1. Please introduce yourself: Name, what do you do & how many children you have.
I’m Ruthie Watson, Co-Founder of Branche d’Olive. I’ve been married for 42 years to the same wonderful man and we have two children. Gabriella is a paediatrician, working in London and our son Wallace died in his first year at Oxford.
2. What was your inspiration behind your brand/ business: Branche Olive?
Branche d’Olive started selling soap from Provence in 2002. This will be our 15th Anniversary year. Teddie and I bought a ruined farmhouse and vineyard in the Luberon in 1998. It was a mad purchase – two and a half kilometres down a rough track and no water or electricity but it was love at first sight and we were lucky enough to find an incredible architect to help us with the restoration. The markets are full of such wonderful things – all smelling and looking delicious – and after bringing back soap my incredible partner Jane and I had to think of what else we could add to our range. My electrician’s wife worked for a very small company that made candles, creams and lotions and tempted us into taking diffusers. We were one of the first companies to sell these in the country and the fragrances we use make them amongst the best you can buy. We like to use small artisinale suppliers – it’s such fun going to meet them to discuss new products.
3. How do you manage to juggle work and life balance as a mother?
Gabriella was fourteen and at boarding school when Branche d’Olive started. There weren’t the same pressures then as there are now. I don’t know how mothers with young children manage. I am full of admiration for them and know I wouldn’t have wanted to work full time when I had little children. They are young for such a short time I would have had to find something that worked around them, rather than them working around my job. Easier said than done. But where there is a will there is a way and everyone works it out for themselves.
4. What top tips would you give to any mum on starting her own business?
I always say it takes more than hard work to set up your own business – there is a huge amount of luck involved and never taking no for an answer. Lots of people might think your idea is mad but if you have real passion and confidence in your ideas take a leap of faith. All the best things I have done have needed that.
5. What do you love most about London? & Do you have a favourite spot with your children?
We left London when Wallace was four and before Gabriella was born. We both love London – having lived in Eccleston Square in Pimlico – but wanted to bring our children up in the country. Gabriella is renting a flat in Pimlico now, strangely enough, and it’s fun to go back there. It hasn’t changed that much after thirty years although we are delighted to have a Gail’s around the corner! Brilliant for fabulous bread and cakes.
6. How do you define quality ‘me-time’?
I don’t really like being by myself so possibly an evening by the fire with the family, catching up. We all have such busy lives now it’s very special just to relax together. One of my favourite places for that is breakfast in the courtyard at Pailleres with everyone before another glorious sunny Provencale day.
7. “I am a Mum and…”
… I know how incredibly lucky I am. I never forget that.
8. What is your favourite & least favourite thing about parenthood?
I’ve been a mother now for 35 years – I can’t remember not being one! Neither of our children slept well and I do remember hating those disturbed nights. Then they suddenly sleep through and you don’t know yourself.
9. What would we always find in your handbag?
A yellow Smythson’s notebook which Gabriella gave me. It’s got so many important bits of information in that I need – I much prefer it to an I-pad for all those vital notes.
10. Given we are all about embracing Motherhood, what advice would you give a first time Mum?
Take as much maternity leave as you possibly can. You can never get that time back.