After having the most amazing business women come into my life in 2018 I thought it was only fitting to use some of this year to shine a spotlight on them so they can bring as much inspiration to you as they do to me. Welcome to my FierceFemale series…
Last month I sat down with the gorgeous Hannah, 26, from Cole & Co to talk all things business, balance and what 2019 has in store for this fast-growing family company.
A huge welcoming grin and a hug greets me as Hannah opens the door, hair scraped up, and a cosy jumper dress on, I’m beckoned through into the beautiful home she shares with partner and illustrator Ian, of Folio. Candles are lit in every room ready for our photo shoot as she calls ‘TEA?’ from the kitchen. (Silly question)
The house is perfectly styled and phenomenally calm for one of the busiest couples I know, an impressive record collection is neatly stacked next to the dining room table, industrial inspired lighting gives that dreamy Scandi edge, and the cosiest corner sofa scattered with cushions (that just so happen to match the latest product launch from Folio) set the scene for today’s interview. Light streams through the huge windows of the refurbished terrace and with brews in hand we settle in for a good old chinwag.
Morning lovely, how are you doing today? “All good” she replies.
Hannah began working for her parents company at a very young age when her mum set up her dream lifestyle shop in the coastal tourist town of Beaumaris in 2000, there she began curating an eye for beautiful things, running off to London to attend the tradeshows and spending weekends behind the till. In fact it wasn’t until 2010 when Hannah’s mum spotted a gap in the market for Handmade Welsh soy candles that Cole & Co as we know it began to emerge and what began as a hobby project for her dad, mixing fragrances from their basement, has exponentially grown into a proud, recognised, luxury brand stocked in huge department stores, small independents, hotels, B&B’s and everywhere in between, with 5 members of workshop staff, 2 shops and now 3 proud Directors.
I wanted to start by trying to figure out how this young feisty lady had ended up where she is today. Her work ethic and energy is astounding and whilst she hasn’t trodden the most traditional path, as we talk it becomes clear how every step has influenced the business woman she is today.
” I could have studied Business but I knew there was so much more I could learn by actually being there”
Having decided against university, been to Kenya to volunteer and settled on a career engaging with people (Hannah is chatterbox just like me) two years working in a hotel in Beaumaris clearly gave her the work ethic that she still lives by.
“the long, unsociable hours really began to take an effect on my life, I’ll never let that happen again”
But aged 21 the claustropobia of small-town life really sunk in, so with 9 interviews lined up, and a vague plan, Hannah and Ian relocated 4.5hrs south to Cardiff, safe in the knowledge there was family nearby, but enough distance to make a fresh start. 3 days into city life and Hannah landed a position in John Lewis’ homeware department. Little did she know the opportunities that role was going to bring both to her and the family business.
” I noticed there was a gap for Welsh products in the store, luckily I had grown up around independent Welsh brands, so I did a very scary pitch to Head Office and I pitched Cole & Co alongside 11 other companies. Four made it through the first run and one of them was Mum and Dad’s”
“At that point my interest peaked back into Cole & Co, every three day weekend was spent back in Anglesey, although I was ‘away’ for 5/6 years there wasn’t a day I didn’t know what was going on. In 2016 Mum offered me a job.”
“the minute I came back into the business I felt like I was doing what I was meant to do”
Turning the conversation towards sustainability I was keen to ask how greener choices and the growing questions around ingredients and packaging were impacting Cole & Co..
“A zero waste store was a completely new concept to us in June 2018 and it’s now become something that is changing the way we do business… maybe packaging really is becoming a thing of the past. “
As we chat it becomes clear that development is constant for this brand and with a keen focus on quality and local (all their suppliers are UK based) the increased public attention on ingredients and ethics by default is trickling into every aspect of their business. As a company striving to create the best quality products and with an ongoing review process they have ended up with a collection that is entirely paraben free, SLS free, with colours that are only ever naturally derived, packaging that is always recyclable (and if you are local to their workshop also refillable!!) and a product range that is almost completely vegan.
So what’s on the cards for this fast-growing business? Well with a new year now in full swing it sounds like there’s a lot on the horizon…
The Beaumaris shop is moving allowing staff to be integrated into the production and packaging process to deal with the ever-growing demand from this small company and Hannah is hopeful that they will get their hugely successful shampoo bars (created initially as a collaboration with Ripple Living) into their own stores!
“2019 is a year for moving forward”
The new shop, opening next weekend, will also give Cole & Co the chance to continue trying out new products, fragrances and ingredients to aid in the development of their company.
“We have so many exciting plans for the shop, we can’t wait to show you everything!”
They’re enjoying working with new hotels, hostels & bed and breakfasts, with some incredible projects in the pipeline! Each bringing with it it’s own challenges to keep Hannah and the team on their toes.
So as we round off (we have run out of tea) my last question for Hannah is how does she do it all? From running around the country for meetings, regular trips back to the workshop, the phone calling, constant emails, plus the stack of Folio greetings cards I know she will be packing for customers as soon as I leave, how does someone sooo busy not run out of steam?!
“Selfcare is key, I set a rule at day dot that I’d never work a Sunday, they are for cooking, slowing down and watching Harry Potter!
I always read before bed (I can’t be on my phone if there’s a book in my hand) I always clean my face at end the day and have a full skincare routine that I am religous about oh and the candles are lit ALL THE TIME, they have an incredibly calming influence”
Good job she owns a candle company ey..
If you enjoyed this interview, and would like to see more content like this do drop me a comment below, I’d love to hear your feedback and if you know any Fierce Females that you think should be included in this series then get in touch!