You could call Naomi Snelling an embodiment of Generation X. Journalist, PR consultant, lecturer, emerging aromatherapy entrepreneur and mother of two, the Worcester-based businesswoman has packed quite a lot into her career since she graduated from the University of Wales in Swansea with a BA (Hons) in English Literature back in 1997.
It’s not been an entirely smooth ride since growing up in an idyllic rural environment between Bristol and Bath – she admits to a few “dark times” – but her full and varied CV is testament to a character who invariably tends to bounce back when the going gets tough, an essential trait of any entrepreneur in the making.
That character was forged in Clutton, a sleepy country village in Somerset, where she was the eldest of five children whose father was a deputy head teacher, all of whom – with the exception of Naomi – have ended up in education or medicine, another clue to her entrepreneurial mindset.
“We were outside all the time, building dens, rolling down hills….it was back to the days that I wish we could recreate for our own children. It was the sort of place where you had to slow down to let the cows go across the road.”
A self-confessed ‘word nerd’, Naomi had a passion for reading from an early age – intriguingly she grew up in a household with no television – and had ploughed her way through all 1,225 pages of Tolstoy’s War and Peace by the time she was 13.
“My dad is Welsh and was a deputy Head Teacher. Apart from me, the others are in education or medicine but I decided I wanted to be a journalist. There is a distinct part of me that wants to discover things and write about them.
“I saw myself as another Kate Adie, although I would have been terrible in that situation. I used to make little radio broadcasts on a tape recorder with my brothers and sisters, ‘What is happening in the kitchen? What’s the situation in the lounge?’ I loved the sound of my own voice.
“I was a bit of a leader and loved putting on plays. We would put on performances and I would sell the tickets, I wanted to organise the whole thing. Really it was just children mucking about – we didn’t have a television, that was my parents’ choice, we were often ‘free range’ and were encouraged to read a lot.”
The budding journalist had discovered a love for words through classic Russian novels, from Tolstoy to Pasternak. “I devoured books, there was a little tiny library van that visited the village twice a month and it was such a treat to go and get books out.
“Books fuelled my imagination. My own children are on their screens all the time, it’s almost like a drug – the noises that emerge when you turn the wifi off are the stuff of nightmares. Children these days seem so reliant on their online life, everyone has TVs and access to a multitude of plugged-in devices.
“ The sort of rural life I enjoyed has been lost now and it makes me so sad. Back then, there was always somebody knocking on the door asking, ‘are you coming out to play?’ It’s impossible to go back to that now, but I think more has been lost than we sometimes realise.
“My parents wanted me to be a doctor but I did a sneaky switch and changed from Physics to study English Literature. Journalism wasn’t something they viewed as a good career, but I was not cut out for anything medical. I would have probably done an operation and left the scissors inside! I went on to do an English degree at Swansea University and then gained a Post-Graduate Diploma in journalism at Cardiff.”
Naomi was on her way into the rollercoaster and often haphazard media world of newspapers, magazines and PR, and began working life promoting the first Dylan Thomas Festival – from the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, commemorating the mercurial, hard-drinking Welsh bard.
“With the enthusiasm of youth, I somehow managed to get a huge spread in The Independent On Sunday and a number of nationals.
“ I then went to work at the National Museums and Galleries of Wales where the admin centre was the Museum of Welsh life – the world’s biggest outdoor museum, which is based in St Fagan’s just outside Cardiff. I was in the Press Office there back in 1998, and it was a really beautiful and unique place to work.”
After nine months at the museum, Naomi switched to the Millennium Coastal Path, doing media and community relations work for a £27.5 million coastal project. “It was a 14-mile stretch of coastline dotted with new state-of-the-art visitor attractions. It was based in Llanelli, historically a very industrial area rooted in the Welsh steel industry, and the mission was to give the coast back to the people.
“That was an exciting project to be part of and I managed to gain a lot of national coverage. For some reason, one thing that stuck in my mind was the time they managed to attract all five species of British owls – a feat which I managed to get featured in The Sunday Times.”
Naomi eventually made the transition from PR to regional newspapers, where she landed a role as Commissioning Editor with the Western Mail in Cardiff, which involved editing four quarterly lifestyle magazines, from homes and interiors titles to bridal and health publications.
“These were the golden days of magazine journalism. It was a bit of a baptism of fire, being plunged into a totally different style of working. I wasn’t a news hack, I never had to do death knocks or anything like that, it was all features. Basically, if they’re Welsh and famous I probably interviewed them. All the usual suspects – Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Charlotte Church, Bryn Terfel, Katherine Jenkins. I even interviewed John Humphrys, and it was interesting to see him on the other side of an interviewer.
“ I flew with The Air Ambulance, went out with the RNLI and I was also dispatched on a survival weekend with some hairy ex-SAS men in the Brecon Beacons. I was teetering around doing fashion and lifestyle shoots at the time and had to leave my stilettoes and hairdryer and go and build a shelter and make my own loo in gale force winds, cross a river and somehow kill a rabbit and make a stew.”
Naomi swapped weekends storming up hills with former commandos and the rolling Welsh countryside for a new life in the West Midlands, editing Midlands Homes and Interiors and Style Birmingham magazines plus working on Cloud Nine magazine for Birmingham Airport. She also ran a small bespoke PR service for local clients.
