If you’ve been reading my Blog for a while, you’ll know by now that I am a huge fan of Holly Tucker’s podcast ‘Conversations of Inspiration.’
Holly Tucker MBE founded ‘Not on the Highstreet’ 13 years ago and is now the UK Ambassador to Creative Small Businesses. She also runs Holly &Co – her own business that not only sells unique products and is a community workspace and café, but is also an enigmatic force for the good in terms of supporting small business and start-ups.
Her aim is to empower people to start up their own businesses, to love what they do, do what they love and cheer-lead them along the way.
Her and her team shine a light on the remarkable creatives, small business owners and Artisans who are the backbone of our societies and encourage customers to change their buying behaviour by supporting local independents more. So, as a fellow creative and supporter of small businesses – what’s not to love?
Miriam and Clair pose by the event sign and just look at that huge organ – great venue!
And then of course there is the Podcast, where she interviews some incredible founders of businesses, such as this powerful list of entrepreneurs: Ella Mills of Deliciously Ella, Jo Malone, Emily Coxhead of The Happy News, Wilfred Emmanuel, founder of The Black Farmer, Freddie Garland of Freddie’s Flowers, Illustrator Veronica Dearly, Joanne Hawker of March Meet the Maker, Ash Bishop, founder of the Brilliant Signs Company, The Body Coach – Joe Wicks, Chrissie Rucker of the White Company, Alex Monroe Jewellery and the Levi Roots founder of Reggae Reggae Sauce, to name but a few.
With growing number of listeners, it’s not just me who loves this podcast. So, when I saw that she was doing some live recording events, and one in Manchester, I jumped at the opportunity and took fellow fans Clair and Miriam with me!
When I booked the tickets, I didn’t know who the conversation would be with. We later found out it was with Mark Constantine, founder of LUSH!
The evening itself was everything I expected it to be and more, held at the beautiful Venue of Manchester Cathedral and decorated with huge colourful quotes taken from the podcast interviews, a Ginspiration bar, pop-up shop and Holly’s giant motto ‘Love what you do, Do what you love.’ lit up on the stage.
Once we’d settled into our seats (with a large Gin!) we discovered our goodie bags, a lovely tote bag, chipotle sauce and Lush goodies as well as a postcard to enter for 100 minutes mentoring with Holly.
The evening then began with an energetic performance by a fabulous choir of ‘Ain’t no mountain high enough’ before Holly came on in a flurry of colourful kaftan, welcomed us to the evening and proceeded to give us her top tips for starting a business, wise words which we all drank in !
Here are just a few of Holly’s top tips and what resonated with me:
Next up was Holly’s guest Mark Constantine. I had no idea of his story and didn’t know that much about LUSH to be honest, so I listened intently to his story of how LUSH came about and how he’d built resilience and a slightly rebellious streak due to a challenging up-bringing.
To give you a very brief run down, Mark had a difficult childhood, with a Stepdad who would be physically abusive towards him, so by age 16, Mark left the family home and became homeless.
He got a job working in a barbers but it didn’t pay enough to cover accommodation as well as food and clothes. He learned about hair and starting to make products in his humble flat which he then showed to his friend Anita Roddick, who of course founded The Body Shop. She was impressed and he was soon supplying products to the Body Shop and training up the staff on the products.
Eventually Anita became ill and sold to retail giant Loreal to make back some money they were already losing on a partnership with a local business man, much to Mark’s dismay, he couldn’t understand why she would sell out to what he believed to be an unethical company and they had numerous fights about it, but at that point Mark didn’t know she was ill. He now sites his lowest point being when she died, despite a sometimes-rocky relationship, they were good friends and she had a huge impact on his life.
Mark then went on to start ‘Cosmetics to Go’ a mail order beauty and cosmetics company, they were hugely successful, but the mailing costs and packaging too high and eventually the company went bust, leaving him with just 200k. By this point he was married to Mo and had 3 children to support, but rather than play it safe and pay debts and mortgages off, he bought another property (that unfortunately he then had to re-sell as part of it was tumbling into the sea!) and then with just 40k started LUSH.
At this point there was a bit of an intake of breath in wonderment from the audience! What astounded us all was the bravery of that decision, the willingness to take huge risks and believe in yourself so much that you make what could easily have been a disastrous decision – to me it seems that once you’ve had that low point of being homeless or losing so much money, Mark decided to just go for it, because he knew from his past experience that he’d survived those dark times – he was incredibly inspiring and it really hit home to me to take more risk and think big – because otherwise you’ll never know just how far you can go if you’re not tested?
Yes, the stakes are higher, but so could the rewards potentially be.
LUSH is now a huge business with 928 stores worldwide and is constantly reinventing and innovating, the latest vision is Naked Lush – stores where products have no packaging at all, and you use your phone to scan and identify what it is!
Great natural products and customer experience is at the centre of its business model, as is supporting charities and social projects and making sure the staff are fully involved in the company, with part-ownership and huge enthusiasm for all things LUSH.
The final part of the story was also incredible, his close friend Jeff did a family tree for Mark for his 60th birthday and unbeknown to him, he’d found his father, who had walked out when Mark was really young, still alive, and based in South Africa, which he let Mark know….by text!
Mark wasted no time and took his family on a plane as soon as he could which turned out to be a good decision. He met his dad and showed him a scent he’d created that reminded him of his dad, he called it ‘Dear John’ and his dad loved it.
That smoky, coffee, comforting scent is even more poignant now because he sadly died just 6 weeks after he met him. Thankfully Mark got to meet two half-sisters and at the funeral he sat in-between them, thankful to have finally met his dad and his new siblings.
It was a really emotional ending to the story he brought to us that night and then he read out the finale part to all Holly’s podcast Interviews – a letter to his younger self, which again was an incredibly humbling letter given the journey he’d been on.
Here are a few of Mark’s comments that really hit home:
Then followed a closing performance of the choir and a thank you from Holly as well as some local entrepreneurs bravely doing a pitch for their own businesses to the audience
We left feeling thoroughly wowed, exhilarated and re-energised for our own businesses which resulted in little sleep that night and me writing a very long To Do list the next day!
She might be a huge success and an MBE no less but she still responds personally to Instagram comments and is always encouraging and supportive – a woman after my own heart.
My only regret was not getting chance to speak to Holly, she had a queue a mile long and we had a train to catch, but I passed on a card to her assistant and entered the mentoring competition so you never know, I might get some time with her yet, but even if I don’t, I know the podcast will continue to inspire me weekly with it’s encouraging interviews, so if you haven’t listened yet, search ‘Conversations of Inspiration‘ on your podcast provider and give it a try, I know there will be golden nuggets of advice in there that you’ll find incredibly useful and of course the Manchester Live one, where you can hear Mark Constantine’s story first hand, is out today (Monday 22nd July)!
I hope you enjoy it and find it as inspiring as I did, let me know what you think if you do have a listen!
Until next time…
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
Ps slight disclaimer….this is my interpretation of the interview and hopefully I’ve got everything right but please listen to the podcast for the full version!