Chloe Luxton is the founder of Bramley, a handmade range of bath and body products that use all natural ingredients, while her husband, Charlie, runs the Beckford Arms in Wiltshire. She tells us how she makes it work with two small children, and a third on the way. 

When I started Bramley, I didn’t have any children, and still had a job in London, too. My husband Charlie had always wanted to find a pub to run, and in 2009 – the year we got married – he found the Beckford Arms. It was all very exciting, and such a quick turnaround – we signed the lease and immediately relocated from London to Wiltshire.

I was commuting into London to work for skincare range Green & Spring, while simultaneously developing products for the pub. I had spent four years working for Cowshed in Soho House before then, which had been a complete baptism of fire. It was a tiny team, in the same office as Soho House people, and I did everything. It was absolutely the best way to learn. I learned so much in a relatively short amount of time: product redevelopment, design, liaising with stores like Liberty and John Lewis… it was great experience. When we got the Beckford Arms, I thought: brilliant! Time to call in the favours.

My time at Cowshed had also led to an office romance – that’s where Charlie and I met. He was the right hand man of the Chief Executive, Nick Jones, for 10 years. When he found the Beckford Arms, Nick was really supportive, and said he would invest.

Blood sweat and tears went into the opening, and we were working hard. But a year later, we had a bad fire. It happened in the middle of the night when the pub was full, and there were 17 people staying. It seems to have started in the recycling bin outside, which caused an oil tank nearby to explode, setting alight to a cable in the building. It’s horrific to think what could have happened. Thankfully, one of the guests happened to be awake and raised the alarm before it took hold. We were so lucky that nobody was killed.

The pub was shut for year. It was so upsetting, but strangely, because we weren’t working the whole time, that was the year we got a social life. I became pregnant with our first child, too. Otto is now three, our second child is two and a half (yes – not entirely well planned!) and I’m about to have our third.

We re-opened a year after the fire. I was concentrating on developing the Bramley products purely for the pub. I had a clear idea of what I wanted: something very British, the  essence of the countryside, and all natural products. A graphic designer called Alice King came up with the ‘B’ logo, which I love because it’s so strong. For the formulations, I used Richard Howard, an perfumier based in Somerset, who had worked for Cowshed. He got it pretty quickly, and after a few tweaks, we were there.

You can never get the work-life balance right – something always has to give. But if you do something you find exciting and creative, it’s not really work

I do think having that work got me through having my first child. I found having a baby quite hard, pretty lonely, and a bit boring. The first six months in particular were a real shock. I know it sounds stupid, but no-one prepares you. I found that doing things for Bramley, and the fact I had mail orders to send out, kept my sanity. It was something to focus on other than the baby. I used to say that I couldn’t wait to have a baby so that I didn’t have to work, but I’ve found it’s the opposite! I love my children, but thank goodness for Bramley.

I think I’ve learned that it’s really important to get people try your brand, so they buy into an experience they like. While retail is great, I’ve been focusing on restaurants, pubs and hotels. It’s funny, the clientele are not all female  – there are quite a few men from London ordering the products. And I can confirm that men get through more hand-wash in the loos than the women do!

All our contacts in the catering world meant the products gradually crept out of the pub into other pubs – we’re in The Pig, which is amazing – and some restaurants in London. The brand has grown really organically, and I am growing with it. Because I have children now, I do a lot at home – I have a very good childminder. It’s funny to think we just started with six products, and it has gradually built into something bigger. We’re about to launch in Anthropologie, and we’ve got a deal with a group that owns 15 pubs. This takes the business to a whole different level: 260 extra rooms, and tens of thousands of units. The timing is a little iffy given I’m about to have a newborn, but I’ll just have to work through it. I have an old friend who works on it with me – I just can’t do it on my own now, like I did before having babies.

I suppose the nature of the job means I never have maternity leave. Of course, with my next baby, I’ll have to take a step back for a bit – I’ve employed someone to help me with the mail orders for that – but with this new contract there’s no way I can’t work.

My husband is very supportive: he sells lots at the pub and is very good at getting contacts in the business, which is great. I currently have childcare from 9am until 3pm three days a week, but he has the boys if my meetings are outside those times. Charlie likes to think he’s my boss – he’s so not! I really like that we can work together and support one another.

I think you can never get the work-life balance right – something always has to give. Yes, it’s hard working in the evenings in the late stages of pregnancy, but I think if you do something you find exciting and creative, it’s not really work, it’s for you. And because my business has grown so organically, I feel there’s so much I can do with it. I’d love to do more, starting with a new range. Once I’ve had this baby, and he or she is old enough, I think I’ll feel really energised and ready to go.

bramleyproducts.co.uk

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