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From Marketing Maven to Lavender Queen: The Empowering Journey of Julie Thurgood-Burnett, Founder of Hereward Farm

From Marketing Maven to Lavender Queen: The Empowering Journey of Julie Thurgood-Burnett, Founder of Hereward Farm

Discover the inspiring journey of Julie Thurgood-Burnett, founder of Hereward Farm, as she shares her transition from the marketing industry to lavender farming.

June 29th, 2023

Welcome to our exclusive interview with Julie Thurgood-Burnett, the founder of Hereward Farm, a remarkable lavender farm and skincare brand based in Ontario, Canada.

In this captivating conversation, we delve into Julie's inspiring journey from the fast-paced world of marketing to the tranquil fields of lavender, where she discovered her true passion and built a thriving business.

Julie's transition from high heels to work boots may seem unexpected, but her story is a testament to the power of embracing new opportunities and following one's heart.

Join us as we explore the origins of Hereward Farm, the benefits of lavender for skincare, and the unique vision Julie has for her brand.

Prepare to be inspired by her unwavering commitment to sustainability, community support, and empowering individuals through education. Get ready to embark on a fragrant and enlightening journey through the world of lavender with Julie...

Can you tell us more about your journey from working in the marketing industry to becoming a lavender farmer and starting Hereward Farm?

This one is a good one – I mean, who would have thought I would trade my gorgeous high heels for work boots? Not this girl! In 2020, during the pandemic, I found myself spending more time in my garden than ever before. As a marketing professional, my agency was always busy, and I rarely had time to relax. But with the world on pause, I turned to my gardens for solace.

One day, as I gazed across our expansive 150-acre farm, I wondered if lavender would thrive in this environment. Surprisingly, I had never been to a lavender farm before. So, I reached out to an agriculture client of mine for guidance on how to start and where to find lavender plants.

While I come from a city background, my husband hails from a long line of farmers. He was born and raised on this farm, so the transition to rural life was not entirely new for him. However, for me, it was a foreign concept.

I started by planting and growing 40 lavender plants. As they flourished, I began to contemplate what I could do with the lavender once it matured. To learn more, I immersed myself in research, took courses, and drew upon my background in cosmetology. Although I had never pursued a career in cosmetology, I had a passion for it and opted for a marketing route instead.

As I created lavender-based products, they quickly sold out among my friends. That's when I realised I had something special in my hands. With my husband's encouragement, we launched Hereward Farms, named after the Hamlet of Hereward, a tribute to his family's Irish roots and the area they settled in five generations ago.

My husband suggested the ambitious idea of planting 3,000 lavender plants. Initially terrified, I eventually decided to take the plunge, and since then, I haven't looked back.

What inspired you to start growing lavender specifically? How did you come up with the idea during the lockdown?

The inspiration to grow lavender came from a need for something enjoyable and fulfilling amidst the mental exhaustion caused by my agency's workload. With my marketing business demanding my attention and limited time for self-care, I was in search of a fun project to invest my energy in. Lavender popped into my head, and it quickly became a significant part of my life. Today, we have over 6,000 lavender plants thriving on our farm.

As someone with a background in marketing and fashion, how did you approach the challenge of learning about farming and cultivating lavender?

I relied heavily on my husband's expertise, given his upbringing in a farming family. Although farming isn't his primary occupation, he's secretly excited to have a portion of the land dedicated to farming again, even if it's for "fun."

To overcome the learning curve, I immersed myself in educational courses, read books, and conducted extensive research. Having my husband's support in planning, organising, and overall farm operations was invaluable. Honestly, I couldn't have done it without him. While there was a lot to learn, my passion for lavender and the entire farming process made the journey enjoyable. If you saw me now, you might mistake me for a seasoned generational farmer, complete with my trusty overalls! Ha!

How did you transition from running multiple businesses to focusing on Hereward Farm full-time?

Transitioning from running multiple businesses to dedicating myself fully to Hereward Farm was a significant decision for me. My marketing agency was the love of my life, and I had built it up with my good friend and partner. However, I had always planned to slow down, focus more on myself and my family, and work less within a five-year timeframe.

The lavender farm came into the picture and changed everything. In October 2021, I found myself unable to manage both businesses effectively. They were growing and demanding more of my time. Fortunately, my partner bought me out of the marketing agency, giving me the opportunity to fully commit to Hereward Farms. Another one of our businesses, Angry Dad Motors, has been scaled back, allowing me to allocate most of my time to Hereward Farms. Who am I kidding? It's actually all of my time now.

What were the biggest challenges you faced during this transition?

The biggest challenges during this transition were the uncertainty of what I was getting into and the financial risks involved. Putting all my focus and resources into one business was never my strong suit, but I knew I had something special with Hereward Farms. The rapid growth of the business was both exciting and scary, as I constantly wondered if I could keep up with the demands.

