The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
A native leaf and a lovely walk through the forest! When I was walking in the Whakarewarewa Forest at New Year 2018 with my family, I came across some Kawakawa literally blocking my path and I decided to take it home to make a balm. When I tested the balm on my niece and her dermatitis cleared up in three days straight I knew I was onto something. I decided the balm needed a label and so I needed a company name. My middle name is Joy and the forest where I ride my bike brings me my greatest joy. So I looked up the Maori translation which was Koa and that seemed only fitting, and so Koa Organics was born. I try to eat organic food wherever possible so using organic ingredients was a natural move. I believe our bodies deserve the absolute best and I use nature as my divine guider when developing products. All of my products are botanically inspired in some way, because nature knows best.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I designed my logo and packaging labels and decided to take the first few products to my local playgroup in Lake Tarawera. The mums there were all very kind and bought my products, saying that they were great but I thought they were just being kind to me. So I decided to set the products to a true test and took them to the local Rotorua Farmers Market. To my surprise and delight they sold well and people kept coming back for more! The ball rolled from there and at times it has been rolling faster than I can keep up with. I now show my products at the big General Collective Lifestyle and Design markets in Auckland. I have over 15 loyal retailers around the country and an online store as well.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
After having my second baby late at 45, and all those lovely baby hormones suddenly departing, I started researching natural ways to manage the swinging hormonal symptoms I was having. I kept reading how women over 40 in particular are deficient in magnesium and it’s not present in our food like is used to be either. So the Magnesium Body Butter, which is my own formulation, was born. Realising that my magnesium products actually work effectively for hormone regulation, period pain, migraines, cramps, hot flushes and so much more – and that I can help women live their lives with less pain and more enjoyment – brings me so much joy. It spurs me on every day. I’m continually getting amazing reviews from women who benefit from my products every day, and often their partners too!
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
I work every day but I try to give myself time in the morning to meditate and exercise so I that I’m able to give energy and time to my family as well. I chunk time up during the day and it seems to work well for me and them. If I work a morning market, I always make sure we have some fun time in the afternoon. My husband helps me solve problems, and we’re often labelling the products at night together. My gorgeous four-year-old son ‘helps’ me pack the orders in the morning and actually he’s quite good at it! My 23-year-old daughter lives in a different city and is studying to become a nurse but she joins me at the General Collective Lifestyle and Design markets as my Sales Assistant. She brings a scientific knowledge base to the discussions we have with customers around magnesium so she’s super helpful, and also a beautiful human to be around.
The drive: What challenges have you overcome?
I had had to learn so much. Everything in my business has been set up, learnt or completed by me from the logo to the formulations, (except for Xero, I outsourced that). My learning curve was HUGE and I remember setting up my Shopify website in the early hours of every morning before my son woke up. It took me two weeks and I was rag tired at the end but I did it. I guess I’m just not afraid of failing anymore, I have this enormous drive because it feels so right. I’m not sure where it comes from at times but I’m going with it!
For better or worse: What are the pros and cons of running your own business?
Never turning off. I can’t leave for the day. Koa is all around me because it’s run from home at the moment. Plus, every time I look at my phone and computer to pick up my own personal messages, Koa is right there, saying look at me, look at me! My passion is mountain biking, it’s why we moved to Rotorua. But when I’m out riding my bike at the Cyclezone ladies shuttle nights in Rotorua which Koa Organics sponsors, I guess I’m ‘working’ as well. But that’s OK because it gives me the opportunity to get verbatim feedback from ladies about what they like, how my products help them and any suggestions they have for new ones. So I can’t seem to switch off. We are well and truly intertwined: business, family and leisure. I love that my family are involved and we can be creative in work together, but we’re definitely going to have to schedule regular holidays soon!
Hopes and dreams: What next?
More products are being developed as I’m writing this and I’m so excited by where this business can go. I love being my own boss and deciding which days I might ride my bike or work on a new formulation or design a new ad. I can’t imagine working for anyone else anymore, and I have definitely started to look at hiring staff. We will get bigger for sure, how much bigger is the question!