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From the forests of Limpopo, South Africa, Lopo Botanicals handcrafts small-batch fragrance & lifestyle products created for wellbeing & joy.

I can’t tell the Lopo story without telling my story. I am more than one thing. I am Lauren. I am a mother, a gardener, a perfumer, an aromatherapist, a yoga teacher. I am a farmer’s daughter – helping to run our family’s Avocado and Macadamia farm and commercial nursery for 15 years. I grew up on this farm, in a beautiful valley, surrounded by plant people. Plants are in my blood. I am also an empath who loves to understand people. I am a nurturer with a love for mother earth.  Since young, I have held a specific fascination for the healing power of botanicals. Plants and the stories behind them feature in my story and have impacted my journey deeply. I always say that ghosts live in plants. Because they can live, long after humans have gone. Some of my most precious possessions are plants that belonged to my grandparents.

I was known by my family to possess a strong sense of smell. As a child, my interests were encouraged by my mother, whom I remember keeping herb, crystal, and essential oil-related cut-outs from magazines for me to read. My mom bought my first Aromatherapy book and sent me to an aromatherapy workshop in Johannesburg as a birthday present when I turned 16.

Aromatherapy, which I was blessed to be able to explore through formal study in 2003 to 2005, opened a world of creativity for me. Its power was eye-opening, and I was inspired by my Aromatherapy lecturer, who used oils in their full power – treating patients in and out of hospitals with medical conditions. Exposure to her knowledge inspired me. A recipe for a kitchen spray formed the foundation of the “Keep it Clean: all-purpose sanitiser and odour neutraliser.

As a young adult, I traveled and lived abroad. I worked some crazy jobs and had many ups and downs with mental health while trying to determine my position in the various communities I was surrounded by. And there was always Lavender. A sprig or a 10 ml bottle of oil, Lavender was an anchor for me. In the neighbourhood gardens of Cape Town, dotted around the Spanish countryside, in a jar in Covent Garden, in my backpack in India and South America, when I came home to my mom. Always always.

Planting Lavender in my Garden on the farm, when I moved home was one of the first things I did. When I turned 30, I asked my family to contribute to an essential oil kit so that I could use them in our home and for our “adult” life.

When I married my husband, Nick in 2012, I wanted to create wedding favours that spoke of my love for flowers, herbs and oils, so I made bespoke sprays for each of our guests. There was a mood magic spray from a spell book I had bought in London during my gap year in 2001. A prayer spray with frankincense and sandalwood, a mozzi spray, a general room refresher. As the weeks and months passed and the various sprays were used up, friends and family members asked me to remake their sprays for them. It is said that one should only ever start a business when the service or product is requested. It was a sign. The concept was born and nurtured quietly, me never fully allowing myself to dream it loudly enough into reality.

It took 2 babies, many years, and finally, a pandemic, for the initial ideas to evolve into the Lopo brand. The name, which was inspired by a take on my nickname “Lol” and my beloved province of Limpopo, settled so beautifully within my vocabulary once it was uttered for the first time. I would never have been able to bring it to life without the creative genius of Nick. He helped to mold the name and the brand’s identity. His logo design presentation to me consisted of 1 draft. It was love at first sight. 

Embedded in the names of many of Lopo’s products, is an affirmation or a lesson from the story of my life and the moments in time that have shaped me. We help to heal others through the telling of our own stories, so it was important for me to design products that deliver, not only the highest quality ingredients, but something meaningful, with an offering of well-being to body, heart, mind, and spirit. 

Product development happened simultaneously with brand development. Some products were created quickly. Decisively. Others took longer. Multiple versions of Power Serum existed over 2 years. It is an intricate blend and I needed to get it right. I knew the ingredients and I had to finetune the dilutions again and again. It had to be feminine and floral, but it also needed to represent the wild nature of the wild-harvested helichrysum.

It had to smell like earth.

And it does. 

It had to be fine.

And it is.

Power feels like one of my life’s greatest victories. Knowing the power these ingredients have, and knowing that I used them to create something truly beautiful, is deeply fulfilling. When I nearly gave up, it came together, and it confirmed everything I wanted to believe about myself. This gets me up on the hard days.

I use Power every day and I adore using it every day.  

