Welcome to the Olive Branch… As part of the Olively brand, we will be bringing you regular articles on a variety of topics that are representative of our community and lifestyle. For our very first chapter, we have an in-depth conversation with Olively founder, Ivon Reijers.
Since its inception, Olively has been a project inspired by a passion for family, creativity and the planet. At its core is pure extra virgin olive oil, derived from trees of the Reijers’ family farm in Alt Empordà, Catalunya. Now, over a year later, we get to reflect on what has come to be with Ivon and Olively, as well as what the future may hold.
Tell us about yourself
I am 28 years old and am half Spanish and Dutch. I was born in Barcelona, but have lived in Girona since I was 9. I have played golf since I was 6 and when I was 16 I got to study in a sports boarding school in Barcelona. I then had the opportunity to move to the USA and study at the University of Houston as a student-athlete, over four years later I returned home to Girona and have stayed since. I am very passionate about all things natural and really enjoy being creative. I am also very detail-oriented and design driven. I find when I walk into a place the first thing I do is look around and notice things a lot of people might not in the design and aesthetics of the surroundings. Olively has really allowed me to combine all of my passions in one place.
What has your career trajectory been like?
I have played golf professionally since I was 16, which really taught me a lot of discipline and independence. I also combined golf with university studies so I chose something that would be useful for my life, which was business and marketing. Once I was in that career I realised I wanted to do design however it was too late to adjust my course choices, so a lot of my design skills are self taught. It wasn’t until I stopped competing in golf, that I got to explore these skills and interests through the creation of Olively. I believe everything you do in life helps with your next step, and that's true of golf for me…it taught me a lot about perseverance, consistency in habits and hard work. When Covid-19 came about I was playing a tournament in Europe, I wasn't playing good enough and my motivation to continue was lacking as a result. And with the pandemic, came an opportunity to start something new with Olively.
How did Olively first come about?
While the pandemic was obviously not ideal, it gave me time to consider starting my own business and I decided I wanted to do something I could create from the beginning and put together all the things I like about nature and sustainability. My parents were already producing some beautiful olive oil, and we had a lot that wasn’t being used. I remember discussing with my family what things we could do with it, and one of the suggestions was cosmetics. We researched the process and were surprised it could be so simple and the next day we created the first soap. After waiting a while for it to set and see the result, I was amazed and I really enjoyed the process. It was initially a hobby but then more and more friends suggested we make it into a business. It was definitely a process, which included failed batches and learning over time but it was a very exciting time creating something from scratch.
What are some things your customers would be surprised to learn about you?
I think often people assume that behind Olively is a team of people all doing different jobs, when in actuality it is only myself. Just one person, doing everything that comes with the business, including answering emails, sending packages and creating new products for the future. I am looking forward to expanding in the future as we launch this blog, The Olive Branch, and engage with our customers on a new level about any and all topics related to the Olively brand and lifestyle.
What expectations or goals would you say you had for the business? Have they been met?
I was pretty lost at the beginning to be honest, I didn't really know what to expect. I just knew I wanted to be creative, to find a purpose for the olive oil and to see if I enjoyed doing it. When some brands that I looked up to contacted me to do wholesale business, that was when I knew I was onto something and my goals grew. Now I would love to have my own showroom and have boutique hotels and businesses stock my products. Initially in the next year though, I would like to grow my online community, as well as continue to develop and release new products.
What qualities do you look for in other brands?
Transparency and sustainability. Often I feel as though people buy a product and don’t know where it’s coming from. I want to know what the product is, where it comes from, who made it and if it is sustainable. I try to make a positive environmental impact with Olively so naturally I look to brands attempting the same.
Would you say you have achieved what you first set out to?
Yes and no. I think the goals change as you go along. Obviously yes because I am still here, wanting to reach bigger goals, but you obviously give up things and that's normal. But the main thing is that hunger of wanting to launch new products and that people are still wanting more from the brand. I have managed to maintain my philosophy within Olively, which is to be sustainable and support fellow small businesses, because everyone starts there.
What is your favourite olively product and why
It has to be the starter set, the first four soaps of the collection which include the oliva, lavanda, herbal and facial soaps. It's where it all began. Between those four, it's difficult to choose but probably the herbal and lavender. I think it depends… I use lavender for winter and herbal for summer. But I have a lot of customers that love the oliva because it's so nourishing for the skin.
What was the favourite part of creating the business?
My favourite part was basically the ‘libertad’, the freedom of doing whatever i want with the business without anyone cutting my ideas, allowing me to be fully creative.The freedom of taking it where I want, without obstacles which is something i don't think i could do working with another brand or working for someone because the final decision is mine. Because then that freedom also allows more flexibility and to say yes or no to new customers or things that they propose…complete autonomy.
What is next for Olively?
The next step is our liquid soaps, which will still feature our extra virgin olive oil as the main ingredient. Continuing our philosophy of plant-based formulas, with recycled bottles and will introduce soap refills. As with the entire Olively range they will not contain any synthetics or colourants. In addition, at the end of the year, we will be releasing new shapes and designs of the rapeseed vegan candles. I am also excited to expand our online community with this platform and continue Olively’s growth.