• Stephanie Drax

FoundHer: Amy Harrison, Olive Jennings

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

Set in the heart of Seven Dials, one of London's chicest shopping secrets, Olive Jennings is a dreamy emporium of florals, fragrances and homeware. Founded by Amy Harrison-Mason, it's not just a shop to buy gifts and self-care goodies, it's somewhere you can learn to create dried floral arrangements and blend home fragrances. Amy tells Storytellhers that though her shop looks picture-perfect, she had to coach herself to not stand in her own way and take the plunge as an entrepreneur.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be an entrepreneur in the homeware/design world

I’m trained as an actor but have always been really creative and interested in design and interiors. This is how the brand came about, coupled with the fact that I love being my own boss, as I’m a perfectionist and control freak!

What really inspired you to start the brand?

The business began as a homeware brand after I moved into my first flat with my husband. I wanted to make it our own but I couldn’t find what I wanted on the high street – everything was either low-end, flat pack or a really expensive bespoke product which, on my then admin salary, I just couldn’t afford. So I decided to create it. Over the last three years, our products have been featured in Tatler, Good Homes, Homes and Interiors Scotland, EKBB Magazine, Emerald Street, and various online blogs. We now have 14 stockists across the UK and this summer opened our first ever store in Seven Dials!

I love the name Olive Jennings - what's the story behind the name?

Olive Jennings was the name of my grandmother, the most inspirational woman in my life, and I wanted the brand to have a strong family connection in its values and name.

What is your favourite item right now and why?

My favourite product at the moment is the Mango and Shea hand cream – I’ve always suffered from eczema so I wanted to create a really thick and nourishing product that tackled it! Plus it smells DIVINE!

What are customers gravitating to most at the moment?

The dried flowers are hugely on trend now, and our customers like the fact they can select exactly what they want from our dried flower bar and have something made completely bespoke for them.

What is the best way to maintain dried flowers and what is your favourite combination/arrangement?

Dried flowers are so easy to maintain, I just have two rules: don’t get them wet, and don’t expose them to direct sunlight for a long period as colours may fade. Apart from that, just sit back and enjoy them for a very long time! My favourite combination is anything neutral, with lots of grasses and greens – our shop window installation is a perfect example of this.

Tell us a little bit about the workshops and how people can get involved.

We host dried flower workshops and home fragrance workshops in store. In our dried flower bouquet workshop, you’ll learn how to design, make and hand-tie your very own bouquet of dried flowers from our unique dried flower bar, as well as aftercare, process and where it all started. In our home fragrance workshop, learn how to make your own room mist or pillow spray in this creative and hands-on workshop - you will learn how to blend fragrances, the difference in oils and the history of home fragrance, before delving in and creating your own bespoke scent. Both workshops are complete with nibbles and a glass of prosecco - the perfect afternoon! Prices and dates can be found on our website.

What are your top 3 tips for making the perfect home fragrance?

  1. Choose what YOU like instead of what is on-trend or popular

  2. We use Michael Edward’s fragrance wheel – a great start to determine what types of fragrances complement each other

  3. Have one for every room!

Your products are eco-friendly and some of the products are also reusable. It's a trend now, but have you always been passionate about sustainability and what, in your opinion, are the challenges?

Yes absolutely – I’m a vegetarian and am always doing my best to reduce my carbon footprint and take action to help protect our beautiful planet. I would say it’s less of a trend and more of a necessity, and I think the challenge is the thinking that small actions won’t make a big difference and combat that. ‘It’s only 1 straw – said 8 billion people.’

What is your favourite design store, candle and coffee table book?

There are so many independent design stores - especially in London - that it’s impossible to pick just one! I often stumble across a new one which becomes my obsession for a while. Candle: I’d have to say Octo London’s Hygee candle. I adore autumn and winter and it’s pretty much lit in our house from September through to March! Coffee table book: The Half by Simon Annand. With my acting background, I find it’s the most beautiful and fascinating collection of photographs of actors preparing for the stage.

How would you encourage other women to start their own company?

Strive to be brave, not perfect. Achieving what you dream of takes perseverance and imperfection, so don’t be afraid of that. When I started I was so worried about everything being perfect, and everything being just right, that I kept putting it off until I realised that if I didn’t just do it and see what happened I never would. It wasn’t perfect, but I learnt as I went along, and the brand has evolved and grown so much because of that.

What do you see for Olive Jennings in the future?

I’m working on getting our products into bigger stores and in front of larger audiences. I’d love to have another flagship store, too.