Liz: We got married very young. I was a dental nurse and Mark was a qualified Mechanical Engineer who later moved into buying, purchasing and supply chain management. We didn’t have very much, and I always felt that I could do so much more.
Mark: Very early on in our married life at a church in Sudbury, someone prayed a prophetic blessing on Liz and said that she was going to be a minister to women. It stuck with us.
Liz: A friend of mine asked if I’d like to have a ‘Jafra’ class. It was an American cosmetic company, owned by Gillette, that had just come over to the UK. If you were to host a ‘Jafra Class’ you’d invite people round to your house for them to hear about and try Jafra products. “Oh I don’t think so,” I said. “It sounds like a Tupperware party!” I was eventually persuaded!
At the end of the evening, the Jafra consultant said, “Liz, you’d be so good at this. Why don’t you become a consultant?” We didn’t have much money at the time and Mark and I had plans to travel the world, so I said, ‘Yes’ – Oh my, I found my niche! It began to become the fulfilment of the prophecy as I got alongside women, saw the potential in them and, through encouragement or belief, pulled them forward in their dreams and aspirations.
I was able to be very successful and within two years I had 2000 consultants that I brought into my business and I had grown from strength to strength! I was resourceful and resilient, and I was on a mission to have a different life.
I stayed the Jafra for eight years. I joined as a consultant and left as National Sales Director and then ended up working for a cosmetics manufacturer which was the most fantastic experience. I had to create concepts for cosmetic ranges and brands and sell them into places like M&S, Selfridges and The Body Shop.
Mark: I left Automotive Engineering and moved into the oil business. They wanted me to move up to Aberdeen to work but I just couldn’t imagine being there. At around the same time, Liz and I were at a party, and I found myself speaking to Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop. Our conversation led to a 20 minute meeting at The Body Shop Head Office with the MD. They offered me a job and I said to Liz, “I think I’m going to be your boss!” I ended up being the GM of Colourings, The Body Shop’s make-up division.
Liz: We ended up running the ‘Colourings’ brand but had to re-launch it as it was giving a false reading of its success. We put a business plan together and the board agreed to it. At the same time, we gave the board a post-dated resignation letter for 12 months later with the promise that if we didn’t deliver what we said we were going deliver, we would leave quietly.
We took the sales from £3,000,000 to £124,000,000 in 4 years! It was phenomenal! But, towards the end of that time, we sensed that we ought to have our own brand. We’ve created all these brands for other people – maybe it’s time to have a business baby of our own.
We started working on a concept for a brand that we called ‘Vie’ – a grown up ‘Body Shop’. But it was the mid-twenties, and it was all about big power brands. Some friends of ours said, “Why don’t you approach a big power brand and see if you can house your concept within it?” We had already been thinking about this and we mentioned ‘Virgin’. Our friends burst into laughter – “Oh… so you’re going to get hold of Richard Branson are you???!!!” It was a miracle, but we somehow managed to get hold of Richard Branson and eventually got to meet him. We were given a 20-minute window to get our idea across. Two hours later, he shook our hands and said, “OK – Virgin Vie – it sounds fantastic!”
Mark: We were still questioning whether this was God’s plan for us, but we knew that God was with is. We had consulted with a great prayer warrior at our church, at the time, in London. She had confirmed what we were thinking which is why we left The Body Shop and went with Virgin.
Liz: So, we set up Virgin Vie! It began with just the two of us. Then we brought a brilliant team together and in 18 months created 600 products, stores, a direct sales package and raised £20,000,000 as Richard Branson had no more money to put into it – talk about a baptism of fire for two Suffolk kids. After an 18-month development period, we launched the business and opened our first store in Oxford Circus, London. It looked magnificent – it had a river running through it. Our target for that day was to do £4,000 of sales and we did £17,000 of sales! We both gave birth that day – but it was as if there was this wave of ‘it’s done now’ and we couldn’t even look at our ‘business baby’.
We were winning awards, we were in magazines every week, the manager of Chanél wanted to come and shake our hand to congratulate us – but it didn’t touch us. We couldn’t feel it. It was as if we had given birth to someone else’s baby.
We were driving down the A3 and I was talking about “Our business… our business… our business”, and Mark pulled over in a layby and said, “When are you going to get it into your head that this is not our business. We are surrogate parents at best!” That was a stab to my heart, but he was absolutely right. We felt like corporate misfits.
We ran a Virgin business for 3 years. We made £10,000,000 in our first year. We were Co-Managing Directors. We both had a Virgin MD business card which opened doors like you wouldn’t believe. We could walk to the front of a queue purely because we had a Virgin MD business card. But we’d had 2 prophetic words that this was our ‘training ground’. We’d also both had a prophetic word from Scripture, at separate times – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12:
“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live….”
Mark: We always pray together and put on the armour of God together. You cannot be dependent on suppliers, customers, staff, etc. … No, no. Your higher thought and dependency has to be on God.