Could you share some insights into the process of planting and harvesting lavender?

Planting lavender is not that complicated on a small scale. However, when scaling up like we did with over 6,000 plants, there are certain considerations. We use ground cover to help with weed control and implement a drip irrigation system. Instead of growing lavender from seeds, we opt for buying plants that come as plugs for faster growth. Patience is still required in the process.

When it comes to harvesting, we still do it by hand using power cutters. Each plant takes approximately 10 minutes to harvest, ensuring a clean cut for creating bunches to sell. Harvesting and watching the plants grow from tiny seedlings to beautiful, mature plants is one of my favourite activities. It's an emotional experience for me.

What unique aspects of lavender farming might people need to be aware of?

People should be aware that lavender farming requires ongoing attention and care. It's not a plant you can simply plant and walk away from. Weeding, watering, and ensuring the soil is suitable for the plants to flourish are crucial tasks. We also have to cover our lavender every winter to protect it from the elements. Managing the equipment, farm staff, and time required for lavender farming can be costly, similar to many other crops.

What sets Hereward Farm apart from other lavender farms and skincare brands?

Hereward Farm's focus has always been on the products rather than agri-tourism, which is common among other lavender farms. While we offer field visits, lavender picking, and events like our Lavender Festival, our main emphasis lies in creating farm-to-skin products.

What differentiates us from other lavender farms is our commitment to giving back to the community. We have raised over $10,000 through events and promotions for local charities and community organisations. Our Field Lavender Dreams Initiative channels proceeds from our events and admission fees back into the community. This year, our goal is to raise $20,000 for these causes.

In terms of our skincare products, we differentiate ourselves by using all our lavender and infusing the plants into our carrier oils. Rather than simply adding lavender essential oil for fragrance, we incorporate lavender throughout our products to harness its full healing potential. Lavender offers anti-inflammatory properties, soothes the skin, aids in healing cuts, burns, and insect bites, and promotes relaxation.

Another key aspect is our commitment to sustainable farming and production practices. We source ingredients and supplies 100% from Canada, including our packaging, and collaborate with local businesses to promote and support them. This extends to carrying their products in our store and exploring new developments that incorporate lavender.

Can you talk about the benefits of lavender for skincare?

Lavender is a hidden gem when it comes to skincare. It is renowned for its healing properties, particularly for burns and cuts. Lavender's anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, and detoxifying benefits make it effective in reducing redness, soothing and calming the skin, accelerating the healing process for minor cuts, scrapes, rashes, and acne.

Moreover, lavender offers numerous powerful benefits for various skin concerns. Whether your skin is oily, dry, prone to acne, showing signs of aging such as wrinkles, or affected by dark spots, marks, hyperpigmentation, eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea, lavender is a versatile ingredient to incorporate into your skincare routine. It can even contribute to achieving lighter, brighter, and healthier glowing skin.

As one of the best and most versatile essential oils for the face and skin, lavender calms, soothes, nourishes, repairs, treats, detoxifies, and stimulates collagen production while supporting overall skin health. Its small molecular structure enables deep penetration into the skin, facilitating recovery from within.

How did you develop your formulations to maximise the healing properties of lavender?

Research played a significant role in developing our formulations. Our first product, a face and body oil, served as the foundation. We incorporated Grapeseed oil into the body oil to enhance absorption and benefit from the additional advantages of grapeseed oil.

With my background in cosmetology and continuous learning through various courses, I was able to utilise my knowledge of what is beneficial and harmful to the skin. The formulation process involved understanding the purpose and benefits of each ingredient. Our focus has always been on staying true to lavender and using only natural ingredients, ensuring our products remain clean and cruelty-free.

What have been some of the most rewarding moments or accomplishments for Hereward Farm since its inception?

Experiencing the support and witnessing our growth across North America has been truly phenomenal. However, it was when our products appeared on TV and in prestigious publications like British Vogue and Vanity Fair UK that it truly struck me - we have something remarkable here.

Additionally, winning three awards this year for our products at The 2023 CertClean Clean Beauty Awards was a monumental achievement. Our Lavish Pure Lavender Infused Face Serum secured first place, our Scrubbed Body Scrub earned third place, and our Luxurious Hand + Body Lotion achieved second place in their respective categories. These awards hold great significance considering the vast number of unique all-natural brands out there. It truly blew my mind!

Talk us through an average day in your life…

I am an early bird, waking up between 4 am and 5 am. This is my prime thinking time, during which I plan marketing strategies, work on social media posts, and make updates to the website. Then, I head over to the Lavender Lounge + Boutique. If I'm developing a product, which can take several weeks to several months, or if I need product photos taken, I handle it all myself.

During harvesting season, you'll find me in the fields with the staff, enjoying one of my favourite activities—harvesting. It's a peaceful and rewarding experience.

How do you balance the creative and business aspects of running Hereward Farm?

