While I have chosen to document my time spent in the Lush factory first, this doesn't mean that it was in any way more interesting or less appreciated than any other part of the trip. The reason I chose to write about that aspect before any other, was simply because I was given so much information to process while I was there, and I was determined to get as much as I could written down before my memory failed me once again.
As it happens, my entire Lush weekend didn't even start that day - it began the day before, when a pre-paid taxi picked me up outside of my house and whizzed across London to Waterloo Station. A rather tired me greeted Hannah for a coffee, and we both mulled over our hot drinks while we waited for the train. For those new to Lush, Hannah is a pinnacle member of Lush's PR team - the wonderful lady who sent me my first press box, and showered me with gifts when I had met her for the first time, only a couple of weeks beforehand, in and amongst the hustle and bustle of the Oxford Street store. If I was going to have a companion on this trip, I couldn't think of a better person to accompany me.
Thirty minutes later we were on the train to Poole - a two hour journey to the wonderful town where Lush was first formed. Although the ride would have been far from boring with such great company, it was made even better when we bumped into another Lush employee, who was travelling down to attend a training meeting at the time, and had so much knowledge and passion for the company, that it was riveting to listen. Despite the nature of the journey I was making, I couldn't help but develop a pang of jealousy when she described in great detail the company parties she had attended and the products she had been exposed to as a long-time consumer. The two hours passed by in a flash, and before I knew it, we had reached the blustery town of Poole and were waving down a taxi to take us to the hotel.
For those who are not familiar with Poole, you should know that it's a quaint, picturesque, seaside town - rich with a trading history that includes pottery making and of course Lush. In fact, it's hard to believe that a company of such grandeur began on the cobbled streets of a place that currently lays home to less than 150,000 residents.
Walking along the revetment with the sun shining and then sea bristling gently in the wind, I didn't even notice the building we were supposed to be heading to. That was until Hannah pointed to a beautiful looking building - one with all of the modern trimmings, yet one that still looked at ease alongside the rustic sentimentalities of the rest of the town.
Inside I was floored by just how different the place was compared to what I had imagined it would be like. Instead of the typical formalities you would expect from company HQs - the drab-coloured walls and minimalism, I found that the reception room reminded me of some of the coffee shops I had visited in Paris - unique, family-run places that seem to ooze a natural spark that makes them so alluring in the first room.
In this particular reception, you had wooden panelling for walls, and these were painted a sort of moss green colour. Down the right hand-side were a couple of couches and various tables and chairs, where a handful of employees were quietly working on their laptops. Sandwiched in the middle was a snack bar and drinks counter, where an impressive range of vegan snacks adorned the shelves in sweet jars, and an overfilled box of fresh fruit was ripe and ready to be eaten.
It was also here that I noticed a theme that would end up recurring throughout the whole tour - a sink filled with an abundance of bath bombs. These were for the staff to take away and enjoy - as if working for the company wasn't already enough of a privilege by itself.
To the left of the room was the reception desk, a floor to ceiling wall of bath bombs and soaps, and a shelf ladened with hundreds of books. According to the staff, Mark Constantine keeps the library stocked up with favourites of the staff and recommendations that he has been given. The staff are encouraged to borrow any books that take their fancy, being able to keep it if they want. How amazing is that?
Heading down a corridor on the left hand side, I observed three giant and very spacious rooms - each decked out with the same wooden panelling, as well as windows galore to allow the light to filter in. The first room was called 'Jack's Room' and was apparently kept vacant for when he was conducting meetings or working on projects in the building. However, the other two were open for exploring, and it was here that I found out that they were used for meetings, projects and training - both within HQ and with staff across the country and/or world.
Down this side of the building were also various Spa rooms. At the time of my visit, they were not open to be used, but this was where new treatments were tested out and perfected. Apparently, as if Lush employees don't have enough to endure while working for the company, members of staff were often called upon to experience these treatments during their shifts. This was so that they could give feedback to the masseuse afterwards. Pfft!
Along this side of the building, tucked at the back, was the customer care room - where all of the phone calls from customers are answered and dealt with. Upon stepping into the room, I was shocked to find that it's about the size of a small classroom, and there are apparently under twenty people who work in that department. I imagined a company as big as Lush having a workforce of a good hundred or so at the very least answering calls, but clearly I had over estimated by about 400%.
It was here that I met Steve, who explained the process of how they worked in the office and how they dealt with queries and complaints. I was both proud and honoured when he explained that he often used my blog to research products to help him with his job. It was a very humbling compliment.
Back into the main reception room, we continued down the corridor and into the other side of the building. Firstly, I was privy to a tour of the toilets, and I got to witness the the impressive array of Lush products that adorned every shelf and every cubicle. While I found a half-used bottle of Breeze On A Sea Air in one of the cubicles, my willpower (and the fact that I'm not a thief) allowed me to walk away without trying to squeeze it into one of my pockets.
Down this side of the building was where most of the employees reside - a team of roughly a hundred members, most of whom work on the digit and marketing side of the company. What impressed me upon walking into the room, was that it was all open plan. Rather than segregating all of the different projects, the room was filled with workbenches, couches and booths, so that staff could choose to sit wherever they wanted. According to Hannah, employees were encouraged to change where they sat and who they sat with regularly, to gage their inspiration in different ways.
At the time of my visit, there were a lot of employees working on the new Lush Times, and the walls were adorned with possible covers and ideas. There were also many people working on the website and future poster designs, and it was wonderful to see how relaxed the whole scenario felt. Worked was clearly done well there, but at a much quieter, productive pace.
While exploring the room, I discovered that there was a record player and a stack of vinyls that employees were welcome to use. There was also a Skype booth, a wonderful kitchen full of every contraption you could possibly imagine, and various quotes that carried meaning within the company - the one above being an example.
In the far left corner, I came across perhaps the most important area in the company, full stop - Jack Constantine's lab! Lined with oils, butters, herbs, spices, and pretty much every colour under the sun, I soaked in the importance of this space, and thought about just how many products would have been born here. As if to prove a point, I noticed the mould that was used to construct the gigantic Experimenter with last year, and yearned to be able to make one right there and then.
Once I had completed my tour, I headed back to the reception, where I was presented with some baths bombs, an enormous piece of Zen Soap and a gorgeous knot wrap to carry it all in. Ironically, I left the building feeling complete Euphoria. Not only had I visited one of the most important parts of the company, but the atmosphere there was so incredibly calming. I really got the impression that working there was not anywhere near as stressful as the same job would have been somewhere else.
By the time we left Lush HQ, it was not far off being midday. Yet despite only dipping my toes into my Lush experience so far, I already felt like I was floating on cloud nine. As Hannah and I headed to a beautiful little seaside cafe for lunch, I couldn't help but wonder just how my trip could possibly get any better. However, as it turned out, this was only the first rig in the ladder..