s a bustling, creative area, filled with vibrant small businesses and independents. The pandemic has really demonstrated what a wonderful community we have here. Our customers are loyal and have supported us through all the twists and turns of the last year, while the local businesses have adapted, working together to evolve and survive in the current climate.
We’ve seen new businesses open and thrive over the past year and there is a sense that shopping habits really have changed. We’re lucky in Kings Heath, we have everything from parks and green spaces, to wine bars and great restaurants, to gifts shops and greengrocers – there really is no need to leave! The area is full of creatives, meaning there is always something interesting to see or do and fun, inspiring folk to chat to!
Do you have any advice for those thinking of starting their own store?
I think you always have to go with your heart, do what you love and are passionate about – opening your own store is hard work in so many ways (and of course wonderful in others!), you make the battle harder for yourself if you don’t actually love it, and people will be able to tell! Saying that, being adaptable’s super-important, there’s no point hanging onto an idea that is no longer working, when the market and your customer are constantly changing.
The customer has to be at the forefront of your mind – give them a reason to keep returning! I believe really strongly that, as a business owner, you have a responsibility to give something back to your community – if this year’s taught us anything, it’s how important community is.
Find Harvest Skincare at 34 Poplar Rd, King’s Heath, Birmingham