Finding a balance between the creative and business aspects is crucial. As we incorporated the business, some of the operational aspects were taken off my plate, allowing me to focus more on the creative side. However, there was a time when I handled everything, from product making to website updates, product photography, customer service management, and more. I used to handle bill payments, invoicing, and bookkeeping as well, but thankfully, that is no longer my responsibility.

I'm grateful that most of my job involves creative tasks from start to finish, and it brings me immense joy.

Has customer feedback influenced any significant changes or improvements in your product line?

Customer feedback has played a significant role in shaping our products. I have made changes based on feedback and often provide samples for people to try and offer their honest opinions.

One memorable instance is when my husband revealed he was using our Luxurious Hand + Body Lotion for chafing. He suggested I create a Ball Balm. Initially, I thought it was ridiculous since the men's market can be challenging. However, we started formulating different versions, and he became the guinea pig. Eventually, we launched Angry Dad Ballin' Balm, all because of him!

Lavender farming requires patience and attention to detail. How do you handle the ups and downs of agriculture, such as weather fluctuations or crop variations?

Fortunately, my husband, who grew up in this world, brings a calm and composed demeanor. He is familiar with what to expect regarding weather and seasonal variations. Lavender is a relatively hardy plant, but I get anxious during spring when the plants may become too hot under the cover, requiring a decision to remove it despite the risk of frost. The same goes for fall, where I ensure we don't cover the plants too soon.

Can you share any advice or words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs considering a career change or venturing into a new industry as you did?

Don't be afraid or suffer from imposter syndrome.

Take time for yourself and allow yourself downtime. It's essential to recharge your batteries by doing things unrelated to work. Feeling guilty about taking time off won't benefit you or your business in the long run.

Embrace fear but don't let it make decisions or change your path. Fear can ground you and remind you that mistakes are normal and that you don't have to know everything.

Be adaptable. Adapting to change is crucial, and it's necessary to evolve and be prepared for shifts in the industry or market. For instance, when supplies were impacted, I could have switched to plastic bottles quickly, but I remained committed to eco-friendly practices and tirelessly sourced Canadian glass bottle suppliers.

Making mistakes is okay as long as you learn from them. For example, when we initially launched, we had four different varieties of lavender-driven products, but it became evident that the consumers were getting confused. Simplifying our product line helped people understand our offerings better.

Remember, you don't have to compete with everyone. Stay true to your unique vision and offerings. Collaborate with others to promote their success instead of taking business away from them. Let's go on this journey together.

Our readers love to travel; what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

Greece is currently at the top of my bucket list. I have explored Italy before and can't wait to experience the beauty of Greece.

Where do you call home?

We reside in Ontario, Canada, just outside Toronto, in the picturesque rolling hills of Headwaters. It's around a 20-minute drive from the nearest town, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Lastly, what is your vision for Hereward Farm in the long term? How do you hope to impact the skincare industry and the community around you?

My vision for Hereward Farm encompasses several key aspects:

Educating and empowering individuals: I aim to provide reliable and up-to-date skincare information, helping people understand the science behind different practices, ingredients, and routines. By empowering individuals with knowledge, they can make informed decisions about their skincare and develop healthier habits.

Promoting inclusivity and diversity: Skincare is a personal and diverse subject, encompassing various skin types, concerns, and cultural considerations. I strive to embrace and highlight the importance of inclusivity by addressing the needs of people from different backgrounds. By acknowledging and respecting the diverse nature of skincare, I hope to foster a sense of belonging and create a more inclusive environment within the skincare community.

Encouraging healthy practices and debunking myths: Skincare is often surrounded by misinformation. I aim to promote evidence-based advice and debunk common misconceptions. By separating fact from fiction, I can help individuals make better decisions about their skincare routines, ensuring they focus on proven effective and safe practices.

Supporting sustainability and eco-friendly practices: The skincare industry significantly impacts the environment. I encourage individuals to adopt sustainable skincare practices, such as using eco-friendly products, reducing waste, and being mindful of the environmental consequences of their skincare choices. Together, we can work towards a more environmentally conscious skincare industry by promoting sustainability.

Ultimately, I aspire to be a reliable resource and a helpful guide, empowering individuals to care for their skin while promoting inclusivity, accuracy, and sustainability within the skincare community.

Where can people find out more?

Visit HerewardFarm.com or connect with us on our social media channels.

This interview is brought to you by houseofcoco.net, where we celebrate the extraordinary stories of remarkable individuals like Julie who are making a difference in the world.

Laura Bartlett

Laura Bartlett

Northern girl Laura is the epitome of a true entrepreneur. Laura’s spirit for adventure and passion for people blaze through House of Coco. She founded House of Coco in 2014 and has grown it in to an internationally recognised brand whilst having a lot of fun along the way. Travel is in her DNA and she is a true visionary and a global citizen.