Liz: It was quite a big thing having to call Richard Branson, who was off on a hot air balloon somewhere, to tell him that we thought our time was up. He offered us more money, wider licences but we knew it was our time to go. We were given a year’s salary (that came with lots of non-compete clauses), got in our company car (that we had for another year) and booked a one-way ticket to Calais with no clue as to where we were going to go!
We suddenly had to embrace a life of no meetings, no appointments, no business card! We realised that our identity was in our success and the positions we had – it was hard, and we needed time to heal. We were united in our grief, and it was a beautiful time to get to know each other all over again.
Then, I said to Mark, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could visit every country in the Mediterranean?!” We spent most of our trip visiting people and staying in random places but, we ended our trip in Cyprus at this beautiful hotel where we wanted to renew our vows. We planned our ceremony with a Pastor from Pathos, who quickly realised we were Christians. On the day of our renewal ceremony, Mark was up early swimming in the pool and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Mediterranean surroundings. So, he got his digital camera and began taking photos. After his swim, he brought his camera to me whilst I was having a cup of tea in bed and said, “Hey, look at these pictures I’ve taken with my camera.”
I started scrolling through them and when it came to the Med scene, Mark said, “What do you think of that photo?” and I said, “What do you think of the name Temple Spa?” Talk about an epiphany moment.
Mark: You couldn’t make it up! So, I contacted our lawyers, registered the name…
Liz: …and, upon hearing our story, our lawyer said, “It’s about time too.”
That evening, we were in the chapel, just the two of us amidst 50 candles, worship music playing in the background and the Pastor from Pathos. We read our vows to each other, and the Pastor prayed over us and started prophesying. She knew nothing about our life, and she said, “God is so pleased with you. He knows your journey. He knows your sorrow. He knows you’ve suffered loss but, what He’s got prepared for you in your future… you have no idea!!” That was the day Temple Spa was conceived.
It was the year 2000, we came home from our long and eventful trip and thought, “Right, this is it. We’d best get to it.”
Mark: It was surreal because we’d gone from having 300 employees to it being just the two of us. We had to go out and buy two computers. I didn’t know the first thing about computers! We didn’t even know how to switch them on!
Liz: We had to learn everything! I remember saying to Mark about how we ought to create a CPA (Critical Path Analysis), a plan that takes you from A to Z. ‘A’ is the idea and ‘Z’ is the delivery. Mark said, “I think you will have a breakdown if you do that! We have to give every day to God and just trust that we will be given the direction.”
I went through the depths of self-doubt – “Oh… I’ve given all of my ideas to Virgin Vie… I haven’t got any ideas… I’m fat and forty”, but Mark had bought me an artist’s pad and by lunchtime, on that day, I had completely organised all of the Temple Spa ranges and all the names of the products! We realised that God had taken us to the Med to birth this idea. Mark had fallen in love with the Mediterranean architecture and was in his element as an engineer designing the look of the products and packaging.
Then, one day, as I was creating all of the formulas, I caught Mark squiggling on a piece of paper, and he had drawn this terrible logo! We realised we needed to go to a designer to create a logo and a brand look. We had £250,000 when we started Temple Spa. We didn’t pay ourselves, but we had to pay the mortgage and we scrimped and saved and got rid of everything we could that was an expense. I asked Mark, “How much have we got in our marketing budget?” and he said, “Nothing!”
We went to our favourite designer who we had previously worked with. She came to our home, looked at our designs and was confident she could create a fabulous brand identity, but it was going to cost £50,000! We didn’t have that kind of money. So, we phoned the designer and said, “We’d love to work with you on this but we just can’t afford it.” The designer asked what we could afford, to which Mark responded, “It would just insult you.” The designer asked us to have a think about what we could afford.
Mark got off the phone and we were wondering what to do when a fax came though from solicitors in Suffolk to let us know that we were going to get £14,000 from my father’s estate as sadly, by this time, he had passed away. Mark phoned the designer and said, “We’ve thought of a figure.” She said, “Ok…” and Mark mumbled, “£14,000.” She said, “£40,000?” and Mark said, “No… £14,000… one, four.” The designer said, “That’s a funny figure. Where did you get that from?” Mark said, “Well, there is a story…”. Miraculously, the designer accepted it. Our brand theme and logo were in the making.
We went to manufacturers and, even all those years ago, it was £1000 per formula. They waivered the cost! Mark said to them, “You stick with us when we’re small and we’ll stick with you when we’re big.” That’s exactly what we’ve done. God’s favour on the whole thing was incredible!
We were getting quite close to getting the products manufactured but, our savings had gone from £250,000 to £2,000. I threw myself on my bed and said, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t take the strain.” And, at that moment, I heard an audible voice say, “Go and read 1 Kings 17.” It said,
“For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”
I was immediately strengthened. God was saying, “I’ve got this!”
Within a week, we were contacted by a man from a company called ‘Watermark’ who were a portal company who got passenger amenities onto airlines – they were big. We knew of him from our previous work, and he’d bumped into a friend of ours and asked, “What are the Warom’s up to?” Our friend replied, “I can’t say. It’s top secret!” But the Watermark man was quite nosey and eventually got it out of our friend and said, “Well why don’t you get them to come and see me?”
