Hive: An Interview With Writer & Co-Founder of, The Perfume Society, & Green & Black’s, Jo Fairley

The third guest in our Hive series is co-founder of, The Perfume Society, and Green & Black’s, Jo Fairley. She has always juggled her business career with writing, having authored or co-authored 25 books and contributed to a wide range of magazines and newspapers, including Waitrose Weekend and Natural Health, where she is Beauty Editor. 

    Share with us some of your career highlights to date?

    Having left school at 16 with the threat that I’d never even become a secretary, I did have a triumphant moment at the age of 23 when I was appointed as the youngest-ever magazine editor in the UK of Look Now magazine. (Which just goes to show that you should never buy into the doom-saying of your teachers.) I’m incredibly proud of having written 25 books, founded and The Perfume Society (, but most of all of co-founding Green & Black’s with my husband Craig Sams, launching the world’s first organic chocolate and the UK’s first-ever Fairtrade-marked product, Green & Black’s Maya Gold.

    Do you believe you can make your passion your job? And if so, how?

    I certainly think you have to feel passionate about what you do. Passion can definitely spark an idea. But I don’t think it’s enough to have passion and expect it to see you through; it takes drive, determination and a certain detachment so that you can see whether what you’re doing is a good idea, and which direction to take it in. Also: you still need other passions, otherwise, you’re only mixing work and pleasure, and it’s switching off and having downtime, doing something else that you love that distracts you, which recharges you for your business or career.

    How do you strike a work/life balance in this ‘always on’ world we live in?

    I’m quite good at this: I garden, I walk, I swim in the sea (as recently as January 1st!) I completely switched off from social media in January, in fact, partly with the help of an app called Moment, which lets you set ‘fasts’ away from your phone and reminds you occasionally that you’ve been on it a really long time. I never look at e-mail when I’m on holiday or at weekends or in the evening – when I’m on, I’m on; when I’m off, I’m off.

    How would you suggest is the best way to break into the beauty industry? Can you give some top tips?

    So tough right now when we can’t have face-to-face meetings – but there are ways. If you’ve got an idea for a product, for instance, there’s now the option to crowdfund your venture, which didn’t exist when I launched my businesses – and if you can raise the funding to get your project off the ground, then that’s a good sign that other people will be willing to buy it. If you want a career in beauty, I honestly think LinkedIn is your best bet at the moment – go Premium, join beauty forums, make sure your finger’s on the pulse of all that’s new and exciting.

    You’ve been in beauty for a number of years, what’s the most positive changes for good you’ve observed in the industry recently?

    The massive shift, currently, towards products that are better for people and planet, with the beauty industry looking at packaging, sourcing, water use, transportation and the working conditions of those involved in the supply chain. About time, too!

      Beauty is?

      Kindness, positivity, being comfortable in your skin. (I’m regarding this third as one word!)

      Beauty is your greatest passion, right?

      No, actually. It’s one of my passions, but my family, husband, cooking, gardening and travel are also passions.

      When did you first discover beauty?

      Buying issues of Beauty & Health in Vogue, a dedicated health and beauty magazine that came out twice a year from Vogue magazine. And books by a woman called Bronwen Meredith, which taught me how to make my own cosmetics – something I still do, and even wrote a book about some years ago, called The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book. It’s so much easier than anyone thinks – so long as you don’t want to sell your creations, when it all gets SUPER-complicated...

      Your beauty heroes, who are they and why?

      The late Anita Roddick, for her commitment to ethical sourcing and fairness. Marcia Kilgore, for approaching everything she does with humour and wit. And Bobbi Brown, for consistently having her finger on beauty’s pulse for three decades. I’m honoured that I’ve got to know them all, and become friends.

        You must have quite the beauty cabinet of products! Are there any beauty ingredients you swear by in your skin & body care products?

        I swear I can hear my dry, dry skin slurping up hyaluronic acid, and I use a Niacinamide serum (from Garden of Wisdom) that is a fantastic skin-brightener.

        Skincare - multi-step or a few key heroes?

        I like to keep it simple. I used to have really sensitive skin (it’s more robust now), so I got in the habit of simply cleansing (with a balm/muslin cloth), following with lashings of moisturiser and an eye cream. Sometimes I add in a serum or facial oil. I use masks twice- weekly, but honestly? That’s it.

        What does natural beauty mean to you?

        It has to come from within, as well as what you put on the surface. But it fundamentally means products with natural ingredients high on the list and few synthetics. Ideally, I look for officially organically- or naturally-certified products, but I’m not precious about it.

        ON RITUALS
          Talk us through your regular ‘self-care’ rituals.

