MY LIGHT BULB MO­MENT

Neal’s Yard’s Romy Fraser

Daily Mail - - Inspire - trill­farm.co.uk In­ter­view by LIZ HOGGARD

romy Fraser oBe, 70, founded neal’s yard reme­dies in 1981. she sold it in 2005. Di­vorced with two grown-up daugh­ters, she lives on a farm in Devon that sup­ports a com­mu­nity of small busi­nesses. BY MY mid-30s I was a sin­gle par­ent work­ing as a teacher in Lon­don, dream­ing of open­ing my own school. But then my friend Ni­cholas Saun­ders, who set up Neal’s Yard Whole­foods, asked if I would like to rent one of his spaces as an al­ter­na­tive phar­macy. He knew I was pas­sion­ate about home­opa­thy, and in 1981 there were few places to ac­cess nat­u­ral reme­dies.

I took out a bank loan of £18,000 and opened a tiny apothe­cary in the yard sell­ing home­o­pathic prod­ucts, es­sen­tial oils, Bach flower reme­dies and dried herbs.

I’d grown up in the coun­try. If we had a cold my mother pre­scribed cin­na­mon tea. We never took an­tibi­otics. I was in­spired to study home­opa­thy when I dis­cov­ered how pow­er­ful herbs are. I was liv­ing in Scot­land when some­one cut them­selves badly. A friend, who had learned about herbs from her Pol­ish granny, wrapped the hand in marigold leaves. By the time we got to hos­pi­tal the wound had al­most healed.

I felt pas­sion­ately that peo­ple could use nat­u­ral prod­ucts rather than de­pend­ing on the NHS — which be­came the idea be­hind Neal’s Yard Reme­dies.

I em­pha­sised to cus­tomers that I was not a prac­ti­tioner: I was giv­ing them op­tions. One of our early reg­u­lar cus­tomers was Hol­ly­wood leg­end Lau­ren Ba­call. Nat­u­ral medicines drove the busi­ness, but toi­letries and es­sen­tial oils pro­vided the profit. Even­tu­ally we opened an eco fac­tory in Dorset.

I’d al­ways planned to fund an ed­u­ca­tional pro­ject. So, in 2005, I sold the com­pany and bought Trill Farm, an or­ganic farm that of­fered cour­ses. I’m still a teacher at heart, but I love the fact I cre­ated a busi­ness based on plants.

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