This week, we catch up with Guava & Gold director and founder Clare Price to learn all about her switch from being a barrister to bringing the beach to your bathroom with her luxury bath and body brand. Discover how Clare’s overcome the challenges of Covid-19, explored the digital landscape, and her top tips for building your own business from the bottom up!
Claire Price: So, before I did this, I was a barrister, so something completely different. I specialised in professional negligence and medical negligence work. So, it's very, very different. And I practised at the bar for a long time, and I loved it. It's a great career. It's a great career for women, and I did it for a long time. I was at the bar for 27 years.
But there just came a time where I'd known for a while, I just wanted to do something else. I wanted to create something. I wanted to be able to look at something and say that's mine, and I've created it and have a different challenge. I know people say that was exactly what motivated me, and it was that that set me off and I started thinking what can I do? How can I do something different?
Guava & Gold came about because I looked at the market and I thought I'd love to create something actually beautiful. That was the first thing and something that people will enjoy using. And there isn't another brand out there that focuses purely on holidays and that lovely feeling of sunshine, being on the beach, the sea is there lapping at your feet, warm sun, coral sand, there isn't anything else. And you know, a lot of brands do a holiday line, for example, but nobody says this is our pure focus. And that was what got me going and I took it from there.
The absolutely essential thing about it was it has to smell amazing, so the fragrances are fantastic, and it was those that I developed first and I've worked with them, one of the biggest fragrance houses in the world. So, I have their expertise, their knowledge and their inspiration. They took my ideas and my brief, and they worked with it. They said they loved the project, they really enjoyed it, and they've created something amazing, and it went from there.
CP: Being at the bar, you're self-employed, although we were in chambers on the whole, as barristers, everybody is self-employed. So, I was very used to working on my own, that's a huge part of being at the bar, but you're also part of the team. So, every case that you do, it's a team effort; you will have solicitors instructing you, experts giving you advice. Witnesses are involved when you have a trial and then you have your client who's number one and most important of everybody in the team. So, it is very much team working but the way I bridged it was this, I looked at it and initially you think I don't have any transferable skills of being a barrister. I'm used to reading law reports, I'm used to reading experts reports, but actually you realise you do. What was important about the move in a way was one, having the confidence to say I can do something else; two, was being prepared to accept that I will make mistakes and owning that if something isn't right, it's my mistake and I will own that. That was really important to understand and say when I moved from being a barrister, I can do that. But it was also to say that I do have transferable skills. One of the things that's hugely important to me about Guava & Gold is the detail of it. Everything must be right, so that what my customers get is right and I think from being a barrister, you spend your life looking at the detail of things. Yes, there’s a bigger picture. What am I trying to achieve? What's my vision? What's the direction for this particular case? Everything is about detail. And that to me was so important when I came over to setting up Guava & Gold to say, everything's got to be right before it goes to the market and before anybody sees the products.
CP: I always say if anybody watching from my chambers ever sees me doing these interviews, they will know what I mean. There's a conference room in chambers and it has a mirror in there, and I used to look in that mirror before I go meet my clients in our reception area. I would look and I just checked: do I look alright? Is my hair okay? my makeup okay? And the tipping point for me was I would look in the mirror and think I don't want to be looking in this mirror in 10 years’ time. I'm doing something else; I don't want to look in the mirror. I've been there a long time and genuinely I loved my career. It was great. It was fantastic for women because it's incredibly flexible. You work very hard when you're on a case, but very, very flexible. And I think that's hugely important when you're bringing up a family so for me, it was just that I knew that mirror sort of sums it up. I just knew it was time to try something else.
CP: It’s affected me in terms of the plans for Guava & Gold quite significantly. I had spent quite a lot of time working up to having a number of things that were going to happen in March/April of this year and they were big plans. I was talking to somebody in New Zealand who loves the brand and was hoping to put it into hotel shops in Fiji, for example, which would have been amazing for a new brand.
