I am so honoured to share the story behind two of the incredible brands founded by Carole Bamford. One of the women I admire most in business, with one of the most important voices and a true pioneer that inspires us all to live more mindful lives for the well-being of ourselves and our planet. A champion of sustainable and mindful living she continues to innovate, inspire and empower myself and others to do the same. I hope this interview leaves you with a little joy and lots of inspiration.
Tell us your story and what inspired you to set up your companies?
Daylesford really came about after a series of chance encounters. The first was in the late 1970s; I had not long given birth to my daughter Alice and I was in the garden, pushing her around in her pram. We went to look at the roses I had planted a few days earlier only to find that they were wilting. I spoke to the farmer next door who explained that the local farms were being sprayed with Roundup. I didn’t even know what Roundup was, but soon learned that it was a very powerful herbicide and that the toxins had been carried in the air from the fields and had caused my roses to wilt. As a new mother, I was frightened and horrified, and I knew instantly that we couldn’t carry on farming as we were, harming the earth in this way – it wasn’t right for the health of my children and it wasn’t right for the land.
Not long afterwards I was at an agricultural show where an organic farmer had a small tent. The organic movement was quite a small, niche thing in those days, but I went inside and spoke to the farmer for a few hours. On the way home I remember saying to my husband, ‘We can’t carry on farming as we are. We’re polluting the soil and the environment with those chemicals. We have to stop.’ So we went to see the farm manager, who didn’t really believe that switching to organic farming was possible, but I was quite determined and he agreed to try it on 30 acres. It took three years to get them up and going, and seven for the whole farm to become organic. The rest has just grown from there – very instinctively and very naturally.
Bamford was the progression. After deciding to make conscious decisions about what I was consuming through my food and wanted to consider other areas of my life in the same way. Our skin is our largest organ and we ingest so much through it that it made sense to me to look at what I was putting into my body that way and create my own natural products to nurture it. The body care lines grew from there, then came the clothing and the skincare.
What do you love most about running your own business?
No day is the same. I might be meeting my team; visiting suppliers; tasting products going into the farm shop or reviewing our own range; or sourcing antiques for the pub we’re refurbishing.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I don’t think there is an isolated instance. Daylesford began as an idea; a feeling I had that we needed to raise awareness of the environmental problems in the established farming practices of the time and change them. So, when I look around at everything that we’ve done here since we made the decision to start farming organically, I consider that a huge accomplishment. Daylesford has grown to become a farm with over 40 years’ experience practising sustainable principles. We have the ability to pass on and share that knowledge to inspire and help others do the same and that makes me enormously proud.
Most recently, I’m very proud of our merino knitwear project. A few years ago we bought our own small flock of pedigree merino sheep from a British farmer so that we could raise them at Daylesford and produce our own merino wool that could then be used to create knitwear for Bamford.
Bamford is the first brand to be producing merino garments that never leave British soil. The wool is grown, sheared, spun and knitted here and its journey is fully traceable. The average merino supply chain is 18,000 miles, while ours is 400. The project brought together different teams from across the businesses.
What are the most rewarding aspects of what you do?
The ability to make a difference and hopefully to drive change. Whether that’s encouraging others to shop, eat or live in a more conscious way by interacting with Daylesford; or helping to support people look after their wellbeing through the services and products we offer at Bamford – I like to hope we can touch people’s lives in a positive way as well as gently urge them to consider changing their behaviour in order to care for planet and people.
What advice would you offer budding entrepreneurs?
Be passionate. Do something you really, really believe in. Starting a business can be very hard, especially at the beginning. The hours are long and you’re inevitably going to meet adversity, so it’s important you love what you do, are prepared to work hard at it and want to fight for it.
Work with people who are knowledgeable and be prepared to learn from them. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a passionate and talented team who share my belief in what we do but who are also experts in their field.
Never stop asking questions. I am constantly reviewing things I’ve done and asking myself whether they are as good as they can be. I think it keeps you focused and makes the business dynamic and responsive to changes in circumstance or the trading climate.
What book should we all read?
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is one of the books that changed my life. It was written in the 1960s but her foresight and commentary on the destruction we were wreaking on our planet are still as relevant today as they were then – perhaps even more important.
The Miracle Morning is another book that really reframed my perspective on how to begin my day . I’ve always been an early riser but this made me think about the rituals I incorporate and how they impact the rest of my day. It also made me think about practices that would shift my mindset and affect my ability to achieve what I wanted to. I think so many people would benefit from Hal Elrod’s insights.
Do you have any daily routines?
I start every day with a dog walk – whatever the weather it’s something I won’t miss. And I’ll always try and do a meditation practice, and when I have time, some gentle yoga as well. I practise meditation with my teacher, Vettri, and we’ll end the practice with some breathing exercises and will say a Sanskrit prayer together. I always feel much calmer, focused and clear-headed on the days that I do this I try and ensure it’s something I carve out time for.
I’ll also try and set aside a few minutes each day to read something inspiring or uplifting – even if it’s just a short poem or a quote. I love the words of Osho or Rumi and always find something comforting in their thoughts.
What have you learnt over the last two years?
That each moment we have on earth is a gift. And also the value of stillness. Like many people, during the first lockdown I noticed how much I rushed about. I was constantly moving around, often filling my diary and trying to fit as much as I could into my day. Being forced to stop made me realise that I rarely take the time just to sit and be in the moment and how important those moments of stillness are. Slowing down made me appreciate things I may have previously taken for granted: time spent with my family and the ability to move around at will.
What makes you smile?
Where is your favourite place to travel to?
India. It captured my heart when I was in my twenties and I’ve never lost the sense of joy and anticipation I feel when I have the opportunity to return.
I’ve travelled all over and love exploring the different regions but I think of Jaipur as my spiritual home. It’s such a bustling, colourful, dynamic city with striking architecture. I’ll always visit Jaipur’s markets. They are like no other in the world: a vibrant explosion of colour, noise and smell, and I will always leave feeling energised, all my senses stimulated and invigorated. The temples are their counterpoint: spiritual, soothing retreats, a chance for tranquillity, space and peace.
Image copyright - Daylesford and Bamford