So, we went over to see the Watermark man with our lab samples and pictures of what the brand was going to look like, and he began trying the products. I went into full on sales mode – “Aaah, this is ‘Repose’, a high-altitude moisturiser, amazing for fluid retention that you get on a flight… ‘All Clean’ an anti-bacterial gel giving the feeling of a dry shower.” The Watermark man said, “Guys, this is incredible! I think I know a company who might be interested in talking to you. Could you put together a presentation?”
So, we sent our products over and, apparently, they were like bees around a honey pot! To cut a long story short, miracle after miracle happened. We got the contract with Scandinavian Airlines, and they bank rolled us £58,000! We hadn’t submitted any costs, and to this day, we have no idea where that £58,000 came from. We went from having £2000 to having £60,000. It was extraordinary!
Mark: The business went from strength to strength. Towards the tail end of our contract with Scandinavian Airlines, we secured a contract with American Airlines! It was unbelievable!
Liz: Scandinavian Airlines were a route to market. We were producing hundreds of thousands of units for the airlines. But alongside the airline side of the business, the hotel spa arm of the business was beginning to grow. We developed a relationship with a local, beach-front hotel, as we’d read that they were building a spa. They had made a policy that they were going to buy and use products within a 25 mile radius. We were the perfect match.
We were due to launch in the spa in the March and we got a phone call from the spa manager to say they’d had to delay the build of the spa due to a newt infestation and they wouldn’t be ready to launch until September! We had a warehouse full of product with nowhere to launch it.
So, we decided to knock on the door of Harrod’s, the high-end, famous and very exclusive department store in London. A friend said, “Harrod’s?! Do you know there’s a 3-year waiting list to get into Harrod’s?” And I said, “Yeah… and your point is?”
I was trying to get the name of the buyer at Harrod’s and no-one would give it to me. So, we lingered in Harrod’s, and I bought the cheapest skincare product I could find, and said to a store assistant, “What is the name of the buyer of this product? I’ve forgotten her name. I think I may have gone to school with her.” The assistant gave me her name and said, “Oh did you go to school in America then?” and I quickly said, “Thank you,” and walked out of the store. I said to Mark, “I’ve got the name of the buyer!”
Mark had put together this beautiful presentation of our products in a co-branded box – “Temple Spa by Harrod’s”. We took the box in and had to leave it with them because they won’t give you a meeting or anything, and we went for a coffee next door. A little while later my phone rang – no caller ID – and the caller said, “I’d like to speak to Liz Warom,” to which I replied, “Yeah that’s me.” They asked if I was the woman who had just dropped the parcel off. I said, “Yes,” and the caller said, “We’d like to set up a meeting sooner rather than later.” I told them that we were next door having a coffee and they asked if we could go and meet them straight away!
We walked in and all of our products from the presentation box were out on the table. Seeing what we’d created being picked up by people and used and enjoyed was an amazing moment. They loved our Temple Spa brand and they wanted exclusivity in the main Harrod’s Knightsbridge store. Our products were available to purchase in store within two weeks and we are still there to this day.
We realised Temple Spa had an incredible story – a story waiting to be told. We knew we had to get the product into people’s hands and get them to actually want to buy it rather than being given it on a flight. The thought of doing classes in people’s homes like I’d done for Jafra, like we’d developed in The Body Shop at Home and Virgin Vie, made me feel a bit sick. I was fearful of failure.
Mark gave me the courage to go out and do one class to see how it went. I believed in women and giving them the ability to be a great mum and a great businesswoman at the same time. So, I went and did the class. Everyone loved it, everyone bought a collection of products, everyone booked to host their own classes, a couple of people wanted to become consultants… and the rest is history!
It’s evolved over time and grown organically. We’ve now got 150 staff, 4,000 consultants, we’re in 150 spas, we’re in business-class and first-class flights on airlines, we’re in P&O top class cabins and we’re in 1000’s of hotels. We still do it scared. We still get up every day and put on the full armour of God. We walk on the beach together twice a week and we take communion together.
We live, breathe and love what we do – that’s the motto for our business. Our products are what give us profit and purpose and we’re good, generous people. We’re firm, we’re tough, we correct – we’re very parental in the way we manage, we provide a strong pair of arms for people, and we have a lot of fun. Mark’s philosophy is, if you work for us, you’ve got a valid ticket and how long you journey with us is up to you.
We keep God at the centre of our business in every way we can. We choose the language of our business; we treat our staff well and we love God and love others in the best way we can. We are ‘light’ to others whenever we can be, and we demand excellence.
Mark: My piece of advice to Christian entrepreneurs would be, don’t have a plan B!
Liz: Trust God and stay true to His call, but don’t go to war without counting the cost. It’s not suddenly going to happen because you wear a cross on your lapel. You have to work hard. Pray and push. God, block it or bless it.