          Nothing beats what I call a ‘Magic Bath’, with a sloosh of aromatherapy oils, some Epsom salts, perhaps other fragrant bath salts and even a dollop of magnesium oil. I like to do this a couple of times a week before bedtime, for a super-deep sleep. Most important, though, is 10 minutes a day of meditation, and 10,000+ steps. I have a walking machine at home for when the weather’s grim, but I much prefer to walk beside the sea if it’s not blowing a gale or raining buckets.

          What effect has lockdown had on your beauty/ritual routines? The good, bad and ugly? Any you’ll be carrying forward?

          I am ashamed to say I hadn’t given myself a blow-dry for several decades, so I am quite proud that thanks to Dyson’s Airstyler, I can now do a serviceable job. I also tint my brows (Schwarzkopf) and can give myself a darned good pedicure. But trust me: the

          minute the salons reopen, I will abandon that and place myself in the hands of professionals once more. The one ‘keeper’ is infra-red sauna-ing. My husband bought one just before Lockdown 1.0 and I looked at it VERY suspiciously, but I think I had a sauna every night for 90 days and it became a really important part of my life.

          ON AGEING
            Your view on ageing - In the beauty industry in relation to products but also personally...

            I lost so many friends at ridiculously young ages, through illness, accident and suicide, I often reflect on the fact that that worrying about ageing is a privilege – one they never experienced. I certainly like the fact that advertising reflects an older demographic, but I think all of us need to focus on looking ‘well’, rather than looking ‘younger’ – and that generally comes from looking after your health rather than chasing rainbows. (Having said that, it’s amazing what facial massage and good creams can achieve.) Meanwhile, I’d never have fillers or cosmetic ‘tweaks’ – never mind surgery.

            ON THE FUTURE
              We’re in a pandemic. But what has been your silver lining of 2020?

              Getting to be with my husband, 24/7, for a year now, and discovering (thankfully) that we really do get on terribly well. Also: sunsets. I try to get out at sunset every day, and watch the sun going down. So good for the soul.

              Any predictions for 2021, beauty and beyond?

              I think we’ll be buying online for some time to come – and brands are already finding ways to make that exciting and interactive. I also think the natural beauty market and wellness generally are going to boom.

              HIVE TAKE 5 (Your essential need-to-know list)


              (Anything business or beauty related - But also anything you like!) Holly Tucker’s Conversations of Inspiration – she is the Ambassador for Creative Small Businesses, and her SME S.O.S. and longer podcasts honestly kept me going in lockdown. I also love Jess Gilham’s This Classical Life, through which I’ve learned so much about classical music in the past year. And most recently I’ve been listening to Mary Portas’s The Kindness Economy, a new podcast with it finger on the pulse. To be honest, I’ve become a bit of a podcast nut – I also love Grounded with Louis Theroux, The Splendid Table and The Sporkful (both food podcasts), and somewhat nerdily, On The Ledge, which is about houseplants!


              We honestly never used to watch TV, but during the pandemic, we’ve wanted to take our mind off things. So the usual stuff: The Crown, The Queen’s Gambit, Bridgerton... We still treat them like they’re on the BBC, though, and ration ourselves to one episode a week, rather than binge-watch.


              I just read a fascinating family memoir called Kiss Myself Goodbye: The Many Lives of Aunt Munca, by Ferdinand Mount. I used to devour novels but I’ve been having real trouble reading fiction since the start of lockdown and tend instead to go to sleep with a cookery book on my chest, having been lulled by some food writer’s comforting words. Right now, Nigella’s Cook, Eat, Repeat has almost every page corner turned down. Plus: every morning, we read a ‘word of the day’ from Susie Dent’s Word Perfect, which I gave Craig for Christmas – it’s RIVETING! Do you know what a ‘snottinger’ is...? Or do you ever wake up ‘crambazzled’...?


              I am ridiculously excited that last year I managed to nurture plants all the way from seed to bloom because I was home. Every year I plant seeds, but because my work takes me all over the place (I used to travel widely sharing the story of Green & Black’s to a wide range of audiences), I would come home after five days away, and the seedlings would all be dead.


              ANYWHERE RIGHT NOW! But actually, my husband and I just wrote our post-COVID bucket-list, which includes: Sri Lanka, the West Coast of Ireland, Northumberland, Portugal, Transylvania, Hvar in Croatia, Corsica and (for me) Rajasthan. We’d also love to return to Damascus when it’s safe. Just before Tier 4 was introduced in Sussex, we were due to have a couple of days in a cabin by the sea in St. Mary’s Bayat Cabu – it has been postponed till April, and frankly, if we can get away there, I’ll be happy.

              Where can we find you? (IG / websites etc.)