“I always loved nature and plants as a child: collecting flowers, making perfume potions, pressing flowers… so the fact that I’m now fascinated by herbal remedies isn’t really a surprise.” The creative director of MOA skincare on mornings, family and why she started her business…
Charlie Fowler, 38, is the founder and Creative Director of MOA (www.moa.london), an organic and ethical independent skincare company made in England. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband Paul and their two children Jemima, 12, and Zachary, 8.
What’s your home like? I’m a Cancerian and I’m definitely a home-maker, I’m obsessed with interior décor. I saw a lot of ‘potential’ in our house when we bought it, it needed some tlc and we’ve spent the last five years scrabbling together the money to do it up.
We moved from South East London to an Oxfordshire village, so it was such a novelty to have lots of space. The original cottage is late seventeenth century, and it’s been extended over the years, it’s quite a mix. I love the inglenook fireplace and beams in our cosy sitting room, and in contrast we knocked through to make a big modern kitchen, we spend most time there, it’s a great family space and opens onto our garden.
My parents were both artists, so we have a lot of art on the walls, including some of mine too. When the house is tidy it looks really great, but Lego has taken over and my kids are so messy… I think they take after me.
What time are you up in the morning? I’m not in such a good routine at the moment, so I would like to say 6am to do yoga or go jogging, but I haven’t done that for ages. My alarm goes off at 6.30, but I press snooze at least once. I’m not really a morning person.
What do you do first thing? I drink tea, check my Instagram, make my daughter’s packed lunch and do her hair before she gets the school bus.
In three words, describe mornings in your home? Sleepy, tea and Yu-Gi-Oh (a Japanese cartoon which my son watches every morning, he’s obsessed).
Receiving kind words about a product and how it made someone feel better makes it all worthwhile
Tea or coffee? Tea. I drink a lot of herbal tea, but I love Earl Grey and I’ve found cashew milk to be a good replacement for cow’s milk, so I’m happy about that. I do love the buzz from a cup of coffee though and sometimes I need that boost to get things done.
How might the rest of your day pan out? If I get a chance, I’ll take the dog out jogging in the lovely countryside on my doorstep, I feel so much better if I do. I spend most of my day at the computer working in between cups of tea and sometimes listening to the radio.
My days usually fly by working from home as there is always so much to do and it’s very varied. There is Instagraming, which might involve finding plants outside and setting up a still life, writing text for various things, sourcing packaging, marketing collaborations, managing accounts etc. Before I know it it’s time to pick up my son from school and then I might be driving them to swimming or whatever.
Where are the kids when you’re working? Usually at school, clubs or doing their thing. It’s much easier now that they’re older. I work from home which has been a blessing, but it also means that I don’t get much respite. In the holidays it’s a juggling act, sometimes I have to get up early to work, so I can spend the afternoon with the kids, after they’ve had a lazy morning.
What’s your workspace like? I quite often find it covered in pens and clutter from one or both of the kids, which I’ve been moaning a lot about recently. There is a lovely view of the garden from my window. My desk often has packaging samples dotted around it and I have a wall of shelving which I try to keep organised.
I have a cork board full of inspiration, photos of my kids and lovely cards from people. I like my workspace to be clean and tidy or it stresses me out, so I do my best to keep it that way. My dog sleeps under my corner desk in a basket.
Tell us about your business: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about? I became increasingly passionate about healthy eating and natural skin care when I became a mum. My daughter suffers from eczema and so my quest for natural and organic products to soothe her inflamed skin began, I didn’t want to use paraffin/petroleum on her skin which was being prescribed to her.
I always loved nature and plants as a child: collecting flowers, making perfume potions, pressing flowers and helping in the garden and so the fact that I’m now fascinated by herbal remedies isn’t really a surprise to me.
Yarrow was a herb which I discovered early on and was intrigued by because of so much folklore surrounding it. It has such a wealth of properties, including benefits for the skin and yet it is hardly found in many skin products.
At the time, I was working for my now business partner, helping him launch another skin care brand. My background is art and design, so I had many ideas about the branding for MOA and with the help of a herbalist we somehow decided to create a simple balm with yarrow and tea tree for skin healing and we named it The Green Balm.
It’s still my dream for every household to have a pot of The Green Balm in their bathroom cabinet, for any skin ailment, instead of the dreadful petrochemicals which are still quite commonly used.
What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business? It is all encompassing, there are sleepless nights and I get stressed out trying to keep up with it all whilst being a mum. I have to remember to give myself a break.
I love the flexibility of working from home, it’s enabled me to be there to for my children and it’s nice not having to commute every day
What makes it all worthwhile? There is so much work that goes into designing a product, so having the finished product in your hand is a real achievement. But receiving kind words about a product and how it made someone feel better makes it all worthwhile.
Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others? We have a great little MOA team, we all work really hard and value one another. Chris works in the warehouse and sends out the larger orders, whilst Laura sends out press call-ins and online orders. Chiara goes out on the road on sales and fortunately my business partner is an accountant. I would love to just be involved with the creative aspects, but that certainly isn’t the case for the most part.
Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace? I love the flexibility of working from home, it’s enabled me to be there to for my children and it’s nice not having to commute every day. I get way more work done. I like our small office, but I don’t like large shared offices, they make me feel uncomfortable.
What’s the secret to career success? Having a vision, being passionate about what you do, a good team and lots of hard work.
Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing motherhood/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career? It is a constant juggle, life is hectic with kids and I have decided to accept that this the way it is and to embrace it. If you keep saying: once we’ve done this it will get easier, you are just kidding yourself. But don’t forget to step back and enjoy yourself along the way. I feel very fortunate with my life.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be? With my family on a beach in Australia – to surprise my sister who lives there.