I’m so impressed. The moment I walked into So Organic, a bright, airy, intoxicating shop and temple to all things organic, my senses were awakened by an olfactory cornucopia of precious essential oils and plant extracts which come from the most inspiring and carefully chosen selection of organic beauty elixirs, balms and mineral makeup that I have come across during a lifetime devoted to organic living.
It’s all down to Samantha and Stuart Burlton. Together this warm, engaging, and dynamic husband and wife duo represent the new breed of entrepreneur – they are sustainable and organic to their core, and they are changing the face of our High Streets and the way we shop online forever. Sam tells me that she has always yearned to have her own business.
“It’s in my blood. Everyone in my family had their own small business. My mum became a business woman at fifty, and took over my brother’s shop.”
After studying for a degree in psychology, Sam accepted a job with BT, looking after their big corporate accounts, and her family were thrilled because it offered a clear career path, a good salary and excellent pension prospects. The only person who wasn’t sure she had made the right decision was Sam herself.
“I hated it. I didn’t understand the products, and I was constantly trying to think of a great business I could launch myself.”
Sam came up with the idea for So Organic through her passion for cooking.
“I’ve always loved cooking, and discovering the best ingredients. I really became a convert to organic living when I started shopping at farmers markets. There was a ‘eureka!’ moment when I went to the farmers market in Blackheath, and I bought just organic lamb chops, potatoes and seasonal vegetables. I took them home and simply grilled the chops and boiled the potatoes, and did nothing else to them. The flavour was so incredible, that was it, I was completely hooked.”
At the same time Sam started to look into the environmental benefits behind sustainable, organic farming practices, and it all began to make sense.
“As someone who grew up in the countryside in Staffordshire, with a view over open fields and cows, I really care passionately about looking after nature and protecting people and wildlife from pesticides. I also remember my grandma taking me down country lanes to pick nettles to make beer.”
As Sam began to look for more ways to green her life and that of her family she was frequently frustrated.
“It wasn’t easy to be organic. You had to go all over the place, and there was no one to give you good advice. I’m also someone who likes the whole experience of a going to a beauty counter and treating myself to something beautiful and uplifting, and I like to feel pampered; the difference was that now I wanted my experience to be organic.”
Instinctively, Sam felt there must be other people who wanted to live an inspiring organic lifestyle, and that she wanted to create a place where they could shop and be utterly inspired as well. It was at that point that So Organic was born.
Sam launched So Organic in 2005 as an online business with 200 products from an office in her spare bedroom. Five years on, Sam has won a plethora of green industry awards, the business has been awarded the prestigious Soil Association Certification, and an enticing and friendly new shop in historic Greenwich carries many of the 2,500 organic must haves available from the online site – from deluxe anti-ageing serums to silk filled duvets and wonderfully decadent and sensuous aromatic candles.
As someone who has just been given the highest award for business innovation by her peers, I am compelled to ask Sam about the secret of her success. “It’s about really listening to your customers. We will always go that extra mile for people who want to know about the ingredients in a product. We also try and cater for all the different types of people who come to shop or buy online.
“There are days when you want to treat and pamper yourself and other days when you are conscious of your budget and only want to spend £3.99, but still want to know that the ingredients in your shower gel are really pure and so feel confident with what you put on your skin. So we try very, very hard to have wonderful and effective organic products are all the different price points.”
As a longstanding convert to organic beauty, I found my visit to So Organic truly inspiring. When I was student at university it was a very frustrating exercise to find organic products to complement my organic diet; the products either didn’t exist, or were so basic, that they failed to give a beautiful result. So it is truly exciting to see how far the organic movement has come. As a result, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to browse the enticing displays in So Organic, and receive informative, helpful advice from Sam and her team. I discovered some old favourites, and made some exciting new discoveries including the exquisite Madara range from Latvia. And I rediscovered the best tinted moisturiser ever – Lavera’s brilliant Hydro Energy Teint – which leaves skin looking flawless with a no make up glow.
And coming in Part II…
Now, given all the horror stories about once beautiful A-listers succumbing to botox, and all manner of appalling Frankenstein fillers and peels, I will share my Top Twenty Organic Beauty Miracle Workers with You. These are the brilliant, effective and often life-changing products I have researched and tested and fallen in love with over the years, and now use to keep my own skin looking luminous, gorgeously hydrated and forever young. I’ve added a couple of exciting, new discoveries too. The good news is that if you don’t have the time to go shopping, or the shop to go to, they will all be available at So Organic’s online shop.
So Organic 22 Nelson Road, Greenwich, London, SE10 9JB
0208 465 5600