The mums behind Amersham-based Bloom and Blossom
PUBLISHED: 15:05 13 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:05 13 August 2018
Some of the best ideas grow from a chat at the family dining table, and this one blossomed into products now delighting mothers across the country
Nestling in an unassuming corner of Old Amersham, next door to the town’s traditional newsagent, Café Twelve Twenty is buzzing. A trio of silver-haired ladies in cashmere sweaters have hung their raincoats on the backs of their chairs and are engaged in deep conversation about their efforts collecting funds for the RNLI.
A young couple are working frenetically on laptops, headphones on, eking out the obligatory smashed avocado on toast to justify this café-as-office scenario. A handsome, bronzed twentysomething pulls up on a scooter, removes his helmet, shakes out his sunkissed locks, takes a seat on the pavement outside and gives Joe, the proprietor, the nod to serve up his regular blend of coffee. He looks like he’s just ridden in on a wave, but it’s a rainy spring morning in south Bucks, a long way from the sea.
A man in an expensive suit is digesting the business pages of the Daily Telegraph, devouring a hearty all day breakfast as he nervously checks his iPhone every five seconds. Two weary mums hold their babies as they natter away, comparing notes about the sporadic sleep patterns of their infant offspring, and ordering their second 12 ounce lattes as they rummage in their bags for dummies and muslins.
Perched at the last remaining table, Julia Yule greets me with an enormous smile, her mop of tumbling golden curls bouncing like coiled springs as she stands to give me a kiss on both cheeks. Her blue eyes twinkle like freshly polished aquamarines in the sunshine, her skin glows with health, and her slender frame is clad in skinny jeans featuring studs down the side seam, making it hard to reconcile that before me is a 41-year-old mother of three young children.
But then, here is a woman who knows a thing or two about wellbeing and parenting: she, along with her sister-in-law, Christina Moss, is the founder of Bloom and Blossom, a collection of natural, solution-focused pampering everyday products designed for new mums, babies and now, older children, too.
Here, in Old Amersham, a quaint market town in the Chiltern Hills, is the beating heart of a business that is rapidly taking on the giants. Chosen as the base for their head office because it was midway between their family homes, allowing them to commit to the school run and time with their children, the pair are frequently found looking over marketing strategies, negotiating contracts and signing deals in this thriving café, where a smiling Joe refills their re-usable takeaway mugs and goes the extra mile to ensure they’re looked after.
Fuelled by a passion for quality, a belief in British manufacturing, a drive for success and a mission to be dynamic female role models to their five children, these two women are entrepreneurs, twenty first century style. Sassy, smart and straight-talking, things are done on their terms, without compromise.
Bloom and Blossom was, like so many brilliant businesses, born out of a growing awareness of a need for something to fill a gap in the market. “The two of us were sitting at Christina’s mum’s dining room table, after a family supper, early in 2009, and we were nattering over a glass of wine, as we are wont to do,” explains Julia, who is married to Christina’s older brother, Ross. A former fashion and beauty PR who has worked with brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Versace, ESPA and John Frieda, as well as a number of smaller start-ups, she had seen a marked shift in consumer behaviour, noting that shoppers were beginning to question where and how their skincare products and toiletries were made.
“We were both talking about having families: all our friends were having babies, discussing parenting anxieties and chatting about products they might use for their newborns and the worries about what ingredients were in them. We could relate to that need and realised these were products we too would need, sooner or later. We found ourselves talking more realistically about the potential to actually start a business together.”
Within two weeks, the pair, who had enjoyed a firm friendship since they were first introduced on a nightclub dancefloor in 2001, had come up with a clear concept for their business and registered a name for their fledgling enterprise.
“We had a shared passion for the beauty industry and we both loved the idea of a natural, family-focused beauty brand. We totally read each other’s minds when we started talking about the seeds of what was to become Bloom and Blossom,” recalls Christina, now 37, and mum to Seraphina, six and three year-old Flora.
“I had been working in marketing for a finance company, but had no job satisfaction and was disillusioned with corporate life. I wanted to do something more meaningful and fulfilling; my husband, Gareth, is an entrepreneur and my father started his own business at the age of 13, so it felt perfectly normal to do so, even in the depths of a recession.”
