Our history/training…

Ruthie: I never for one minute thought I would end up selling soap! After a career at Sotheby’s and then a far more important one bringing up our two children, I realised that I just like being busy.  I really do admire ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ but it’s not for me. I just find it hard sitting down and like being on the go. It’s been hugely satisfying starting Branche d’Olive and I must say, fun too. I always said the minute it stopped being fun, I’d stop.

Jane: Distinctly haphazard!  I left school at 15 and didn’t go to university until my late 30’s.   In between I trained first in dress design and pattern cutting and then, once realisation dawned that I was not the next Mary Quant (or, in today’s terms Stella McCartney) I became a bi-lingual secretary – not a conventional progression!   With hindsight I realise I’m a serial and historically at least, stunningly unsuccessful, entrepreneur.  Excluding childhood enterprises:  from post offices to piano lessons – despite having no piano, Branche d’Olive is officially my fourth ‘business’.

We were first inspired to set up Branche d’Olive when

 

Ruthie: There have been a huge number of happy coincidences in the birth and growth of Branche d’Olive. My friendship with Jane and of course, the fact that I have a house in Provence, are the very foundations upon which Branche d’Olive is built.  It was indeed on one such trip to a Provencal market which actually led to the creation of Branche d’Olive. Back in the UK and wrapping soaps at our respective kitchen tables, I think even our husbands thought we would tire of it before long, but they now look on us with probably quite a lot of respect. I think in today’s climate, it’s important to highlight that traditional business models do not in fact have to be adhered to, to run a successful business.

 

Jane: I think it was more ‘instinctive serendipity’ than inspiration.  In my mid 40’s I turned my back on a recently completed law course and opted instead to trade in decorative antiques and lifestyle items.  Taking space in a local antique centre, I scoured the flea markets of France, returning only when the car became too full to sleep in.  One journey included a visit to Ruthie in her recently renovated Provençale farmhouse.  At a local market, I fell in love with a particular type of Marseilles hand-stamped soap and bought 72 bars as a decorative addition to a wrought iron washstand acquired en route.  Back in the shop, the soap sold almost immediately, by contrast, the washstand endures still!  More purchases of soap followed and, eventually, the offer of an exclusive distributorship.   In turn, this led to forming a partnership with Ruthie, which subsequently evolved into Branche d’Olive.

We are inspired by…

Ruthie – Running my own company, it’s hard and huge amount of work but so very rewarding.

Jane – Being an employer and, however cheesy it may sound, consider it a real privilege.

Branche d’Olive products appeal to…

Jane: Literally anyone needing to give (or wishing to receive) a present.  At one time or another, that’s pretty much everyone!   Principally sourced from Provence, a worldwide reference for Mediterranean wellbeing, Branche d’Olive has a range of top quality, authentic home fragrances and luxurious bath/beauty products.

My favourite place to shop is…

Ruthie: The markets in Provence are always a wonderful place to get new ideas.  Our double-drainer soap dishes were based on a market find and our linen hand towel, which is woven by a small master weaver I discovered in Angus, Scotland, has similarities to the wonderful old linen found at L’Isle sur le Sorgue market.

Jane:  I adore Liberty, and not just because they stock a wide range of Branche d’Olive products in their Bath Shop!  As more and more department stores become, effectively, clones of each other, Liberty can still be relied upon to provide an eclectic and innovative experiential boost to the spirit.   Their fabric department is particularly wonderful – any Bride looking for inspiration (perhaps for the Groom’s waistcoat?) will not be disappointed.

Product prices start from…

£2.75 – this is for a 30g bagged guest soap – another very popular wedding favour.

Available from…

Over 300 stockists nationwide or direct from Branche d’Olive.

Our office is…

Ruthie: I am lucky to be able to work from home. My house here couldn’t be more different to ours in Provence – we live in a thatched cottage backing onto the Lambourn downs.  From my office window I look out onto a little parterre and roses everywhere.  In Provence we don’t have a formal garden as such, but only plant things which grow in the wild.  We’ve just planted a lavender field – can’t wait for our first harvest and perhaps we will be able to use the lavender essence in our Branche d’Olive products.  Who would have thought, twelve years ago when we started out, that we might be doing that?

Jane: Adjacent to my kitchen and, if I lean back just slightly, I can get a glimpse of the kitchen table upon which those first soaps were wrapped.  I can also see a wine glass… but I still have one more question to answer…

Every bride should…

Ruthie: Enjoy every second of her wedding day.  She won’t get a chance to re-live it!

Jane: Ensure her Groom is both ‘hero and safe harbour’.   I would say the same to a Groom about his bride.  For me, the saying (often used by my mother) is “not a rallying call for blind allegiance but an appreciation that marriage requires the bedrock of a mutual generosity of spirit:  each partner should for ever be both a champion of, and a comforter to, the other.”