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Business owner, eco-warrior and crystal queen. It's Jess.

On International Women's Day, I interview Jess Wallbridge, founder of Honestly Ombre and Scene and Stone. And one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.

Jess Wallbridge in her Honestly Ombre salon
Meet Jess. I want to be her when I grow up.

"I’m proud of the journey and everything I’ve learned from it."


When I set up Written by Lyds, I knew that I wanted to include articles about people and businesses who embrace and exude positive energy.


When I decided to mark International Women’s Day, I knew I wanted to interview someone who inspires me by who they are and what they do.


Jess Wallbridge was at the top of both these lists.


I know Jess from our past lives working for a big corporate organisation. She was an employer’s dream. And likely to climb the corporate ladder quickly and deservedly.


So eyebrows rose when she resigned to start up her own business in a completely different industry.


Three years later she is the founder and owner of Honestly Ombre, Wiltshire’s first 100% vegan, cruelty free, non-toxic wellness and beauty salon. And more recently, creator and owner of Scene & Stone, connecting people with incredible crystals from around the world. Both are an undisputable success.


Here, Jess shares with us her journey from corporate employee to successful small business owner and everything in between:

 

Welcome Jess, and thank you so much for giving up some time today.

Oh my goodness, no thank you. I was so flattered when you asked me and it’s so lovely to see you.


Now, it’s no exaggeration to say you excelled in the corporate world. But did you always know that it wasn’t really where you wanted to be?

There was always this feeling of ‘I know this isn’t forever’ but I wasn’t sure what else I wanted to do. I really enjoyed my time in the corporate world and I don’t think I could be doing what I do now without that background.


It taught me structure, to look at the business as a bigger picture. I had a very customer focused role that made me feel I wanted to do something that made people feel good about themselves, and left me feeling good. That led me down a wellness route.


So you didn’t always have this image of a salon in the future?

I went vegan about 5 years ago which made me think about the beauty industry in a different way. I had this conversation with my Mum, that I thought it would be amazing to have this building with different rooms. With wellness and yoga, and juices and cool events like stargazing and women’s events, bringing people together for real human connection.


I didn’t know what I’d call it. I was blogging at the time, the name of the blog was Honestly Ombre. Mum said ‘well you should call it Honestly Ombre because that’s what you blog under.’


I don’t know if you’ve read The Law of Attraction or if you manifest anything? I’m a sceptical spiritualist, I’m sceptical about stuff until I’ve experienced it myself. I didn’t realise it at the time but that’s what I manifested. I had this idea, and every single day of grind was working towards that.


Subconsciously you gravitated towards the things that would get you there.

Yeah you gravitate towards it. One of the key things at that time in my life was just saying yes to opportunities. I started my training and did wellness treatments every spare moment. I did that for 6 months before I left the corporate world.


I didn’t really have the vision for what Honestly Ombre is now back then, I was just happy to be able to fund myself. I realised I can make enough money to pay my way by doing something I’m really interested in. It was a different mind-set.


I had a therapy room in my flat for a year before I started to look for a building. I needed more space, I had this brand and I wanted to make it more of an experience. So I started looking for buildings in January 2018 and HO opened in the November.


And what a location you found! Central and so prominent.

I used to live on the street next to it. I’d walked past so many times and thought what a great location it would be, before I’d even started any of this.


I’d actually put forward proposals for 2 other places and wasn’t successful. Then in the middle of a treatment, one of my clients said ‘have you seen that building is available?’– 24 hours later I’d put in an offer and it was mine.


And the transformation is unbelievable. I remember it before…it was not pretty! But now…wow!


The HO team stood outside the salon
Honestly Ombre in it's signature green, and the team looking fresh in their signature dungarees!

Thank you. It’s right in the centre of the conservation area of Old Town (in Swindon) and is a listed building. I wanted to give a nod to its heritage and keep it neutral. Our windows are literally our marketing budget, and we’re in this little botanical bubble in the heart of Old Town.


The building influenced a lot of the brand and vice versa. We renovated it in 6 weeks. That was a very stressful time, pulling out nails from floorboards, painting every surface, scraping off wallpaper. It was a family and team effort to get that building done. I’m proud of bringing the building back to life. That was a labour of love. It’s all part of the journey and all of that really underpins your success. You can’t forget any of that.


Was there a point where self-doubt crept in and how did you overcome it?

