Who says you can’t make multiple shifts in your career path, as your priorities and passions change?
Here, we chat to a conscientious business founder who has gone from property development, to midwifery, to skincare, and now into preserving the planet whilst assisting mental health through the magic of candles.
Boot-strapping a business through hard graft and dogged determination is probably something many entrepreneurs have known about.
They’ve toiled away behind the scenes of their developing brand, shovelling in personal funds, and silently praying that the effort and aspiration will ‘come good’.
Darcey Croft is a woman who knows all about this drive to achieve, and she’s already proven time and again that she’s more than prepared to put in both the hours, and the piggy-bank savings.
On the one hand, she’s a completely devoted midwife, having returned to university studies in her early thirties when the recession hit the UK.
She’d taken the leap from property development into the caring profession, and had never envisaged that less than a decade later she’d be building an ethically focused ‘product’ business, which is making an impact on the world’s ecosystem.
Today, she’s the face and the founder of Bare Naturals, a company which is creating hand-poured scented candles while telling a very important message to the world.
“It’s incredible how much can change in a relatively short period of time, when you start re-evaluating your purpose and looking for new ways to have impact,” Darcey says.
“Before the financial crash, I was merrily ticking along in property development and wasn’t giving too much thought about ‘purpose’ or the universe.
“It was that strange economic period which completely shifted my thinking, and now I’m the woman who feels so compelled to ‘do the right thing’ that I have my mind set on creating the equivalent of a forest for this planet before I die.”
That’s a pretty meteoric ambition for any businesswoman to cite as her goal in life, but it goes a long way to help paint the picture of who Darcey has become in recent years.
As a mother of four, she saw the ‘crash’ as her opportunity to pursue the midwifery field, and became a mature university student in 2010.
It was during her years of study that she would become increasingly interested in natural products, and their significant impact on the human body and mind.
“I’d not been someone who had always sourced a particularly natural type of beauty product or anything before my studies,” she confesses.
“I was more interested in the brand than the traceability back then.
“But my dissertation during my midwifery course was a real eye-opener. I learned, with some degree of horror, about the incredible impact of endocrine disruptors.
“These are chemicals which have a really devastating effect on our hormones and can cause all sorts of disease.
“They impact hugely on unborn babies and can mimic our body’s mechanism in a way which can lead to the worst kinds of cancers and other illnesses.”
The revelation of this study paved the way for Darcey to begin wanting to create her own ‘natural skincare’.
It was never initially intended as a major entrepreneurial pursuit for profit, but quickly drew a significant following on campus.
“I dabbled in creating my own soaps and bath bombs from really natural and kinder ingredients,” she continues.
“I soon began selling them to other students and lecturers, and then, before long, I’d got enough of a range that I was attending trade shows and selling products online, all while finishing my studies.
“I was hooked. It was something I’d never considered exploring, but I found that I loved it and was fascinated by what was possible.”
With skincare products finding their interested audience very swiftly, it wasn’t too long before Darcey’s accidental business was taking another turn.
As a one-off, she decided to make a candle from more natural ingredients.
Whilst the beauty goods had been popular, the candles were to prove an entirely different level proposition altogether.
“I couldn’t believe how quickly people started to want to buy the candles,” she recalls.
“It was never something I’d thought would ‘take off’ in its own right, but soon I was pivoting the entire model of the business line and ploughing everything at producing a wide range of scented candles.
“I started learning more about the power of smell, and how different scents can affect certain issues or emotions.
“Over time, it got me thinking more about mental health and how our candles could have a really positive impact on individuals.
“We’re now on the cusp of launching what I believe is the first specific candle with a focus on mental health.”
This evolution in the business has seen Darcey combine a fascination with hypnotherapy – a skill she’s also managed to qualify in in recent years.
Each of the new range of candles will now be accompanied by ‘recorded hypnotherapy sessions’ such that the scent of the burning candle becomes something of a ‘trigger’ for future emotions.
“It’s an incredibly innovative approach to the use of candles, and I’m really excited by how we’ve managed to develop the range for such an important purpose,” she enthuses.
“We’ve been able to put this approach into candles which are focused on specific areas of health and wellbeing too, from weightloss to insomnia, to enhancing memory.”
As if all this weren’t enough of an accomplishment, there is the small matter of Darcey – a mother of four – wanting to plant an entire forest before she leaves this earth.
Does she plan to dig each tree by hand?
“The idea of planting trees came about quite early into the development of the brand,” she says, proudly.
“I felt we could be guaranteeing to our customers that we would ensure one tree planted for every candle sold.
“But when I realised we could be doing this fairly easily, I thought, why stop with one.
“Now we have a really strong ethos around planting ten trees for every one candle.
“I’m determined that that should enable me to see a total of 10 million trees planed – so basically an entire forest.”
Darcey has an admirable habit of making things seem incredibly simple and achievable, thanks to such a ‘can do’ attitude.
But she admits that it’s far from straightforward, and that while on the surface the brand is achieving great things, there’s also some very significant ‘counting pennies’ having to take place to help get the business where she wants it to be.
“I’m still bootstrapping the business via my midwifery shifts,” she says candidly.
“We’re not going to achieve everything we want to overnight, and we have plans to roll out a crowdfunder campaign shortly, but that doesn’t stop me being fiercely proud of where we’ve got to so far.
“We’re doing great things and always evolving, so I’m very happy with the progress.”
In fact, last month alone the business was able to plant 1000 trees as a result of its successful orders.
“That alone warms my heart,” she says of the achievement.
“I think a lot of people go into business chasing the pound, but that’s just not me.
“I’m about building a brand which has positive impact on the world.
“We’re definitely doing that with Bare Naturals and so it’s a joy to be a part of everyday.”