Q&A: EX­PORT-QUAL­ITY HERBS

Lynn Kirk­land’s per­sonal mis­sion to help her fam­ily be­came a thriv­ing busi­ness that now sees her chemical-free herbal prod­ucts ex­ported to Aus­tralia, Ja­pan and China. The busi­ness that be­gan with a half-acre of land, a spade and a gi­ant leap into the unkn

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Lynn Kirk­land’s per­sonal mis­sion to help her fam­ily be­came a thriv­ing busi­ness that now sees her chem­i­cal­free herbal prod­ucts ex­ported to Aus­tralia, Ja­pan and China.

EXP: Where did your pas­sion for herbs come from and what are some of the most re­mark­able things you’ve dis­cov­ered about them?

Lynn: I have al­ways had a pas­sion for plants and gar­den­ing. Study­ing for my herbal di­ploma was a time of dis­cov­ery of how ef­fec­tive herbs are for our health needs and be­cause the re­sults of the prod­ucts I made dur­ing this study was so amaz­ing it ig­nited a life­long pas­sion and be­lief in the power of herbs. One of the most re­mark­able things I have dis­cov­ered is to never un­der­es­ti­mate the ef­fi­cacy of pure botan­i­cal treat­ments us­ing na­ture’s gifts; our heal­ing herbs. Some of the sim­plest treat­ments are the most ef­fec­tive.

EXP: How do you think people’s over­all per­cep­tion of herbs as medic­i­nal prod­ucts has evolved over time?

Lynn: Thirty years ago, herbs were re­garded as very al­ter­na­tive. Slowly there has been a change in think­ing about herbal medicine, with more people choos­ing it as their first ap­proach to well­be­ing rather than a last re­sort if con­ven­tional medicine has failed to give de­sired re­sults.

EXP: People say The Herb Farm has al­ways been ahead of its time. Is this true and how does the re­al­ity of the busi­ness to­day match up with your orig­i­nal ex­pec­ta­tions?

Lynn: Yes, I think per­haps The Herb Farm was ahead of its time in some ways. To de­velop a busi­ness based solely on herbs was fu­ture think­ing but when you pas­sion­ately be­lieve that herbs are safe, amaz­ing and ef­fec­tive, you want the world to know. I al­ways saw The Herb Farm ex­pand­ing into a cen­tre for people to visit and be in­spired.

Twenty one years ago I didn’t plan

to get into ex­port­ing and it has been the vi­sion­ary planned ex­pan­sion by my daugh­ter, Sarah Cowan who is driv­ing this side of the busi­ness.

EXP: How did you first get in­volved in ex­port­ing and what have been some of the mile­stones?

Lynn: We have been re­ceiv­ing ex­port en­quiries steadily over the years but un­til re­cently haven’t felt the time was right. We made the strate­gic de­ci­sion to ex­plore ex­port mar­kets last year and have a planned ap­proach to this. Our first mile­stone was the first ex­port or­der go­ing to Aus­tralia last year. We have iden­ti­fied Hong Kong as the next mar­ket to en­ter and are work­ing with NZTE to put to­gether a plan for this mar­ket.

EXP: How does your herb pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing stack up against over­seas pro­duc­ers and what do over­seas cus­tomers like about your prod­uct?

Lynn: We are still a bou­tique com­pany com­pared with some of our over­seas com­peti­tors and the vol­ume of herbs we har­vest and use from the farm are com­par­a­tively small. Over­seas cus­tomers like the fact that our prod­uct is from New Zealand (pure, green, clean), 100 per­cent nat­u­ral, made on­site by a fam­ily owned com­pany and are based purely on herbs. We have cus­tomers fre­quently com­ment on the val­ues and ethics of the busi­ness.

EXP: What is the po­ten­tial for ex­port sales do you think? And what will drive the de­mand?

Lynn: I think the po­ten­tial for ex­port sales is huge. The nat­u­ral skin­care in­dus­try is grow­ing and we have points of dif­fer­ence which cus­tomers are look­ing for. The key to suc­cess in ex­port mar­kets will be find­ing the right dis­tri­bu­tion part­ners.

EXP: How are your prod­ucts mar­keted and dis­trib­uted in your main ex­port mar­kets?

Lynn: Aus­tralia is our first ex­port mar­ket and our prod­ucts are be­ing mar­keted and dis­trib­uted by a new com­pany. It is a small com­pany and growth in this mar­ket will be strate­gic and steady over the next two to three years.

We are cur­rently look­ing for the right dis­tri­bu­tion part­ner to cover the Hong Kong mar­ket.

EXP: What lessons can you share about ex­port­ing?

Lynn: It is still a new area for us but to date the key lessons have been to find the right part­ners, get all the ex­pec­ta­tions and con­tracts very clear from the start and en­sure you have the ca­pac­ity to cater for the pro­duc­tion growth re­quired.

EXP: What re­ally gets on your wick about to­day’s herbal rem­edy mar­ket­place?

Lynn: Green­wash­ing re­ally gets me fired up – com­pa­nies that em­pha­sise that there are herbs in their prod­ucts but also have in­gre­di­ents detri­men­tal to our health in the for­mu­las makes me cross.

EXP: De­scribe your most sat­is­fy­ing mo­ments with the busi­ness.

Lynn: My most sat­is­fy­ing days are when I see the herb farm buzzing with happy cus­tomers. En­joy­ing healthy herb flavoured food in the cafe which has beau­ti­ful in­door/out­door din­ing so you can sit among the herbs and watch the bees and but­ter­flies and hear the birds. And see­ing fam­i­lies ex­plor­ing our 14 themed gar­dens be­ing in­spired to grow herbs at home.

Hear­ing cus­tomers in the shop say­ing how amaz­ing a prod­uct has worked for them. See­ing the prod­ucts be­ing made with care and given a pos­i­tive in­ten­tion for their spe­cific use; then the courier van ar­riv­ing to pick up our parcels to deliver them to re­tail­ers and cus­tomers around New Zealand and out in the world. Know­ing that these prod­ucts are world class and will be loved by those who use them.

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