5 minutes with Sensory Retreats founder Clare Anderson

We chatted to Clare, creator of Sensory Retreats, a holistic wellbeing brand which brings a moment of spa relaxation into your home. Its self-heating eye and face masks are both featured in our Female Founders limited edition box.
Sensory Retreats founder, Clare Anderson

Clare’s brand began as a pandemic plan B, and couldn’t have been more timely for a stressed-out nation. “We don't just make an eye or face mask, we make a whole multi-sensory wellbeing experience,” she explains. “We launched at a time when it felt so important to give people a feelgood moment they could use anywhere.” 

“Both the masks in the box combine gentle heat with a soothing aromatherapy scent, and each pack has a download link to a guided meditation or a sound bath. The most common thing people say about our eye mask is, “I popped it on and the next thing I knew it was morning.”

The five words I’d used to describe myself are… creative, instinctive, determined, impulsive and relentless 

The moment that set me on this course was… the pandemic. 14 years ago, I’d launched lava shells into spas and salons, and when lockdown happened my whole business shut overnight. I’d always wanted to launch a retail product and I’d always been incredibly passionate about wellbeing, so I just used that moment to go for it.

The thing that drives everything I do is… the memory of my younger brother, who took his own life at 19. It’s why mental health is so important to me, and why my heart has always been about giving back. It’s the reason why I went on to launch Elfland UK, a children's well-being range with eye masks and books. If I can create products that help to improve somebody’s mindset, help them sleep better and also make them feel good about themselves, that’s ultimately all I need.

The best compliment I’ve ever had about the brand is… a nurse told me that they found our eye masks so relaxing that they no longer needed to take medication to sleep. Hearing that our product could have such a positive effect on a stressed-out NHS worker was pretty humbling.

The best thing about being the boss is… being able to come up with ideas and make it happen, fast. The worst is that I can never switch off. I have a really efficient and steady team, and then I come in like a whirlwind. They must dread the words “I’ve got an idea!” If I did have a boss they’d try to rein me in, and I don’t think I’d like that very much! 

If I need to pick myself up I… remind myself that it's not the first time there have been bumps in the road, but that everything will work out OK in the end if I simply refuse to give up. 

My tip for anyone wanting to set up their own brand is.. don’t expect things just to happen for you. It takes a huge amount of time and energy, and just having a good product isn’t enough. You have to grab every opportunity to get your product out there - I’ve carried a lava shell in my bag for the past 14 years, and I never leave home without a Sensory Retreats eye mask! I am always prepared and love nothing better than introducing new people to the benefits of our products.

I get the right balance between work/life balance by.. not being tied to a computer or office. I can combine work with my love of travelling or walking in the countryside with my dog for hours while I’m doing my daily meetings. I’m also a bit of a night owl, happy to work in the early hours. This means I can do the school pick-up and spend valuable time with my daughter and husband.

My ultimate ‘lady boss’ moment was… winning The Great British Entrepreneur Award 2022 for the Health and Beauty category. It was such a proud but also humbling moment for me. It gave me the validation I needed as a business leader, but it also made me reflect on just how far I’ve come from being someone who struggled with dyslexia at school. It shows that dreams, backed by a strong vision and plan, really can come true. I want my daughter Siena to grow up knowing that she can shoot for the stars and achieve anything she puts her mind to. 

The best lesson you’ve ever learned from doing this is… be brave about your decisions even if they feel scary at first. Good things and growth happen when you’re outside of your comfort zone.