I was talking to a retailer about it going into a department store and that all came to a halt overnight, obviously we all stopped travelling. Fiji also was hit really quite badly by a cyclone, and of course, we all stopped going to the shop straightaway, we weren't allowed to, were we? So that for me, a lot of my plans, which were all focused on March/April came to a halt very quickly. I had to look around and say, ‘what are we going to do in terms of the brand?’ The big thing for me was to say, right, we're going to spend this time promoting it, even if we don't make as many sales because what we have planned isn't going to happen. What we are going to do is we're going to promote it and we're going to start to make it more widely known because it's obviously small at the moment, it's really building a name for itself. One of the great things about it is it's a Country and Townhouse Great British brand this year, which again is amazing for it because they're positioned alongside some really big names in not just the beauty and wellbeing industry but other industries as well, because they take 150 brands and showcase them. So, I suppose we're going to use the COVID time to promote the brand as widely as we can. So, in terms of the actual business, that's what we've done. Obviously, in terms of my own situation, with working from home we've learned a lot over the last year, haven't we? We've adapted very quickly to different ways of working, but that wasn't that difficult for me in a way because I was used to working at home when my children were younger. When I was at the bar again, if I could write my advice from home rather than travelling to London, I would sit and write my advice at home. And then I'd be here when they got back from school or whatever. I'm used to working at home, but I think we've all had to make some rapid changes, haven't we?
CP: What was hugely important was that the day we went into the first lockdown was the day we launched the new website. We had an old website, which I wasn't happy with, and had work on the new website, and it was really important to launch that day as that was the day we went for. But that was very lucky, because as I said, ‘Let's promote the brand’.
First thing was I was happy about driving traffic to the website, so that I could showcase the brand widely, and that was really important. So that was just chance that that was the day we had picked to launch the website. And then I have looked around to place the brand on as many websites as I can. I think that's the way we're going if we were already heading in that direction, but I'm looking for websites, from very niche specialist ones through to Amazon and across the board.
What do you think are the biggest challenges are for women in business?
I think number one for me is flexibility. There is nothing I think more important than being able to be there when you need to be for your children, or for your parents or for whoever if you're caring for someone. I think if you're going to try to set up a business, if you're going to try to be at work, employers need to understand that need for flexibility, and I've always said that if you have to be in the office, nine to five, all the time, and some days not understanding that there may be occasions when you need to be somewhere else, it's very, very hard. So, I think setting up a business, it does it gives you the ability to be more flexible. And I think that's actually how you cope.
CP: In terms of inspiration for me, the people that inspire me are those who have set up a luxury brand that has the right ethos behind it. Sustainability is so important to me and that's in terms of what you're producing, what you are doing in respect of environment, and what is the company giving back. So, the big thing about Guava & Gold for me is it isn't intended just to be a business. My hope for it is as it grows, it will give back more and more. We donate products to help alleviate hygiene and poverty, we donated products and money during COVID to frontline workers, and I'm forever looking to see what we can do to give back. So, when I look at who inspires me, it's the people that have set up luxury brands but have done it in a way that is responsible and has the right ethos behind it. So, I really admire people like Stella McCartney, I really admire Vivienne Westwood and what they create, and they have absolutely the right corporate responsibility behind that. That's the driving factor from the people in charge of those brands, the other people who inspire me, and these are problem solvers. So, if you're at work, and if we see a problem, they anticipate it, and they say ‘actually, I'm going to find a way around this,’ that’s really inspiring to me. So, if you take sports people, I think it's wonderful. If you watch someone likes Serena Williams, you can see it's not going right for one day on the court. You can see the mindset that she's got to change and that she's obviously saying I need a different plan. And I think if you're someone like that and can see how they know it's not quite going how they wanted. They've seen the problem, and they deal with it straightaway, and you see a change. I think that's really interesting and that isn't just famous people who inspire me for that. I think anybody who's at work, who says here’s a problem, and I'm going to solve it, I find that really inspiring. I'm not just going to avoid it or ignore it, I'm actually going to look harder and make that work.
