Eve Taylor – the 81-year-old company founder who won’t retire
Great-grandmother Eve Taylor founded her family-run cosmetics company in 1968 and has been working for the British brand ever since. She talks to Radhika Sanghani about 7.30am starts and the Asian export market.
It was the moment one Christmas when Eve Taylor had just ironed two dozen grey school shirts for her five sons that she realised something had to change. She was in her early thirties; feeling trapped in a man’s world. She put down the iron, signed up for beauty classes, and went on to found an aromatherapy and skincare company.
Fifty years on, Eve Taylor is 81-years-old and still working in the Peterborough-based family business she created, alongside three of those five sons. The business is making record amounts of money in British exporting, with a turnover of £2m, 60pc of which is export driven. It has a global market – the largest of which is Asia – for its aromatherapy oils, which are natural essential oils designed to enhance psychological and physical well-being.
“I start work at 7.30am every day, and often stay until 6pm,” says the great-grandmother, who works ‘part-time’ seven days a week. “I’m supposed to be cutting down. I keep hearing ‘you must cut down mother.’ But I know if I stop working I’ll just be the woman in the dressing gown.
“I enjoy what I do. If I didn’t, I’d be out of here in a second. Some people are surprised that I’m here answering the phone, because I’m the chairman of the company, but why not? I have got to be involved because that’s what makes the business successful.”
Eve began working as an Avon sales representative in south London in 1963, while her ex-Navy husband worked as a postman. They divorced after 23 years of marriage, and Eve says, “With respect, the man I was married to and the father of all my sons wanted me to be a Derby and Joan kind of person but, sorry, I have got a brain and I wanted to use it.”
She worked part-time during evenings for the next five years, whilst studying at a beauty school in the mornings, where she “did all [her] training on an IOU.” Eve used to leave her sons with her mother, who had retired from her job working in Bassett’s sweet factory in Lambeth. Eve’s father had worked as a barge-builder in the war, and it was from his strict work ethic that Eve developed her drive.
She says, “I had an ambition to better everything and that is where it has gone. All my grandchildren have their drive and it comes from their background.” Eve has six grandchildren, one great-grandson and of her five sons, employees Alan as research director of Eve Taylor London Ltd, Raymond as production director and Chris as business development director. David, her second eldest, is now a doctor, while her fourth son Ronald is estranged from the family.
In 1968, Eve opened her first ‘Adam and Eve’ beauty salon in Blackheath, south east London, where she started creating aromatherapy oils and skincare products, and had a beauty textbook for teenagers published. Four years later, she opened her second ‘Adam and Eve’ salon in Sevenoaks – where she once pierced Princess Diana’s ears – and began exporting globally.
The company’s largest export market now is Asia, particularly in China, Malaysia and Taiwan. They cracked the market in 1980 when Eve exhibited their products at Cosmoprof Asia, a beauty trade show event in Hong Kong, and realised the aromatherapy oils were extremely popular. Since then, the company now produces more oils for one order to China than for a year’s worth of orders in the UK, and considers it their strongest export market.
Eve’s youngest son Chris says, “If you speak to Westerners and say put an oil on your skin they would probably say, ‘you’re crazy, no way am I doing that, you’re out of your mind.’ In Asia putting oils on the skin and using them for homecare is quite normal. Oils like rose are spiritually very important to people in China.”
The company sources its natural oils from all over the world, including China, but Chris says, “We found the Chinese don’t trust their own products and are really aware of substitution and fakes. They’d rather pay more for British products which they feel they can trust more.”
The products are sold in Asian salons and spas, and specially formulated for the Asian market. The oils aim to combat skin and body issues caused by bad pollution, Asian diets and long work hours.
In the UK, the products are also found in salons and spas, where they are recommended by trained therapists, but the company is now developing a new range strictly for retail.
Eve says, “We haven’t gone retail in the past which has been our weakness. But the times are changing and we need to change with them. We hope to see our products everywhere – in pharmacies all over.”
Chris, who was born after his mother began her business, adds, “When my mother started blending aromatherapy oils, it was all hocus pocus locus lotions and potions. But now its very much everything that people want.”
Source: The Telegraph, 13 November 2013