The creator of the company Lovely Greens talks to Sara Niven about swapping a career in technology for making natural bath products.
From designing mobile phones in the city to making skincare products on an island, Tanya Highet's past and present careers could hardly be more different.
This change didn't come about just by chance, as American-born Tanya, 33, and her husband Ross were on a mission to find a different, more fulfilling way of living when they left London in 2010.
'My previous job involved a lengthy daily commute from north to south London which was starting to get me down and I was regularly falling ill,' explains Tanya. 'London was exciting for the first few years but over time I started feeling drawn towards a more rural environment.'
Others may have been happy with a move to the suburbs, or perhaps to an area associated with country life, like Devon or Dorset. Instead, the couple chose to relocate to the Isle of Man. They had no friends or relatives there and Tanya had not even been to visit before she agreed it would become their new home.
'Ross went to see the island and told me he was sure that I'd love it,' she recalls. 'When we arrived I knew it had been the right decision. It's like entering a time warp in a very charming way; the place feels really safe and has tight-knit communities, which was an important consideration as we hope to start a family in the future.'
Away from the bustle and stress of London living, Tanya began considering her next move, this time in terms of career. She has always had a keen interest in natural living and felt concerned about the chemicals and preservatives found in many skincare products.
During the research for setting up Lovely Greens, she was surprised by how many people making their own products still used controversial preservatives or mineral oil, a by-product of petroleum.
She also noted that some handmade soaps contained the detergent and foaming agent SLES, as opposed to the natural alternatives she favours.
'I understand how consumers get confused when the area is so unregulated and something that seems to be organic or natural may still contain lots of chemicals,' she adds. 'There is new legislation from the European Union going through this summer to tighten things up, which I'm pleased about. People should be able to trust what they're buying rather than constantly reading lists of ingredients, even if they are informed enough to know what everything means.'
Herbs and botanicals
Tanya's very first product, Spicy Provence soap, has become her best-seller and contains melissa balm, lavender and geranium. Soap still forms the main basis of the Lovely Greens range, alongside lip balms, bath salts and melts. All are suitable for vegetarians; the products that don't contain beeswax are also vegan-friendly. Shea butter and grapeseed oil feature in her formulations, with the addition of many homegrown herbs and flowers, such as lavender, rosemary and calendula. The latter is a bright orange flower which gives soap a lovely colour, as well as being great for sensitive skin.
Far from taking it easy, Tanya admits that she probably often works longer days than she did in London. In addition to tending her own garden to produce the botanicals she uses for her products, she also grows vegetables at a local allotment, makes soap most days and writes a blog.
'You don't count hours when you're working for yourself but I'm far more active these days, meeting lots more people and enjoying being part of a small community. I find everything I do very fulfilling.'
Her husband has his own career, but the two work alongside each other in their home office and he is fully supportive of Lovely Greens – albeit honest when needed.
'Ross has a very critical eye and won't hesitate to tell me if something doesn't look right, be that a product or my online shop. It's really useful to have that feedback.'
Tanya is currently working on expanding her range by adding a moisturiser and body balm. There are also plans to write a book, not specifically on skincare but about a simpler, more natural way of living.
'I think that increasingly people are rejecting the very artificial life we often end up living which can leave no time for family, hobbies or other interests. My previous career was creative in the sense that I was designing on a computer, but I find something really special about making a genuinely natural product that other people can enjoy. Whenever I take a batch of soap out of their moulds I still get excited by the fact that I've made them.'
• You can find Tanya's shop at lovelygreens-shop.com.