It was Power’s success that led to the creating of a natural perfume range.  Officially, I branched off from pure Aromatherapy and set myself the challenge – and it scared me.  It’s the kind of fear that looks exactly like self-doubt, the type that can cripple you and keep you stagnant. And Power serum taught me – I had to step into mine.

All the research I did, led to more questions and to me, realising that I needed to attend a practical, in-person course. I learn best when guided by a teacher; hands-on, touching, and this case, smelling. I looked for local courses and couldn’t find anything. I kept coming back to the Grasse Institute of Perfumery (GIP). It was a 2-week program, for perfumer beginners, referred to as Summer School.

On the website it read; “Grasse Institute of Perfumery wants to shine the art of Perfumery and its birthplace Grasse with people willing to learn.” “It’s birthplace”.

Grasse, is in the South of France. A town, steeped in perfumery history, in the hills, overlooking the Meditation ocean. Perfumery has taken prima spot in the area since the end of the 18th century and is the place of the French perfume industry. Grasse is loved as the world’s perfume capital, many “noses” having spent time in the area and it produces the majority of France’s natural aromas. It is home to old perfumeries such as Galimard, Molinard, and Fragonard. It just sounded like a dream. So, I dreamed. I enquired for a few years about attending Summer school. I lived in France in my head and in my dreams. 

By the end of 2019, when my youngest was old enough for me to imagine leaving home for long enough to attend the course, I started to enquire more seriously about GIP. I made some huge personal changes that helped to heal fear and uncertainty, and whilst feeling huge, the longing outweighed the impossibility. I hadn’t attempted a jaunt like this in years. Typically, in my life, travel has been a bookmark to monumental personal growth. What would Grasse hold for me?

In a blur and a daze, I managed to book a place at the Perfumery Institute for the following European summer. I was officially going to fulfil my dream to create fine fragrances with natural ingredients. I bought Rose Absolute for the first time in my life. It was like holding gold.

I was close to printing my first labels for my first few products including Power. Lopo would launch. I was going to France.




The label printers closed. International flights were impossible. The trip was canceled.

The kitchen spray was quickly modified to a sanitizer, I found a new label printer who was able to help and my little business kicked off quite nicely. I performed every single step of the process from ordering, bottle sterilizing, product making, bottle filling, labeling, packing, and shipping. Nick, oversaw photography and design and he supported me, cheered me on, and always understood that this was something I needed to do even though it took so much of my time. I loved every minute of packaging my orders late into the night, blending and making products while the kids were asleep. It was the most filling time for me. Grasse was out of the question for now, but I still dreamed and hoped that one day I would travel to France.

In the beginning of 2022, when the Covid situation started to ease up, I enquired at GIP. I was delighted to find out that the Summer school courses were flourishing again and there was a spot open at the end of August. Mentally, I committed. My heart was still catching up. I needed a new passport. Any South African will tell you how daunting this task can be. Home affairs were closed during certain levels of lockdown, so I hadn’t been able to do it much earlier. As soon as I had it in hand, I booked a flight, accommodation, and my place at GIP.

Straight away, I visited the French Visa application site. There was no appointment in Johannesburg until 3 days before my flight. The next Summer school course was full. Postponing was not an option.

I checked the online booking system again. There was 1 appointment in Cape Town in July. Without question, I booked it. I combined the trip with a work trip. (Did I mention that Lopo is my side hustle?) I waited the obligatory week, and my friend who lived in Cape town went to collect the visa for me. Instead of the visa, there was a denial letter. My Visa to France was denied. I was supposed to be leaving in 2 weeks’ time. I was gutted. It felt like someone had died.

To summarise the subsequent events, it took a visa guy, a trip to Pretoria and “trip to Rome” to get an Italian Schengen visa. I only got my passport with the visa at the airport a few hours before flying.

I was a nervous wreck on the plane that my Italian Visa would have me refused entry into France. The trip was long and torturous.

When the kind-faced passport control officer stamped my passport and let me through, it took every inch of me to not burst into tears of relief. As I waited for my bag, I caught a glimpse the sea and could feel the warmth of the Mediterranean summer outside. I finally knew that I would get to tell the story that in August 2022, I travelled to the small village of Grasse in the South of France, to study perfumery. 

