Sarah set up Henley Naturals with a mission to promote natural, sustainable healthcare and reduce plastic. Here, she tells us her story from Long Covid to launching her own refillable essential oils brand.
Tell us a little about your work and how it started
Henley Naturals was created during a sleepless night with my 6-month-old over a decade ago - it hit me like a lightning bolt. Why not use ingredients from the garden to make natural products for the family? So I started making lip balms and soaps using rosemary and lavender. Years on, I have now launched a range which encompasses my background as an Aromatherapist, Nurse and Reiki practitioner.
The aim is to provide people with knowledge of essential oils and natural health, that we can use everyday to promote wellbeing. When we care for ourselves, we have the room to care for others and the world around us.
Henley Naturals hand wash
What made you decide to start your business ?
The leap into the unknown world of owning my own business hit me like a frying pan! During the Pandemic, while working as an advanced nurse on the front line, I developed Long Covid. It was an incredibly tough time, with months spent struggling to walk, crawling up the stairs after homeschooling, telling my husband I was ‘done for the day’ and it was only Noon! No-one had any answers, so I embarked on my own journey of self-help, centered around complementary health. Doing an aromatherapy course played a crucial role in revitalising my mind, and I began to incorporate it into my life, from self-care and supporting my family.
Step by step I improved, but nursing didn't feel like my sole purpose anymore. I had always believed in a holistic approach to healing, considering the mind, body, and spirit. Although this is acknowledged in western medicine, putting it into practice is difficult within the constraints of the NHS. So I decided to step away from my 20-year career and embrace a new perspective on healthcare. I believe in giving people the tools to help themselves and find balance. I wanted to go back to making products and educate people about the potential of essential oils.
I then returned to writing my MSc dissertation on essential oils for the treatment of COVID-19 and was blown away with the research. These plant extracts really do ‘harness the power of nature’. People just need to have the knowledge of how to incorporate them into their lives.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration pretty much anywhere I look, but I certainly don’t wake up every day feeling motivated. On those days, I go to my internal list of things that ‘light me up’. This can be a dog walk by the river, or diffusing my favourite oils while working, buying myself flowers while doing the food shop, having a crystal bath with essential oils, practicing 10 mins of yoga or even just sitting in the garden.
As an earth element, inspiration usually involves spending time outdoors, whether in the lake district where I am from, or Cornwall which is my spiritual home. I love learning about different cultures, travelling and meeting new people.
Describe your typical working day
My day starts at 6:20 with multiple alarm snoozes before pleading with my husband to make tea. The next couple of hours are spent coaxing my kids out of bed, to get dressed, and finally scrambling for my car keys. After the chaos of the school run, I can breathe a sigh of relief, and do some exercise before I realise I have a call at 0930 which I have not prepared for!
The next hour involves handling orders, making calls about marketing, and sourcing new packaging. The part I enjoy the most is making the products, when I put on some tunes, get mixing the
recipes, and remember how lucky I am to have the opportunity to work for myself.
Balancing family life and a business has its ups and downs. What keeps me going is my belief in spreading the message about essential oils, their benefits, and reducing our plastic consumption by creating refillable packaging.
While I miss nursing, I believe I can make a bigger impact by promoting self-help through essential oils, yoga, mindfulness, and daily activities that bring joy.
How you create your recipes?
I go through creative bursts and and then more sedentary times, when I know I need to take a step back to allow the creativity to flow. During these times, I find inspiration for my recipes. The names of my products, like Free Flow, Rowers Revive, Still Waters, Reflections, and Henley Ducklings, came to me during my walks by the river.
The scent choices are something which I recognise as one of my intuitive talents. I blend oils over time, coming back to them to ensure the scent works. Rushing this part can lead to a disaster. As an aromatherapist, I can tell which oils don't blend well. It's similar to a wine taster developing a palate. The same applies to aromatherapy, which is why I'm meticulous in selecting the highest quality oils.
What has been the biggest highlight and biggest challenge to date?
The biggest highlight was securing a large order for sustainable, therapeutic soap for Legal & General’s new offices, as well as being in Vogue’s Skin and Beauty showcase for up-and-coming brands this summer.
I get a real buzz every time I get feedback saying people love using the soap and feel uplifted by it. Knowing I'm making a difference in people's lives drives me forward.
The biggest challenge was balancing writing my MSc dissertation and setting up the business during the summer holidays. I learnt I am definitely a deadline person - even though I was given a whole year, I crammed it all into six weeks and managed to pull it out the bag. My husband definitely breathed a sigh of relief when I handed it in.
Best nugget of wisdom you can share with your fellow Creative Ducks?
Find those moments of calm and tranquility in the chaos, and believe in yourself. I truly believe we each have a purpose and if something is niggling at you, it's usually your intuition trying to tell you to make a change.
We are all unique and what works for one person may not work for someone else. Find what works for you, write your list of things which make you happy. If you nurture your soul then the rest will fall into place.
Where can we find out more?