Formal market research was never on the agenda: a launch range of seven products was developed after “endless conversations with friends, family and colleagues”, who wanted ‘safe’ products that didn’t contain nasties such as parabens. As a pregnant woman and a new mother, your mindset changes so much and you begin to question everything. You still have the same tastes and standards but you apply them differently and have different priorities.
“There was a need to create pregnancy and post-pregnancy products that worked, that were safe and good for children and that looked slick and stylish on shelf, not cute and fluffy and patronising to new mums. It had to be informed and sophisticated.”
It took just a year for Bloom and Blossom to secure their first order from the boutique beauty retailer Space NK, with Anti-Stretchmark Cream, Baby Balm, Nipple Balm, Leg and Foot Spray, Facial Spritz, Mother and Baby Massage Oil and Gentle Scalp Oil taking their place on the shelves alongside established premium brands such as Aromatherapy Associates, Sisley and Aesop.
“We were literally doing the final pitch to the buyers when Baxter, my firstborn, was ten days old, so I was a complete headcase,” laughs Julia, reminiscing about the rollercoaster ride of concurrently giving birth and launching a business during a major economic downtown, when most said they had no chance of survival. “We were gobsmacked when Space NK took the whole range, placing a first order for around 12,000 products to stock in 62 stores. Most new launches are tested in six or seven key branches before they commit to them, but they rolled Bloom and Blossom out from their start, because they believed in what we were doing. Everything was solution-based or indulgence-based: when you’re pregnant, you’re always being told what you can’t do, so we wanted to create positive experiences that really delivered.”
Like many start-ups, the founders were hands-on right from the word go, storing and packing stock in their flats, hiring self-drive vans to do deliveries and roping in everyone they knew to spend overnight shifts packing bottles into boxes while they continued in their full time jobs. Today, both are have walked away from high-flying careers to focus full-time on Bloom and Blossom, which employs a rapidly-expanding team in their Buckinghamshire office, catering to growing demand from stockists including John Lewis, Ocado, Liberty, Jo Jo Maman Bebe, Mamas & Papas and Champneys.
Following the early success of the initial range, Sleep and Baby Sleep products were added to the line sheet in 2017, tapping into a groundswell of interest in the importance of sleep and its contribution to our wellbeing. “We know what it’s like to exist on broken sleep, drinking endless coffees to get you through the day, often with your head in your hands,” says Christina with a wry smile. “Having children is not a smooth journey, and we understand that even with the perfect environment for quality sleep, sometimes that won’t happen. But we do know that when you create a good bedtime routine, surrounded by a relaxing, calming fragrance, for adults and children, it can aid better sleep.”
The burgeoning brand, proudly made in Britain, has gained cult status with beauty editors, bloggers and influential celebrities including pop stars, TV presenters and models, who happily sing the praises of the products on social media, offering valuable endorsement in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
This spring, following a visit with their children to one of Buckinghamshire’s best-loved landmarks, the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, the Bloom and Blossom girls launched a prized collaboration with the Roald Dahl Story Company, creating the Bath, Book and Bedtime range, inspired by the BFG. A soothing, sleep-inducing scent features across products including Dream Catcher’s Pillow Spray, Grobby Little Grub Hair & Body Wash and Wispy Misty Bubble Bath, along with a specially-printed hardback limited edition of The BFG, featuring previously unseen dreams from Dahl’s original manuscripts.
“We know how important it is to read with your children at night, for them to go to bed feeling happy and secure, and provide that positive environment to enable them to get a good night’s sleep,” says Julia, proudly showing me the eye-catching packaging, featuring Quentin Blake’s distinctive illustrations. “We are really passionate about getting children to take responsibility for their own sleep, and settle in to a comforting nightly rhythm. We are giving children the opportunity to go to sleep thinking about their dreams, so they wake up ready to make those happen... and we are pursuing our own dreams in the process.”
I can’t help but think of the two tired mums who were sat just a dummy’s throw from this pair of dynamic women when we first sat down, but who gave up their attempts at conversation when their babies woke. Harassed and headed for home, if only they had known there just might be a helping hand in the form of a deliciously-scented soporific spray for both baby and mums.
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