CP: The most important thing to me is my customers and building a community and that for a small brand is not easy but you can build a community of people who love your products, who will talk about them for you. One of the things I would say for this is we work with quite a few influencers, but they're not paid, that everything that we do is gifted and they don't have to say nice things, but they say the most wonderful things about the brand, and I watch their stories, they create the most beautiful photographs for the brand, I think it's amazing. And I look at it and I think you don't actually have to do that. We've given you something we've all been paid to do it. And it's lovely to watch a community built around something. And when the customer says you know, my hair was really soft, and really smooth and it smelled amazing and full of volume, that means so much to me. So, I think it is important to get a community together who is interested in something like it and want to go along with it and grow with it.
CP: The first thing I’d say is this: my philosophy is you just say yes to everything, and then you work out how to make it happen. So earlier this year, the PR agency that I work with said ‘so Claire, can we have a video?’ as we don't have any video products. Then the next day, I found myself on a beach. We did it, we found a model through a friend of a friend which got someone we know to come and do hair and makeup. I was writing the script for this, and we did voiceover recording and we listened to different voiceover artists. And I look back at the behind-the-scenes photos on the website and I think ‘how did he end up thinking about making a video?’
I was asked ‘can we have a video?’ and then I thought I've got to make it happen. So, my real thing and my real advice to anybody is if an opportunity comes along and you’re asked, you have to say yes. And then think, okay, how do I make this happen? So, if you stop and think, you go ‘oh, no, you can't do that.’ Well, that way that's not going to work either.
The other side of it is you will be told no. As a business owner, you will go to a shop and say ‘please will you stock my products’, and they will say no. For example, you have to not let that knock you back. My advice is you've got to accept you will be told no at times and you've got to go with that. Go back again and ask again, or find a way around being told no. How can I do differently? Because I do think people can get dispirited by being told no, and you have to say ‘no, no, no, that's okay, I can deal with this’. And it sort of fits in with just saying yes, you know, another opportunity will come along and take it and build on it. But that's not always easy when you're told ‘no thank you’. But you have to just accept it so I can deal with that, and I can find another way around it. I think that's actually part of having been at the bar, you don't always get the result you want, you have to accept that and deal with it.
CP: In my life, I'm most proud of the fact that I have worked all the way through at things that are demanding. Something that is hard, and demanding is that I have three amazing children. Yeah, I have a great husband and three amazing children who, you know, they're now in their early 20s, but I always said, if I thought they were suffering because both of us were working, then stop. I've never had to; they love the fact that I've worked. So that's what I'm really proud of, that I've balanced it as best I can, and I have some fantastic children and a great husband as a result.
CP: I think it's going to grow. I mean, it was already. We've seen huge moves in terms of digital capability, and digital use before COVID and I think it's going to grow exponentially. As I said just a minute ago, a lot of my focus this year has been looking where I can place the brand onto other websites, so for example, I think in terms of how we communicate, how we show how we live in so many ways, it's going to grow. I'm absolutely sure of it.
I hope we'll get back to travelling. I'm missing the beach and missing the sunshine. I really hope we will, because I'm positive and I'm optimistic that we will get back to seeing places.
I believe so much that socialising is important. I think we need other people around us and we need to see them and we need to get back to a stage where we can hold them and we can hug them. And I think digital has replaced that in a way. It's kept us in touch, which is great, but it can't replace that personal feeling. I absolutely know we're going to get back to travelling and seeing places. I think that's so important for all of us. But yeah, I'm sure we're going to see even more growth in the digital side of our lives.
CP: I'm missing that side of travelling and getting out there and I love being warm, so that’s it for me. Also, for Guava and Gold, we have a number of things going on. We are working with an agency in the Netherlands to place products into the country. We have gone into two or three shops there already. So, the first thing is to say I'm looking to expand the brand overseas.
Obviously, there's a focus on your home market, always very important to look at your market and focus and build your name there, but there is also, for me, very much a focus on moving the brand overseas. So that's very important, and that will be the next thing, but it takes time, and it takes investment. So, it's a lot of work to do but that's my focus. I would like, as I said at the very beginning, for it to grow as people start to know the brand and to recognise it, that's a huge part of it.
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