I definitely struggle with imposter syndrome. But my partner, Matt, ran his own business. He made me see that someone could run a small business successfully, and that all I really needed to do that was myself. Lots of people asked me if I was sure it was a good idea. Matt never asked me that. He was always that person in my corner.


I had lots of fears about opening. Those first months it was just me in this big building and I didn’t expect people to be coming through the door.


I wanted to recruit a team and that was scary, letting someone in to something that I’d built, learning to work with someone in a different way.


I can look back and be really proud of myself but I wouldn’t want to experience some of that again. But, you grow through tough times.


I think the people looking in are a lot more appreciative of your journey than you are yourself. You have to be very clear on what your own success markers are or they just pass you by. You have to stop and pause and realise when you’ve smashed a target, no matter how small.


What was the point where you realised HO was going to work?

It’s been in various stages.


I believe passionately in natural beauty and embracing, enhancing what you naturally have. We don’t do anything artificial. So we’re coming at the industry in a very different way.


When I met like-minded customers who said ‘I’ve never got my nails done before’ or ‘I’ve never come for a massage before’ but they trusted HO with that experience, I knew we’re offering something that doesn’t exist. It’s more an experience and about the feeling that you create in someone. That was one of the first times that I thought this could really be something.


And it’s always good to get external validation. In that first year, HO got short listed for the Shooting Star Award for Scratch, Europe’s biggest nail magazine. It was for our ‘Nail Your Smear’ campaign. We offered free manicures if you went for your smear test. Not coming from a beauty background, to get validation like that was ‘ok yeah, we’re on the right track.’


Of course HO is no longer just you. You have a whole team!

The 4 girls of the HO team inside the salon
The HO crew, clockwise from back-left: Jess, Lucie, Sophie and Romani

"...we’re in this little botanical bubble in the heart of Old Town."





HO is a different version of itself now. I’ve learned a lot about staff and working with people. Right now we have the most amazing version of our team. HO wouldn’t be what it is without the team I have now.


They challenge me, they bring different things to the business. HO isn’t me anymore, it’s a standalone thing. One of the nicest things I experience is when people come in and they just think I work there. I really like that. I don’t have any desire to be the figurehead of HO, it’s standalone and the girls that I work with, they make the business what it is today.


What about the business side of things? Dealing with the financial aspect, becoming an employer, how did you learn those things?

In the start-up world you are every department a corporate business has. You’re the cleaner, finance, HR, payroll.


But my Dad ran his own business and my Mum ran her business. I’ve picked up things from them. And having a partner who ran his own business gave me confidence.


I’m really drawn to brands that do things differently and I’ve been collecting this knowledge as I went along. I did a lot of googling on ‘what don’t I know about running a business’ and I’m sure there’s still things I don’t know.


But you have to pay attention to your finances and be aware of cash flow. Just because you have a good month, doesn’t mean you go crazy.


And never underestimate your customer. Appreciate and respect them. As soon as you start to take a growing audience for granted, you start missing things.


Be open and receptive to feedback and learning. You can learn anything. There is never ever a stupid question to ask. My Granddad always used to say to me ‘if you’re thinking it, there’s at least another person in the room thinking the same’. So ask lots of questions, do lots of research.


What’s your proudest moment for HO?

We had a party when HO turned 1, and that was a really proud moment for me. Surviving your first year of any small business is a huge achievement.


In March 2020 we were nominated as Salon of the Year for Scratch Awards. Obviously because of coronavirus the awards have been pushed back. But we’re 1 of 5 finalists across the whole of the UK and that is credit to what HO is now and the hard work of all the girls. That was a really proud moment.


I’m also really proud that it’s a place where people want to work, and I can provide that passion and love for people. I’m so proud of my team and I think they all really like working there – I don’t want to speak for them – but that is the feedback I get…so that’s a really nice feeling as well.


I’m proud of the journey and everything I’ve learned from it. When I’m not working in the salon and I drive past and I see people going in the door, it makes me so happy and so grateful for this time in my life.


Moving on to Scene & Stone…crystals have always been a small part of HO. Was S&S always part of the plan or was it borne out of lockdown?

You’re right, our cuticle oils at HO, the little roller ball is made out of aventurine, and we use jade and rose quartz facial rollers. So there were little nods to crystals here and there.


But Scene & Stone really was a lockdown baby when HO had to close because of the pandemic.


