WanderWomen Collaborators: Meet Sally of Seilich

Sally of Seilich putting nettles into her still for distillation.

Firstly, for anyone who doesn’t already know, what is Seilich?

Seilich is a skincare company with a difference!  We grow our own wildflowers which we distil to make floral waters and essential oils.  We then use these precious botanical extracts to make our skincare products.  Because of our nature centric ethos, we have become the first company in the UK to gain Wildlife Friendly certification. Our main focus is on creating a truly sustainable wildlife friendly company that gives back, rather than takes from nature.

What inspired you to set up Seilich?

I was working at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh as a research scientist when I had a baby.  Although I loved my job, it required me to spend time away from home collecting data in remote places and to work long hours in the lab, which was difficult to juggle with a young family.  I really wanted to continue to work in nature conservation though, so I began my own wildflower meadow.  By using the flowers to make products, I am able to reach a new audience to share messages about the importance of wildlife and its conservation.    

What led up to that point?

I’ve worked in nature conservation for 20 years and have had some really great jobs over the years!  I’ve worked in the tropical swamp forests of Kalimantan in Borneo, in dry deciduous forests of Madagascar and in remote ancient hazelwoods on the west coast of Scotland. These contracts all required me to live in very remote places for long periods of time, which led to some amazing encounters with wildlife, and also enabled me to gain a really good understanding of the natural world. 

How long have you been in business?

I’ve only been in business for two years, so my meadow, and my brand, is only just getting established.

Is this your full-time vocation?

I set Seilich up as I wanted to be able to look after my little one and work a few hours here and there, to fit in with my mum schedule.  The reality of running a company that you’re really passionate about is that a few hours here and there isn’t enough and I find I spend every spare minute working!  But then I enjoy running the company so much that I’m not sure id call it work!  

What is it about the great outdoors that inspires you?

Sometimes, when I’m out in woods, both here in the UK and in wilder places around the world, I’ll come to a place where I can smell the earth, hear bird song, feel the canopy high above my head and sense life all around me, and I suddenly feel a really strong connection to the nature.  I’ve always felt that humans have no more claim to planet earth than any other species, that we’re equal to all other species struggling to survive, but it’s something that’s easily forgotten in the rush of our day to day lives.  Going out into nature in this way reminds me that humans are just another species on the planet, and strengthens my conviction that we have to share this planet fairly.

How have you coped with coronavirus and lockdown?

I’m very lucky that I was able to visit my wildflower meadow during lockdown.  As the weather was so amazing, we had some great family days hanging out there, doing jobs here and there but generally just being together outdoors.  And with the world on hold I had so much hope for the natural world, for its recovery and for it gaining in value as people recognised how much greenspaces, birdsong and nature sightings gave them strength during lockdown.

What changes did you have to make to the business?

My business was heavily reliant on markets and festivals to make product sales, and on running workshops, both of which came to an abrupt halt with lockdown.  I suddenly found that I had a very weak on-line sales strategy and didn’t really know how to connect with people in this ‘remote’ way!  I set about developing some new products which I was able to launch towards the end of lockdown, and generate new interest in my skincare line.  Developing new products meant that I also needed to grow more plants!  I took on an extra acre of land and spent a lot of lockdown planting and tending to my wildflowers.

What have you learned from the experience?

I’ve learnt that as much as I prefer to connect with people face to face, relationships can be built remotely/digitally.  It’s a real skill though and I’ve still much to learn!  I’ve always shield away from technology as its so removed from the natural world where I feel most at home, however its not as scary as I thought it was. 

Anything you will do differently?

I’m going to continue to work on my on-line sales strategy and to build my skills in this area… its funny really because a lot of people say that they re-connected with nature during lockdown, where as for me I re-connected with technology!

Tell me about the characteristics of plants…

Ah, now this is something that I feel can’t be taught!  The best way to learn about plants, to learn their character is to spend time with them.  You can read a book that will tell you a plants name; how to identify it according to the number of its stamens, leaf shape, the arrangement of its petals; where it lives…. But by doing that you won’t really get to know the plant.  I prefer to give people the skills to develop their own understanding of a plants character so they can start building a truly unique and special connection to the natural world.  

What’s next for Seilich?

I hope to take on extra acre of land next year which I can convert to wildflower meadow.  This will depend on product sales this year however, so in the short term I need to sell sell sell, and then in the long term I need to plough seed and grow!

What’s the big dream?

The big dream is to make wellness community more aware about the environmental impact of the products we consume.  Many people assume that because they’re buying natural and organic products that their environmental impact is lessened, but that isn’t necessarily true, especially in the beauty sector!  I opted for Wildlife Friendly Certification for my business and products over other ‘natural’ certifications because I wanted the emphasis to be on benefits for the environment rather than human health (which natural and organic certifications often emphasise).  So I’m doing a lot of work within the beauty and essential oil community to raise awareness around the environmental impact of various processes and ingredients that are frequently used in the beauty industry.

Do you have any advice for other women as we come out of lockdown?

I think the un-equality that women face in society has really been brought to the fore by lockdown.  So many women were found to be doing the bulk of childcare and housework whilst trying to also work from home, despite that sometimes there were two adults at home!  I think women are amazing, we have such superpowers, but we also need to conserve our energy and be kind to ourselves.  Yes we can do it all, but as we come out of lockdown and pressures are eased, we really need to take stock and appreciate what we’ve just been through.  Taking time for ourselves is something not many of us do on a regular basis, but is probably more important now more than ever.   

What do you enjoy about collaborating with WanderWomen?

I love collaborating with Anna because WanderWomen and Seilich share such similar ethos.  The space that WanderWomen events create for people to slow down and reflect, provides the perfect atmosphere to explore connections with nature.  On a more personal level, I also love collaborating with Anna as I benefit from her teachings so much and leave feeling inspired, nourished and recharged!

To find out more about Sally and Seilich, check out her website, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Upcoming collaborations can be booked via Eventbrite:

Floral Distillation and Forestbathing: 13th September at Preston Hall Estate, 10-5pm (tickets available)

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