A Local’s Story: Emma Tremlett of Alma Essentials. BRIGHT sat down with Emma to talk about creating a small business that caters to Marbella’s soul, the local community support, and all things fragrant.
There are many reasons to love Marbella: for its climate, stunning scenery, the vast offering of all things lavish. But more than anything, a place is defined by its community. In Marbella, the collective human puzzle is eclectic to say the least, brought together by hundreds of unique stories of adventure and courage, debauchery and chance. While some Marbella walls could certainly talk, the BRIGHT team prefers to hear it from the protagonists themselves in this new series of interviews A Local’s Story.
When Emma Tremlett moved from London to the remote mountain village in the Alpujarra region back in 2005 in search of adventure, she essentially bought a one-way ticket to a life in Marbella. Having since managed Hotel Finlandia (and two children) with her husband Jose Sánchez Pomares, she has just opened the doors of Alma Essentials, a shop where scents, serenity and soya candles are designed to be your sole focus of attention.
Interview by Anastasia Sukhanov
What brought you to Marbella?
I was living in the Alpujarras, and it was in one of its tiny little villages where I met Jose, whose family own Hotel Finlandia in downtown Marbella. We got it together and he told me that at some point in the not-too-distant future he would have to go back to run the hotel, which had been in the family since 1964. Jose’s grandfather had 10 children and the eldest one was given the plot of land next to the family house, which is how it all started. Now, Jose was the eldest of his generation and it was his turn to take over from his father. I knew it from the very beginning, but it certainly was not my dream. We came down from Alpujarra when I was about six months pregnant, and it’s been our job over the last 14 years to bring the hotel into the 21st century. It’s been a long-haul family business and it will probably, hopefully, be there forever. The hotel has a very special energy.
And now you’re embarking on a whole new adventure of your own…
We had two kids and now it’s my time. Jose is very generously allowing me this time to create my own business, which is super exciting. At the heart of Alma Essentials are essential oils which I blend by hand and where I can, I buy organic oils from Spain. Unbeknownst to most people that are not that familiar with the product, a third of the world’s essential oils are grown in Spain, or in the surrounding countries like Portugal and France. The whole Mediterranean area is hugely dominant in the oil world. I mean, you’ve got lemons and oranges practically all year round, thyme, sage and eucalyptus, as well as cedar just across the water in Morocco. So, it’s a really good location to be working with essential oils because the product doesn’t have to travel very far.
The second pillar of the business are the handmade soya candles. The wax comes from Spain and the fragrances that I’m using are the most natural fragrances that I can find. When I was researching the competition, I realized that most of the mass-produced candles have very synthetic scents. While testing their components I would sometimes get a headache just making the candle, which says to me that they’re pretty toxic! I’ve had to go through about seven or eight different companies to arrive at fragrances that I think are worth using.
Did your previous knowledge of nutrition help in all this?
Yes, whilst studying biomedicine to become a nutritionist one of the components was how to use essential oils in natural health. I love nutrition, I’m interested in it, but I decided that I didn’t want to become a nutritionist. Halfway through the course I realized I was more interested in the oils, so I started studying that instead and found it to be more creative.
What is the meaning behind Alma Essentials, the name and the logo?
The name Alma Essentials was important to me because it had to bring together the Spanish and the English as one concept. Alma means “soul” in Spanish, so practically I sell “soul essentials” here, something we all need! But it’s also a reference to essential oils. And the hummingbird logo came to me in a dream! A hummingbird does the same job as a bee, it pollinates flowers. They’re tiny little things, hardly bigger than your thumb, but they defy all logic by flying thousands of miles. That reflects the essential oil concept because an essential oil is pure plant matter reduced into a tiny 10 milliliter bottle with so much potential.
What do you think Alma Essentials can bring to Marbella?
The reason I wanted to start this business is because I do feel like a bit of an outsider. I’m not into massive labels and fashion. I’ve always felt like Marbella doesn’t really cater to people like me who want a healthy natural life, who want meaning in their life, who want “soul”. I created this business with my daughter in mind, too. She’s now 14 and they need guiding at this age. So, the more natural stuff they see, the better. The quote goes “be the change”, so here I am adding soul to Marbella, one essential oil blend at a time.
After sixteen years in Marbella, what do you most love about it?
Loads of things! Who couldn’t love that you can swim in the sea in the middle of November as though it was summer? I mean, that’s unbelievable. It’s a super healthy place to live: you’ve got the ocean, you’ve got the mountains. And for me the mountains are as important, if not more important, than the sea. Marbella has a wonderful village vibe, but also the international culture of a big city. I’m from London, but even to me Marbella is a city, a “baby city”, of course, but still.
What are your favorite Marbella places outside of the hotel?
I love El Cable Beach because it’s so real! You’ve got space to move, and you’ve got people who are more chilled out. You can put your barbecue on and just enjoy the day. It’s a huge contrast from the Golden Mile, where I usually only go on my bike. Biking along the sea on the new wooden paseo is a joy and the best recent investment of infrastructure in Marbella.
The doors of Alma Essentials opened in September after what you described to me as a very “organic” growth process. How so?
It has been like a giant canvas to which I’ve been adding bits and it’s also been a real community baby. The beautiful giant wooden table I’m sitting at was made especially for the shop by my friend Adela with a little bit of help from her dad, and she’s lovingly made all the drawers and the storage, while the company logo was designed by another friend and artist, Alfonso Herrero. Many other people have been involved and have been so generous with their time and talents. I was working so much that the people on the street were practically applauding me as I was getting to the end.
Creating the shop, building the product, making the brand. It’s only in its infancy and has the whole road ahead of itself. What’s next?
I’ll be hosting 2-hour workshops for creating essential things like face creams, natural perfumes, lip balms, hair masks, or calming balms if you’ve got sores on your skin. This could also be a great present because it’s sustainable and it’s giving an experience. You’ll get to have great time chatting with like-minded people and having a cup of coffee or olive-leaf tea brought by my herbalist friend at the end of the workshop!