Interview with Elizabeth and Mary

Topic Personal and Off Topic // Author Mary Quinn // Dated 1st of Jun, 2016.

In this interview with Mary Jean founders, Elizabeth and Mary, the health & beauty entrepreneurs from the Highlands of Scotland, guest blogger Vicki Harper sheds light on what inspired them to create a company focused on natural skincare made the traditional way.

The women behind Mary Jean

How would you describe Mary Jean in a nutshell?

[Elizabeth] Mary Jean is a skincare company with nature at its heart. We have a full range of products for men and women at different life stages and lifestyles - from our soap bars, body butters, baby products, lip balms and bath products to our now infamous and fisherman's friend, Highland Midge Lotion. All our products are 100% natural, free from chemicals and handmade using traditional recipes.

It's a very crowded market, full of huge global companies - so what gave you the idea and indeed, the courage to start it?

[Elizabeth] At the time I was looking to create my own business for Mary and me to run together. My passion is the countryside around me and I care deeply about the environment, sustainability and ethical sourcing. And similarly I care about what products I put on my skin.

Mary has really sensitive skin and struggled to find something that didn't have a list of unpronounceable chemicals. We couldn't identify what made her skin react and the more I dug into finding out more about ingredients common to many high street brands, the more horrified I became. I wanted a truly pure product and couldn't find it, so simply I made my own! I turned my passion into a business and here we are.

Where do you make them all?

We have a workshop - the Soap Kitchen - at our home and we make all the products in there. We bottle, package and label them all on site too.

You now have a fantastic range of face, body, baby and bath time products - what inspires you?

Put simply, the effortless beauty of the breath-taking nature around us. People flock to the Highlands every year to see what's on our doorstep - rolling heathered hills, dramatic awe-inspiring mountains, crystal clear waters of our lochs and 360 degree vista of open wild life.

The inspiration behind Mary Jean

Having grown up here you would have thought it tired but it never does - every day it offers up new inspiration points and I'll grab my ideas pad and work away (with you!) in the workshop to create something new triggered by a smell, sight or sound I have seen that day.

Where did you start?

We focused on a small range of soaps, body butters and bath bombs and made sure we made those products to exacting standards and always 100% Natural. We make them ourselves so new product development takes time and we have to meticulously record ingredients and weighing.

Where do you get your ingredients from?

The majority of our oils come from one company that's certified organic, some of which are sustainably grown (e.g. palm oil) and they're based in Britain, as are our other ingredients.

We put quality high on our list which is why we are very particular who we deal with. All our ingredients must be natural or organic, we aim to make our products to a high standard so our customers have the best skin treatment they deserve.

What's your favourite ingredient?

Lavender - unquestionably. I look out of the workshop window and I am surrounded by it. It has incredible properties as a restorative stress-relieving plant to promote a good night's sleep. And it attracts bees - a cause and their plight is very dear to my heart.

[Mary] And mine is Aloe Vera. Its benefits are seemingly endless both internal and external boosting your immune system, a great rejuvenator and full of natural vitamins and enzymes that promote healthy, strong hair.

What product could you not do without?

[Elizabeth] That's so tricky because I use several every day. I love our Oatsy bar and there's nothing like the incredible smell of our Geranium Bath Bombs as they fizz away but if I had to choose I would go for the Vitamin Rich Cream - it's a light but extremely nourishing body moisturiser excellent all year round and extremely effective for typically dry areas like knees, elbows and hands that have been busy gardening.

Without question mine [Mary] is the Highland Midge Lotion. I love walking and I wouldn’t go anywhere without it, especially in the summer. And actually I absolutely adore our baby range of products – they are just so wonderfully gentle and nourishing. I use the Moisturising Baby Cream.

Where can people get hold of Mary Jean products?

If you live in and around the Highlands or holidaying here, we go to local Farmers Markets on a weekly basis and we are going to several festivals over the summer - the Black Isle Show and Tartan Heart Festival at Belladrum included. Several farm shops also stock the range and you can also get our products on

Can people come to the workshop?

We don't offer formal tours, but if people want to nip in we'd love to have them!

And finally... what piece of advice would you give to anyone who wants to start their own business?

Get as much help and advice as possible from the likes of business gateway, FSB, etc... Shop around for the best services to suit your needs (e.g. don't just stick with the point of sale services offered by your bank, there are plenty of independent services available).

Take advantave of any free courses being run for things that are critical to your business (e.g. sales, marketing, paperwork, etc...) If you realise something doesn't work out, find a different way that does - it may be the first doesn't quite fit your business.

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Mary Jean Limited Whincroft Braehead Orton Fochabers Morayshire IV32 7QH // T: 01343 880231 E: // Company No. SC351739 Vat. No. 947 4323 08

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