HO sold thumb stones as part of our online market place. People had started asking if there was one good for, say, anxiety. So I started to learn more about it and added a few more interesting thumb stones to the website. They really took off.


I also fell upon a live crystal sale on Instagram. I felt like I could do that. I’m so interested in this and people are asking me for different crystals.

Rainbow moonstone with a rainbow flash on one side
Jess's Top 4 Rocks: Rainbow Moonstone

I wanted to be as creative as possible with the crystals but didn’t want it to change the HO brand. So I thought, let’s try this under a different banner.


I love business, the creation of a brand. My Dad always asks ‘what business are you in?’ If you think you know, ask yourself again.


What business am I in? Is it crystals or is it wellness? What am I providing that customer that they might not be aware of? You can always dig deeper and that gets you to the root of what you’re offering.


My first live sale was extremely scary, but it went so much better than I thought it would and so it grew from there.


So what is your answer to your Dad’s question? Is it wellness?

7 small citrine tumble stones
Jess's Top 4 Rocks: Citrine

I think so. With the crystals, it’s almost reviving this wellness practice that is extremely traditional. Crystals have always captured our attention as humans. They’ve been used by Egyptians, by Romans, they’ve always had a symbology. It’s not this modern day thing that we’ve just decided to say ‘oh this rock represents this.’ They go back a millennia, our history books are full of them.


We’re in a time where people are re-evaluating and are open to things that we can’t explain. And so I think it really is a revival of practices that we might have forgotten about.


So I would say it’s wellness. And hopefully it’s helping someone attain their ultimate aspirational lifestyle. Maybe it’s providing a sense of community whilst we’re in lockdown. If you can find comfort and happiness in your physical surroundings, when we’re all locked down, if you can bring joy into that through crystals, I hope I’m part of the facilitation of that.


Have you been surprised at how much S&S has taken off? Almost 5000 Instagram followers, and you only started in June!

I am, definitely. The business is built on Instagram. We do Instagram live sales, that is the platform so it’s a really important part of the business. We have our website but we don’t really have a material store. Everything is on that platform.


I’ve been surprised to have people like yourself who are brand new to the crystal industry, and to be going on that journey with them. That’s been a really nice part of it.

A larimar sphere
Jess's Top 4 Rocks: Larimar

I think crystals are having a bit of a moment. The industry is growing, some big brand retailers have got crystals on their website right now. We’re right at the beginning of where the crystal industry could go.


They are having a moment, but I think you also bring something special to it. There’s something about your images, your table displays and the way you talk about the crystals.

You wanted HO to be a whole experience. I don’t know whether you consciously know that’s what you’ve done with Scene & Stone? Because you absolutely have.

I’m honestly so flattered for you to say that, that’s such nice feedback to get. Running a small business on your own, you hardly ever get the sort of feedback you’d normally get from a peer. You get feedback if somebody’s not very happy, that’s part and parcel of it, but thank you so much. It’s always nice to get someone’s independent view looking in.


Experience for me has always been really important, and what underpins all of that is authenticity. When you are doing something authentically, you put everything into it and it’s clear to see when a business is authentic or when it’s not.


Because I’m so passionate and really drawn to the industry, I feel lucky to be able to share that with people. My audience helps me get better, and really fuels that passion. Hopefully I’m keeping them interested at the same time. But I learn a hell of a lot from my audience.

I love it when someone claims a really special piece, and everyone cheers them on in the comments! Do you get to enjoy that side of it while you’re conducting the sale?

100%. The chat on the lives is what makes it. The energy that people bring to it is what makes the community. They always say ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ and all of this positive energy and kindness just radiates from the group. I’m so lucky to be a part of that too.

Spheres of labradorite
Jess's Top 4 Rocks: Labradorite

People are so kind to each other. I’ve seen people claim a crystal and then ask to put it in someone else’s box because they wanted her to have it but they wanted to pay for it. All these pay it forward things. It does feel like an experience.


It’s an experience for me too, I get to talk to all these lovely people and friends. To be passionate about something and it be reciprocated across an audience is a really nice feeling. You feel like you’re not alone in this.


I can’t talk about the live sales and not give a shout out to Matt. I don’t know how he keeps track of all the claims!

Ha! Matt does work really hard. He does an amazing job. I wouldn’t be able to do S&S without him. I wouldn’t be able to write it all down and put things in people’s boxes myself. Some crystal shops do and gosh, credit to them, I don’t know how they do it.