After joining a networking group, she had an opportunity to change career course once again. “I was offered an opportunity to lecture at Birmingham City University in fashion promotion. There was an element of PR, and I absolutely loved being part of helping these students thrive and I also enjoyed the mentoring element.”
By now a prolific magazine hack, Naomi found a new journalistic vocation with a mix of real life features for consumer magazines and business writing, working on titles such as Business Vision, Wales Business Insider and CFI (Capital Finance International). “Business journalism was a real surprise for me – you’re writing about people innovating, there’s so much excitement and energy…it’s so much more exciting than I anticipated.
“All of life is wrapped up in the business landscape and the players within it, especially in our rapidly evolving world. I have grown to become particularly fascinated by leadership and the qualities that make good leaders.
“When I needed a fresh start both personally and professionally, I moved to Worcester where there was a lot of opportunity for me. It has been a great place for me and my girls.”
By 2017, Naomi was combining journalism, PR work – mainly for Worcester-based broadband firm Airband, and lecturing – and raising her two young daughters. “I was too busy, I took too much on, running a family and being a single parent. It was a bit of a juggling act.”
She parted company with Airband in December 2020, following a sale of the firm, and is now combining business journalism with PR work for Indaba, a global Public Relations firm operating across more than 30 countries worldwide.
But the entrepreneurial spirit in Naomi continues to push her onwards in new directions….including the world of aromatherapy.
“I think one of the most important things I’ve done recently is invest in myself and in my training and I believe that this is the key to doing much more than we envisage. I’ve done a lot of work to heal myself personally and a by-product of this work has meant that I was more efficient, productive and could even write better than before.
“I’ve worked out that you can’t always put off your dreams to another day – you have to make time for your dreams right now. And for me one of my big passions has always been organic beauty and holistic practices.
“At first it was enough to write about these practices. I’ve written about every therapy under the sun and tried most of them too. And I’m very passionate about essential oils and about smells.
“Nearly two decades ago I interviewed a wonderful clinical aromatherapist who had been doing some incredible work, basing his blends on the same structure as a perfumier. Normally in traditional aromatherapy you would only use two or three oils, but his blends use 12 or more essential oils.
“I’ve used them over the years for myself and my family and have always been blown away by how well they work. Fungal skin rashes clear up in hours and days and with my asthmatic daughter I used a special blend of two blends to help her stop coughing at night. It was literally the only thing that relieved her. I’ve always understood their power and had a respect for it.”
Now Naomi hopes to channel her passion for naturopathy and aromatherapy into a commercial venture. “I’ve been creating my own brand of aromatherapy products and I think it’s an ideal time to be doing it because people need to invest in their self-care.
“Recently I’ve invested in training using synergetic essential oil blends and this is a direction I’m really excited about.
“Organic beauty and wellness is a rapidly evolving market and I’m planning to tap into this demand. I’ve been talking to some independent holistic practitioners and a natural health centre to explore ways of working with them to create personalised and bespoke products. I’m really interested in connecting with anyone in the holistic space who may be looking to create a bespoke range for their business.”
Ask Naomi her recipe for relaxation and she says that lazy days should be reserved for getting up late, enjoying an oat milk cappuccino in the sunshine, eating smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with sourdough toast and reading the papers, possibly followed by an outdoors stroll.
It’s probably fair to suggest that if her dreams of making a name for herself in the aromatherapy world come to fruition, those lazy mornings and smoked salmon breakfasts may be a rare treat.
Meet our guest photographer Tamara Peel
Business Works magazine welcomes a guest photographer in this issue – award-winning photographer Tamara Peel captured the vibrant and evocative images of one of our four Spring entrepreneurs, Naomi Snelling.
Tamara works in the UK and Europe on selected projects and now includes a bespoke business portraiture service within her suite of photographic services.
“The Business Portrait is intended to be the ultimate photographic portrait of you for all time. It celebrates who you are and all you have become. Rather than standard corporate portraiture, I create a soulful piece of wall art in a way that fills you with joy and appreciation for the journey of your life.
Your iconic framed art piece comes mounted and signed and it also comes in a digital form sized and ready for all social media platforms; it can elevate not only how others see you but also how you see yourself.
It’s time to take control of how we are seen and create a legacy image that plays to your unique strengths – a piece of art that communicates exactly the message you want.
This service suits anyone who wants to elevate their image and most recently I’ve been blessed to work with the 50-plus demographic – the wise, witty and inspirational yet often overlooked generation, who have such amazing insights and stories to tell. These are the people who know who they are and what they stand for and I love capturing this for all time.
After the challenges of 2020, we’ve all been propelled forward by technology and I don’t think there has ever been a more important time to invest in a professional portrait. With continuing restrictions on meeting up with people and striking up meaningful connections and relationships in person, the power of a great profile portrait can’t be ignored. I would go as far as to say it’s essential to have a good professional headshot. People instantly judge us online by our photograph. Your profile image is now literally the face of your business; in today’s world your headshot acts as your own personal logo.
If your professional headshot is a ‘selfie’ or an image taken by a friend, what other people are seeing is that you don’t take yourself seriously and you don’t look like a professional.
If a new client was deciding who to trust with their money and they had to choose between someone with a selfie or a well-lit and composed professional image, which do you think they would choose?
I will leave you with these parting words my friend – strong, bold, powerful and unapologetically you! This is the kind of lasting image I wish for you.”
For more information on Tamara’s The Business Portrait service, visit www.tamarapeel.co.uk