My Business Journey: Carole Bamford
My Business Journey: Carole Bamford

My Business Journey: Carole Bamford

British entrepreneur Carole Bamford is not only the driving force behind Daylesford Organic. She’s also built luxury lifestyle brand Bamford to encompass beauty, homeware and clothing. Widely recognised as a visionary in organic farming and sustainable living, she sat down with us to discuss her incredible career and what she’s learnt along the way…
Images: @BAMFORD

Where did your passion for organic farming and lifestyle start? 

It started quite by chance with a couple of encounters that prompted me to learn more about the organic movement. The first was one summer afternoon when I was pushing my new baby in her pram around the garden and noticed that my freshly planted roses were wilting. The farmer next door to us explained to me that they were spraying Roundup, which I learned later is a strong herbicide. Its toxins had been carried by the air into my garden and had caused my roses to wilt. Shortly afterwards, I was at the Royal Agricultural Show and came across a tent run by an organic farmer. He explained to me what being organic meant and how we could raise our animals and grow our crops without pesticides or antibiotics, in a way that was harmonious with nature. That was the moment that really changed things for me, and it planted the seed of a passion and way of life that I’ve been leading for over 45 years.

How did it lead to the launch of Daylesford in the early 2000s? 

On the way home from that agricultural show, I remember saying to my husband, ‘We can’t carry on farming the way we are; we have to do things differently.’ I asked our farm manager to start converting our land to organic practices. He was initially very sceptical but I was determined and so he agreed to try it on 30 acres. It took three years to get them up and going, and seven for the whole farm to become organic. The different areas of Daylesford have grown slowly and organically from that point on.

Had you always envisioned yourself as an entrepreneur? 

Not at all. Each of the businesses has begun and evolved almost by chance. I never planned to do any of this – I’m an instinctive person so each of the decisions I’ve made has been led by what felt right at the time. 

Talk to us about how the business has grown over the last 20 years?

Daylesford has grown from being just a handful of fields, a few disused barns, as well as a desire to make a difference, into a business that today encompasses five farm shops and cafés, a restaurant that’s been awarded a Green Michelin star, a cookery school, cutting garden, home and garden space and many other things besides. But that growth was never part of a plan – it has all just been very natural and instinctive, driven by what felt right at the time.

What were some of the early lessons you learnt about business and leadership?

Be prepared to take risks but also to fail. You learn so much from your mistakes and while the knocks might seem hard to cope with, in the long run they’ll give you the experience and the knowledge you need to build a business with firm foundations and lead it with greater confidence.

What advice would you give anyone starting a business? 

Do something you’re passionate about and really believe in. At the outset, the hours are likely to be long and you’re inevitably going to meet adversity in many forms, so it’s important that you love what you do and are prepared to want to work hard to achieve your aims. I’ve always been enormously passionate about everything we do at Daylesford and Bamford and that is what has driven me to fight hard to succeed with them.

Did anyone give you any really good advice or act as a mentor?

There were several people who supported me and inspired me, among them Patrick Holden, founder of the Soil Association, and Carlo Petrini who led the Slow Food movement. Early on, I took the decision to surround myself with a passionate and highly skilled team of people to help me run the farm and the business – people who had abilities and knowledge I didn’t have, and I know that was one of the best steps I could have taken. I’m so grateful to have so many of them around me to this day and I continue to value their experience and skills enormously.



What prompted the launch of Bamford in 2004? 

Bamford was a natural progression from Daylesford. After deciding to make conscious decisions about what I was consuming through my food, I wanted to consider other areas of my life in the same way. Our skin is our largest organ, and we ingest so much through it that it made sense to me to look at what I was putting into my body through my skin and create my own natural products that were free of the chemicals I was avoiding in my food. The body care lines grew from there, then came the clothing and the skincare.



How has that brand evolved as people have become much more interested in natural living and clean beauty?

The market for natural skincare has grown so fast and evolved very quickly, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, so Bamford’s skincare range has changed and been revised to respond to that shift in demand. We’ve streamlined the range to make things easier for our customer to navigate and have created a skincare routine centred on just four key aspects of a very simple routine that can be adapted depending on an individual’s needs. 

We’re also embracing technological developments that allow us to push our development processes and become even lighter with our environmental footprint. Most recently, we’ve turned to biotechnology with the launch of our Stem Cell Serum. It’s a process that enables us to replicate active natural ingredients by extracting a plant’s stem cells and reproducing them under controlled conditions in a laboratory. It’s a means of using fewer of nature’s resources as we harvest only a very small quantity of an ingredient yet retain the quality, strength and purity of the original through its replication.  

How has your own knowledge about organic farming and natural living evolved over the years?

Experience and time have deepened my understanding and brought me greater knowledge of the different facets and possibilities in organic farming and living in a more natural way, but I think that my philosophy and beliefs have remained the same; they’re innate. I believe in living in harmony with nature, working with nature, respecting and giving back more than you take from the land and nourishing it as best you can, and those principles continue to guide and inform the way I live and work.

How would you describe your general approach to health and wellness?

I believe in looking at them in a holistic way – to think about mind, body and soul in tandem. They each need nurturing and, if you neglect one, then the others will suffer. I try to meditate and practise yoga every day as I know how much better I feel if I’m consistent and how much they can shift my perspective and make me feel centred and calm. And my general approach to everything in life is that it needs to be about balance. Sometimes your body needs a plateful of seasonal greens, whereas sometimes your soul needs the soothing comfort of a slice of cake.

Is there any part of the year you particularly look forward to?

Each season brings different things to look forward to, but there’s something very special about the start of spring – the lengthening of the days, the first feeling of warmth and sunlight on your skin, and the promise of new life on the farm always feels particularly joyful.

How do you balance your busy work life with family life?

I’m very insistent about setting aside time for each, but the bottom line is that family has to come before everything.

Do you have any tips for building the right team and company culture?

I’ve always sought to build a team of people with a genuine passion for what we do: individuals who want to engage with and connect with nature, and who are going to bring that passion to life through their work.

What do you think your biggest achievement as a business owner has been?

As someone who never intended to be an entrepreneur or a business owner, I think the fact that Daylesford is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year feels like a huge achievement. Most recently, our merino knitwear project is something I’ve taken great pride in. A few years ago, we bought our own small flock of pedigree merino sheep from a British farmer so we could raise them at Daylesford and produce our own wool to create knitwear. Bamford is now the first brand to be producing merino garments that never leave British soil. The wool is grown, sheared, spun and knitted here and its journey is fully traceable. We’ve reduced the merino supply chain from the average of 18,000 miles to 400 and that feels like a huge achievement.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job – and the hardest?

The most rewarding is the ability to make a difference and hopefully to drive change. Whether that’s encouraging others to shop, eat or live in a more conscious way by interacting with Daylesford, or helping to support people look after their wellbeing through the services and products we offer at Bamford, I like to hope we can touch people’s lives in a positive way as well as gently inspire them to consider changing their behaviour to care for our planet and people. The hardest is having enough time to fit in everything I want to do – there aren’t enough hours in the day!

Finally, what’s the best piece of life advice everyone should know?

Be curious. You never know what you’re going to find round the next corner.


Shop The Bamford Product Range Below...

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You can also follow @Bamford and @DaylesfordFarm on Instagram.

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