Bough to Beauty - eco-friendly wooden jewellery
PUBLISHED: 21:55 02 March 2016 | UPDATED: 21:55 02 March 2016
Two women have returned home to Lancaster to establish their eco-friendly firm which has already attracted top clients. Rachel Ryan reports.
When sisters Vix and Lou Lawson from Lancaster quit the rat race to live in a tent for six months they never expected that, one year on, they would be running their own bespoke business with a client list as diverse as Waitrose, Greenpeace and Jameson Irish Whiskey.
Vix, 35, a former project manager, and Lou, 42, who worked in operations for a theatre company, took career breaks separately to travel the world - but, unbeknown to each other, were being drawn towards a sustainable lifestyle.
‘On my travels around Australia a few years ago, I discovered the trend for cool, wooden eco-friendly jewellery,’ said Vix, a former Lancaster Ripley St Thomas pupil. ‘From then on, I felt drawn to seeking out eco-friendly products.
‘I discovered the demand for upcycled goods and slow fashion - a protest against disposable consumerist fashion - was growing here too. I knew it was something I wanted to be part of.’
Lou was also becoming increasingly enthusiastic about living an eco-friendly life, spending time on her allotment, preserving, brewing, recycling, upcycling and enjoying a DIY approach to life.
‘We were lucky enough to get an allotment near Alexandra Palace in London, which became an oasis of calm in the hectic city,’ said Lou, who went to Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School. ‘Gradually, life started to revolve around the allotment, but we both had full-on jobs and became frustrated that work was getting in the way. We wanted to garden full time, learn more about sustainable living and get out of the rat race.’
Vix added: ‘We ran away to live in Portugal, where we volunteered on an organic farm, grew our own food, looked after goats and learned new skills. We lived in tents and huts – often without running water or electricity, but it was bliss and we felt free.’
The sisters fell in love with Portugal, travelling all over the country volunteering on farms and working on eco-glamping sites and yoga retreats.
‘We’d always wanted to run our own businesses, be our own bosses and work together as a sister-team but, we had been so caught up in life, it had never happened,’ said Lou.
‘In Portugal, our minds were free and we had the time to brainstorm. We planned as we planted and the seeds of a business idea started to grow into a proper business plan.’
They headed home, quit their hectic London life-style and took a gamble. In May 2014, they moved back to Lancaster to set up Bough to Beauty, designing and selling wooden jewellery made from upcycled wood.
Their range of badges, earrings, rings, necklaces and cufflinks are influenced by their passions for music, travel and nature – and created using off cuts of wood from the Ribble Valley that might otherwise be wasted.
So different was their business, it took off immediately and within months they found themselves setting up their second business, Bough To Beauty Bespoke.
‘We realised that there was a gap in the market for design-led, environmentally friendly badges for business,’ said Vix.
‘We attended lots of events, and it soon became clear that nearly everyone used disposable plastic badges and we thought we could do better than that.
‘We became obsessed with name badges - they are everywhere, supermarkets, banks, conference centres, training venues, restaurants, hotels. The list is endless. So we got our thinking caps on and Bough To Beauty Bespoke was born.’
They launched www.b2b4b.co.uk in May 2015 and have already secured contracts with major international companies, as well as working with lots of local businesses and national groups, such as the Brownie Guides.
But the request for more and more beautiful bespoke wooden goodies soon flooded in and the pair now design and manufacture products for restaurants, hotels and weddings as well as corporate gifts.
Success will not draw them away from their home county. ‘We are so proud to be manufacturing in Lancashire,’ said Lou. ‘And, Lancaster is proving to be a fantastic place to live. It’s beautiful and we’d forgotten how friendly northerners actually are. We’ve had so much help and support from other local businesses, it’s been rather overwhelming. Their generosity has been brilliant and we wouldn’t have come so far so quickly without it.
‘We’re so excited about the future of our businesses. We plan to take on our first employee and we’ll be launching new products in the near future.’