Interview with Tracey Woodward, CEO Aromatherapy Associates

The wonderful Tracey Woodward, CEO of Aromatherapy Associates approached me through instagram to ask how she could help The Brand Me Collective just a few weeks after I launched. I have since learnt that this type of generosity is typical from Tracey – a true believer in supporting women.



After a difficult start in life Tracey left school at 14 barely able to read and write. Tracey’s illustrious beauty career has seen her run Donna Karen Cosmetics, establish the Urban Beauty Retreat at Harrods and act as an advisor for M&S in their new beauty halls. I hope that you enjoy these words of wisdom from one of the leading women in the beauty industry today.


I know you are a huge supporter of women in business, what motivates you to want to give back?

I have been so lucky in my career to have so many women support and guide me, many of whom were very senior in their roles. Daniela Rinaldi, Caroline Neville, Angela Creasy, Hilary Dart, Aileen Taylor – these women took time out of their busy days to offer support, guidance, kindness and even a shoulder to cry at times. I will be eternally grateful. I have always felt the need to give back and help in the same way I was in my early days. Never be afraid to ask for help.


You have been involved with various charities over the years such as The Prince’s Trust and Look Good Feel Better. What learnings have you taken into your daily work life from working with these amazing charities?

To understand that life is never easy and that we have to have humility and offer support to others in their darkest days. Not only does it feel good to give and be kind, a random act of kindness ripples way further than you ever realise. My goal has always been to inspire and support others in any way that I can.


You didn’t have the easiest start in life. How do you think overcoming these hurdles still influences your career today?

My mum always used to say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I also learnt at an early age that there is more than one way to do something right and you have to keep going until you make it work.  If you’re going to fail do it as quickly as possible and as cheaply as possible.


As one of the leading experts in the beauty industry what advice would you offer women looking to launch a beauty brand today?

It requires focus and a clear strategy. Knowing who your customer is so important. You may not always know what the end game is. It’s not easy, it’s not often that just a great idea gets sold for millions. It’s super hardwork 24/7 – all the great founders I have worked for or known have had so much drive, tenacity, enthusiasm and vision. If you have all of those things and you know who your customer truly is then go for it!


You are now the CEO of Aromatherapy Associates. Aromatherapy Associates struggled after its founder, Geraldine Howard sadly passed away. How have you nurtured and re-built the brand to where it is now?

I had the upmost respect for Geraldine and Sue, I too like many people am saddened that she is no longer here and that the world is finally seeing the benefits of selfcare through sleep, de-stressing, finding balance, emotional and mental wellbeing.

Sue and Geraldine pioneered modern day luxury aromatherapy. As I was not a therapist or aromatherapy expert and could not create products or blends I wanted to bring a greater understanding to wellbeing.

Aromatherapy clinically changes how you feel for 6 to 8 hours. What if we could help people understand how to feel good about themselves, how to eat, exercise and sleep well? Alongside the fabulous bath and shower oils still handed blended today in our labs we help our consumers live a better life. My role is to build an amazing team of people that believe in the art of living well. We offer wellbeing workshops to business and also with our business partners in 52 countries.


What advice would you give to founders with a great business idea looking to differentiate themselves through their branding?

Make sure you are different, look globally for comparison and love what you do. Never settle for second best that’s not how brands become great. Your product is everything as are your people.


I know you are a great believer in Mentoring. How has working with a mentor helped you in your career?

So many ways – from finding balance to figuring stuff out to not being so hard on myself. I love what I do and I have only ever worked with brands I have truly loved but, at times you can become too attached. My mentors help me to see a very broad view – today they are India Martin, Hilary Dart, Caroline Neville, Kim Winser, my Daughter Ava and Hannah who works with me in marketing. They help me see a fresh new way and how we and the world are changing. My advice is to get a mature mentor and also a junior mentor…..because at my age I know there are lots of things I don’t know and that’s OK.


What advice would you give the female founders we are working with to help them get the most out of their relationships with their mentors?

Come prepared. Ask plenty of questions. No idea is stupid, no vision is wrong and never be afraid to have a courageous conversation about what you really want. Be aware that in the end the race is only with yourself, building a brand is a long path. Set yourself milestones and ask your mentors for help to achieve those goals, some of them you might not even be aware of. Never be embarrassed about this and try not to be too emotional -not easy when you have a vision.


If you could pass on just one piece of advice to other women running businesses what would it be?

What Mum always said to me ‘if you think you can you will and if you think you can’t you won’t’.  Always be open to asking for help… people are way kinder than you realise.

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