In Grasse, the old city’s cobbled streets are lined with pink umbrellas to represent the May Rose. The May rose is important to the perfume history of Grasse. The brollies are usually removed shortly after the Rose harvest in May. This year, they have kept them up a little longer – much to my delight.

Rose absolute from the May rose (Rose × centifolia) is one of the great prides of the Grasse region. In perfumery, the scent is softer and finer than the Rose absolute from the Moroccan rose, which is more vibrant and slightly spicy.

Language and memory play a massive role in refining one’s understanding of the fragrance world.

Besides, the French cafes, the macarons and baguettes, the rolling hills, the view of the bay of Cannes, the grapes hanging off the pergola at my guest house, perfume shops and museums, the course was everything I hoped it would be. Our group was one of 10 very special people. Special because of who they are and special because we share something so specific. I navigated a lot of stuff during my three weeks in France. I was reminded of who I am. I was allowed to be Lauren. I was nobody’s mom, boss, sister, friend, or daughter. I was just someone who loved perfume. My days flowed. There was no pressure or rush. I lapped up our classes, Laurance’s French accent filling my heart and the testing strips filling my nose.

I realized that, like any art, perfumery requires a concept and a level of creativity. I was surrounded by these other creative beings, and I was slightly intimidated. I didn’t have any new concepts. I struggled through self-criticism to find peace. A lot of the fragrance testing is reliant on memory – something that, for health reasons, along with brain fog, I can struggle with. I started to train my memory to work in visuals. It is amazing how hard it can be to differentiate Black Pepper from Frankincense in a blind smell test. I let go of the need to be good at it and I opened myself up to the joy of the ingredients which I was able to experience for the first time. In lieu of a concept, I trusted that if the process is joyful, and you end up with something that smells beautiful, then you have created a successful perfume. This is niche. This is life and this will stay with me.

I left Grasse, assured that my “DIY” of extracting my Gardenia oil to use in my oil-based perfumes was perfectly acceptable. I was inspired by a story told by the International Perfumery Museum, how, many many decades ago, how dipping your hands in honey and crushing the rose petals by hand in olive oil resulted in honey-infused rose oil.

I am not sure if it was the endorphins or the sea air, which I have always felt to be incredibly healing, the warm sun, the good coffee, or a mixture of all of the above but the ah-moment occurred while I was walking along the Antibes peninsula. My concept landed in my brain like a ghost from the past. I had it all along. I had literally forgotten it. This is my new challenge. I need to dig deep to create and launch the range of my dreams.

I still have a few outstanding oils to acquire but I have already started to play with new ones that I invested in, after my course. Oils that I would never have otherwise used.

Our weekly outings while on the course included a visit to the perfumer’s garden. My original love is plants, it was heaven interacting with plants I had never seen before, whose precious oils were familiar to me. The other was to a Jasmine and Tuberose farmer. We helped to harvest the Jasmine blooms. We frolicked in the Tuberose fields. It felt like a dream. I was living the dream. As we walked off the tuberose fields, I asked the farmer if he knew where I could buy a few bulbs. He stopped next the shed, grabbed a handful from a crate and put them in my hand. It felt like treasure. Although the harvest was underway in France in late summer, I was heading home to Spring, and it was the perfect time to plant the bulbs. I am happy to report, that at the time of writing this, 6 of the bulbs have taken and are thriving. And with the blooms, I intend to soak my hands in honey and crunch them into oil to make a honey infused Tuberose oil. It fills my heart to know that I have a piece of Grasse with me forever.

When launching Lopo, it was important to me to honour my roots. I am proud to be from Limpopo. I celebrate sleeping under the Limpopo stars because we live in a place that feels tucked away, cozy, beautiful, wild, and natural. 

Nature has always inspired me.

It was important to me to honour nature through Lopo by using raw materials and packaging options that are produced with mindfulness and with care for our planet. 

I love my country.

I am fiercely South African.

It is important to me to support South African suppliers and I endeavour to do this in every possible facet of the business. 

It is important for me to pay tribute to the parts of the world that have held me and taught me the lessons that have shaped me. These places will unfold within the Lopo story in time, as I launch more products and perfumes. I can’t wait.

With these elements in mind, I offer you, Lopo botanicals.

It is my passion project, my hustle.

It is an embodiment of my everything.