When three young mums banded to­gether in 2013 to launch a busi­ness called Honey­wrap, lit­tle did they know how se­ri­ously suc­cess­ful it would be­come.

It has only been five years since Honey­wrap was launched, but a lot has hap­pened in the global war against plas­tics pol­lu­tion since then – and par­tic­u­larly so in 2018.

Founders Jo Fal­loon, Tara Stra­han and Amy DeMuth were all oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pists in 2013 who shared a love of the great out­doors and a ma­jor dis­taste for waste and so­ci­ety’s over-reliance on plas­tic.

“At the su­per­mar­ket, I’d be an­noyed by the sight of some­one putting a sin­gle cour­gette in a plas­tic bag,” Jo tells me. We’re sit­ting in Tara’s Grey Lynn kitchen look­ing out on the back shed that has been Honey­wrap’s busi­ness base from day one.

She was also sur­prised by the amount of plas­tic wrap in lunch­boxes at the kindy her son at­tended. “I thought there just had to be a bet­ter way.”

Then when Tara’s five-year-old son brought home a beeswax prod­uct from a class­room as­sign­ment, it re­sulted in a Google search that re­vealed there were no beeswax wraps be­ing made in New Zealand. It was time to do a lit­tle re­search and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion – to start up a busi­ness to mar­ket “one of the best re­us­able food wraps on the planet”.

The three got to­gether over a glass of wine and Honey­wrap was born.

Their core prod­uct has al­ways been the food wrap hand­made from cer­ti­fied or­ganic cot­ton and a se­cret blend of beeswax, tree resin and jo­joba oil, which gives the cloth a tack­i­ness so it can be shaped over food and dishes.

To­day Honey­wrap is avail­able at 200 re­tail stock­ists (on­line and bricks ‘n mor­tar) around the coun­try, in­clud­ing eco-store and some iconic gift stores such as Te Papa, Auck­land Mu­seum and Auck­land Art Gallery. And it has been joined by other eco-friendly food-re­lated prod­ucts in­clud­ing metal straws, re­us­able drink bot­tles, cof­fee cups and net bags.

There have been ex­port sales too – with a lot of in­ter­est com­ing out of Ja­pan. How­ever, freight costs are prov­ing to be a stum­bling block.

Honey­wrap fea­tures de­signs by lead­ing New Zealand artists and there have been two “cool col­lab­o­ra­tions” with not-for-prof­its: Sus­tain­able Coast­lines and Project Jonah.

“It’s about ty­ing in the im­por­tance of keep­ing our oceans clean,” ex­plains Jo. “Which is a pop­u­lar cause for most peo­ple.”

Amy has since left the busi­ness – but Tara still works in it full-time and Jo part-time. Things never stand still when you’re a mum jug­gling fam­ily and busi­ness com­mit­ments.

Honey­wrap also em­ploys two ad­di­tional full­timers and four part-timers.

“We’re re­ally proud of the fact that we’re also pro­vid­ing work for peo­ple with spe­cial needs,” says Jo – a cause they’ve been pas­sion­ate about since their oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy days, when they saw how hard it was for peo­ple with head in­juries to find work.

Hav­ing trav­elled ex­ten­sively in their 20s, both Jo and Tara have long been aware of the dam­age that plas­tic pack­ag­ing is do­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment. When they launched Honey­wrap, the is­sues sur­round­ing plas­tics us­age were at­tract­ing few head­lines – but that is all chang­ing in 2018 and pub­lic aware­ness is now wide­spread. This, they be­lieve, will boost prod­uct sales be­cause Honey­wrap is con­sid­ered such an easy so­lu­tion to plas­tic ‘cling-wraps’.

Schools are also go­ing ‘waste-free’ – where stu­dents are dis­cour­aged from wrap­ping their lunches in throw-away plas­tic – and this, in turn, of­fers op­por­tu­ni­ties for the brand to be as­so­ci­ated with fund-rais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ex­ceed­ing ex­pec­ta­tions

For Jo and Tara de­mand for their prod­uct al­ways ex­ceeds ex­pec­ta­tions, and keep­ing up with de­mand has been a chal­lenge. With min­i­mal mar­ket­ing they’ve man­aged to dou­ble sales ev­ery year – aided by such events such as Plas­tic Free July, and leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tives such as the Govern­ment’s re­cent com­pul­sory ban on sin­gle-use plas­tic shop­ping bags – all of which gets peo­ple think­ing more about ditch­ing plas­tic.

Sourc­ing raw ma­te­ri­als has not al­ways been easy, and with no busi­ness back­ground, run­ning Honey­wrap has been a steep learn­ing curve, says Jo. “We’ve just had to learn ev­ery­thing as

What keeps us in­spired is know­ing that we are part of the so­lu­tion. And Honey­wrap is an easy so­lu­tion for peo­ple.”

we went along. Luck­ily we have some amaz­ing friends who’ve helped us when needed – even peo­ple we didn’t know that well have helped us, purely be­cause they like the prod­uct.”

Their ac­coun­tant has proved in­valu­able for ad­vice too, she says.

If they had the chance to do it all again Jo be­lieves they would def­i­nitely part­ner with a busi­ness men­tor ear­lier, to pro­vide some guid­ance on plan­ning and fore­cast­ing.

“We’re get­ting bet­ter, but it’s still not our forté.”

Deal­ing with com­pe­ti­tion

Jo and Tara know they’re back­ing a win­ner with Honey­wrap. The prod­uct’s point of dif­fer­ence (apart from its unique de­signs) is that it’s or­ganic and non-toxic and, un­like com­peti­tor prod­ucts, is wrapped with non-plas­tic re­cy­clable pack­ag­ing. It’s also gen­uinely home com­postable, not just com­mer­cially com­postable.

De­spite know­ing they have a su­pe­rior prod­uct, they’re al­ways wary of com­pet­ing brands en­ter­ing the mar­ket. While it does mean up­ping their mar­ket­ing spend, they’ve learnt not to get dis­tracted by com­peti­tors, and to back them­selves.

“We’ve also al­ways been a lit­tle ner­vous, and con­ser­va­tive, when it comes to risk,” ad­mits Jo. With hind­sight they could have been a lit­tle less risk averse, she says.

But right now, the big goal is to have Honey­wrap in ev­ery New Zealand kitchen – a drawer full of Honey­wrap to re­place the ubiq­ui­tous plas­tic cling-wraps.

Jo and Tara’s mo­ti­va­tion is the “over­whelm­ing, de­press­ing im­ages in the me­dia of all the plas­tic pol­lu­tion float­ing around in the oceans”.

“What keeps us in­spired is know­ing that we are part of the so­lu­tion,” says Jo. “And Honey­wrap is an easy so­lu­tion for peo­ple.

“It can all be over­whelm­ing, but if ev­ery­one just made a lit­tle change then it can make a big dif­fer­ence.

“We’re also in­spired by the feed­back we get from peo­ple at var­i­ous events – by the ab­so­lute pas­sion they have for the prod­uct. It’s so great to see.”

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