Growing and harvesting lavender from her family home on Royal Deeside, Julie Rae set up Deeside Lavender to offer a range of soaps, body lotions and scrubs to calm the mind and soothe the soul.
“It all began in May 2019,” said Julie.
“I have always loved gardening and spent a lot of time over the years drying flowers and collecting seeds to grow my own plants.
“My husband got the ball rolling by asking what I was going to do with all the jars sitting around the house and I thought I would try making some soap.”
Building on the history of lavender farming in Banchory, Julie hoped to resurrect a “much loved local business” Dee Lavender.
She said: “The original Dee Lavender was in production in Banchory from 1946 to 1986 and became a flourishing industry that once made the area famous around the globe.
“The business was the brainchild of Shetland entrepreneur Andrew ‘Drewie’ Inkster whose pharmacy background and a keen interest in gardening led him to experiment with distilling lavender oil from plants grown at home.
“During the 1960s, it was estimated that up to 25,000 visitors came each year and besides sales to the Swedish air force, across the counter and to many chemist shops, Andrew’s Ingasetter Limited products were found as far as Singapore and California.”
Nowadays, Julie sells a range of hand and body soaps and lotions, shampoo bars, body scrubs, linen sprays and more.
Julie added: “We also make bespoke wedding favours and corporate gifts which are completely tailored to suit the customer.”
Julie says that lavender has a lot of health benefits.
“It can help improve sleep and lavender also promotes calmness and wellness, reduces stress, anxiety and possibly mild pain,” stated Julie.
“It is also believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-septic properties which can help heal minor burns and bug bites.”
To create exciting new products for her customers, Julie teamed up with Royal Deeside Honey & Bees.
She said: “Sarah Leahy at Royal Deeside Honey & Bees reached out as she recognised the historical relationship between bees, lavender and honey and we thought it would be fun to try out some ideas together and come up with a few new products.
“I have used the honey in two of our soaps – lavender, honey and poppy seed, and honey and lemon.
“Our lavender and peppermint lip balm, which contains beeswax, is about to be released.”
At the moment, Julie makes Deeside Lavender products in her Banchory kitchen.
She said: “Once everyone has left in the morning, I wipe everything down and get going.
“I use a lot of shed space for storing but it’s too cold to work in over the winter months.”
Almost all of Deeside Lavender products are vegan and Julie is also passionate about sustainability.
She said: “All our products are vegan except the items with honey and beeswax, obviously, and they are all tested on human family and friends only.
“Everyone is now aware of the damage we have made to our planet and even small steps can help make a difference.
“Consumers are continually looking to use less plastic and more recyclable products.
“This can be expensive for small businesses, but we must all keep trying.
“We are currently updating our labelling and packaging which is always exciting and we are continually looking for ways to make as much as we can while being consumer and planet-friendly.”
Prior to coronavirus, Julie has been a regular at Banchory Farmers Market since August 2019.
“I also attended their arts and crafts market,” added Julie, who is delighted to have received support from her loyal customers over the years.
She said: “From day one, we have had really loyal customers who come see us all the time and keep in regular contact.
“They are enjoying our products and many have very fond memories to share of the old lavender fields and factory.
“In particular, hospitality outlets such as Raemoir House and The Fife Arms were really good to us pre-lockdown and have already been in touch to discuss future projects when their business opens up again.”
Visit www.deesidelavender.com for more information and to shop