He’s a very busy person but I couldn’t do it without him at all.


One of the things that you always make sure you are clear about is that your crystals are ethically sourced. What does that mean?

Ethics should underpin any business practice that you go into. That’s the beauty of running a small business, you can influence that across everything you do. I live an ethical vegan lifestyle and follow the philosophy, so I would never go into a business where I wasn’t sure about the roots.


For S&S, it’s really important to have sourceable traceability of where your crystals come from. I don’t purchase from factories of any kind, because you don’t know which mines those have come from, you don’t know about the individual workers.


I have individual relationships with my wholesalers. They’re able to show me videos of the working environment, videos of the actual crystals being carved and shaped. I build up an individual relationship, I know the name of the person that did that.


And you always need to be cautious across this industry of price point. If something sounds too good to be true, it is.


And I never negotiate on price. If a manufacturer says this is the price, that’s what we pay. Energy is everything ultimately and I don’t think somebody should work that hard and be paid so little.


Sometimes I can’t get hold of something ethically and so we don’t sell it. You’ll see it being sold across other areas of the industry, but it comes back to that authenticity and what kind of business do you want to be in.


Also all of our packaging is biodegradable and if we do ever use bubble wrap, its been re-used a million times. I’m constantly trying to work in the most ethical and sustainable way possible.


How do you feel about HO opening back up, now that S&S has grown so much and you’ve got to balance them both?

Mmm, great question. I have an amazing salon manager who works at HO for me and she basically runs the ship, and manages the therapy team for me. We have an amazing friendship and working relationship so she’s a very valuable part of what HO is now. I don’t think HO will be reopening in the same wave as retail, so we have time.


But I like being busy, which is a great thing. I am slightly worried about the balance but I have great people behind me and a good support network. Whatever the future holds, I’ll go into it full force. And I’m learning to ask for help a bit more!


Ultimately, I’m really excited. I’ve got HO that’s a couple of years old now and S&S that’s brand new. I have that excitement to build it into something bigger and hopefully that’s what the future holds. That’s what I’ll keep working towards.

 

Jess was already a woman in business, and in life generally, that inspires me. She has always been unapologetically true to herself and courageous in a world that isn't always set up to cheer strong women on. Our conversation on Friday for this interview reinforced everything I thought I knew about her, and more.


And at a time in my own life where I've not only taken a break from the corporate world, but am processing some difficult realities about my own womanhood, she has reminded me that I can carve out my own journey. That I am in control. And I only need myself to do it.


Whilst my own crystal collection continues to grow (I did call Jess my crystal dealer, but neither of us were show if that was funny or inappropriate), I also eagerly anticipate the reopening of Honestly Ombre. The events of the past year have made me more aware than ever of the role I need to play to keep this Earth safe and keep my mind healthy. At Honestly Ombre I get to contribute to both.


Of course, being International Women's Day, it was only right to ask Jess which crystals strongly link to female energy and needs. So here's a quick guide to the rocks you want to surround yourself with to be your best you!


Rainbow moonstone
Rainbow moonstone palm stone

Rainbow moonstone, or any type of moonstone

Jess says: A really feminine stone, connected to the divine feminine energy.

Good for the journey of femininity, however you identify.

It’s all about balance and any stone that promotes balance is a really positive stone to have.



A large piece of amazonite. Blue, green and turquoise tones with flashes of white.
Amazonite

Amazonite

Jess says: A really fierce warrior kind of stone.

It’s amazing for communication. Quite often as women you can feel like your voice is not being heard, so amazonite is a really really strong one.






Small Christmas tree shaped trees carved out of a black and white speckled jasper
Jasper trees

Jasper

Jess says: There’s lots of different types of jasper out there, its known as the super nurturer.

It’s a really stabilising, protective, nurturing stone.

It offers comfort and a real warm nurturing energy from it.




An aura rose quartz moon, pink with a shiny coating. A small rose quartz sphere and a chunk of raw rose quartz
Aura rose quartz and raw rose quartz

Rose quartz

Jess says: Rose quartz is a divine feminine stone.

It’s a stone of unconditional love. Whether that’s for yourself or for others, or for friendship, it really just summons up any type of love.

It's such a soft beautiful nurturing stone.






You can follow both Honestly Ombre and Scene and Stone on Instagram (@honestlyombre and @sceneandstone) and find them online at www.honestlyombre.com and www.sceneandstone.com

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