Meet Kate Shanks, creator of Ora Aromatherapy.
How do you get inspired?
Oh I am inspired all the time! Often my ideas are sparked by scent (of course). Starting the day creating always starts with scent. I am inspired by other small sustainable businesses, sometimes by speaking with someone who has an ailment that I know I can help with the use of plant magic or essential oils, or by walking in nature where there are so many plant remedies naturally occurring especially in NZ, this blessing inspires me alone. I am lucky enough to live right on the shore of Wainui Beach in Gisborne; every day the ocean inspires me.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you were doing before this?
My career path has been windy before ORA, I studied a Bachelor of Communication Management & Journalism, then a post grad in Primary Teaching which I went into for 6 or so years... then I travelled and did some amazing jobs, like Chalet Hosting in the French snowy Alps, Horse Trek Guide in the Canadian Rockies. Home in NZ, I worked in Recruitment in Auckland (this is where my hobby of aromatherapy became the beginning of ORA) and then in a communications team for a council till I had Felix my first born. Thanks to becoming a mum, I think it gave me the time to think what was really important and I took the plunge into not going back to work for someone else, and instead followed my dream! Never looked back.
Tell us about the birth of your business.
I have always been so influenced by smell. I think I inherited my exceptional sense of smell from my gran, but its a family joke how she and I could always sniff out anything slightly odd or interesting well before anyone else. Growing up, I was always making potions and believed my middle name (Rosemary) was perfect for me - I used to think I would own a perfumery one day! When I was working in Auckland, life was pretty stressful, everyone including me, were running at such a high vibration. It was not healthy. I became drawn to using essential oils more and doing workshops with experienced aromatherapists. I made products for myself and others in my workplace, and the first one was actually the Hayfever Remedy - used to uplift us from that 3pm slog of recycled aircon. Some people in the office suffered hayfever, and this mist cleared it up. Those colleagues urged me to follow this up as they said "quit your day job Kate, you've got the cure to hayfever!" I started making it in bigger batches for markets. In fact my first market was a Little Big Market in Tauranga and I sold 12 bottles of Hayfever remedy and I was rapt! It all snowballed from there. My whole business has grown from word of mouth.
I am lucky enough to live right on the shore of Wainui Beach in Gisborne; every day the ocean inspires me.
Are there any values or ideas that you will always base your business decisions on?
I often get inspired and influenced by others out there as we all do, but I have to bring it back to my core value for ORA which is to have an honest, wholesome and real attitude to running my brand. I have had the opportunity to 'go bigger' but it isn't what we are about, we are handmade in small batches (and I think there's a saying 'stay small stay awesome'). I want to always be making our products by hand, so that the energy and love can continue to go into each and every bottle. I have learnt to work with those who reflect the same attitude, and if the 'vibe' isn't there, they can't be quite rightly aligned with ORA.
What do you love most about your products? And what’s your favourite product. Pick one!
What I love about my products is that they are simple, the more simplistic the ingredients are, the better it is for our skin and bodies. I love that they each have an energy I put into them (there is truth behind the sentence 'made with love') that is widely used these days, but its a real thing with my products, they are my babies! I want each bottle to make me proud.
My favourite product, oh this is a hard one! but I will have to go with my current fave, which is the Sol Gypsy All Beauty Oil - its a cleanser and serum in one - my skin has never been better with the help of this blend, and others say so too. And I know you said I had to pick one, but I can't not mention White Light Purification Mist, it seriously does feel like a blanket of magical calm as it falls over the body.
What are your personality traits that have helped you with your successes?
I am a manifestor. Once I get an idea, I make it happen. My motto is "where there is a will, there is a way." I've been saying this since I was 3 years old, my parents tell me. I also am an empath, so I feel things deeply for others, which because of this genuine caring attribute, it has helped me create products to really help others' wellness.
Have there been unexpected life or business lessons since this journey started? Please share!
I have learnt it is very important to celebrate the small wins. In small business there are many small wins and probably not many 'big wins' and if you don't celebrate the small stuff, it can feel like you aren't winning at all! Another lesson I have learnt is to outsource where you can to help your business grow - I have done everything on my own, re-investing every penny to avoid any loans, I felt very protective over running things, but once I outsourced, (even if it does seem like you can't afford it at that time) it is so valuable to let someone else's strength take the load off! My final lesson is how grateful I have become since running my own business. I am so grateful that I do what I love, it did take some risk and heartache, but now I love my job, and I make it work for my life, not the other way around.