It’s been several years since I caught up with Emme Heke from Heke Homemade Herbals so we sat down and chatted over a coffee (and tea!) a couple of weeks ago to find out what’s been happening in her world.
I had noticed she hasn’t been around for a few months and was wondering what she was up to, basically the business grew so big, and she was so busy, especially during and after the Covid lockdowns, she needed a break to refresh herself before she lost the love for what she does.
I have known Emma for many years, I have always been hugely impressed with the way she has approached her business ventures so wasn’t surprised when she realised she needed to take a break. Running a successful owner-operated one-person business involves committing to working huge hours, often seven days a week, and comes with handling all the paperwork too. Being successful can add up to stressful times.
The growth of Heke Homemade Herbals teas during Covid isn’t a surprise in hindsight, we all had time to relax and take care of ourselves, if we weren’t caught up in the stress of course. Emma managed to have her business recognised as an essential business so couriers could pick up parcels of soothing deliciousness from her home where the business is based.
Heke Homemade Herbals range of outstanding herbal teas, using a combination of herbs and flowers she grows at home plus New Zealand grown and imported organic herbs, remained very popular while she was taking some time out. Local business Health & Herbs in Richmond took over website sales in her absence and Emma was able to arrange deliveries of tea parcels to retailers by utilising commercial kitchens during an extended camping road trip around the North Island.
“I went to every far-flung corner of the Island in my little car, places I had always wanted to visit and some I just came across during my trip.
“It was both hugely rewarding and refreshing, being away from the day-to-day pressures gave me the time to relax and clear my head. While I wasn’t burned out I was aware that if I didn’t take some time to refresh I would lose my passion for the business.
“I have been both amazed and humbled by the support I have had from regular customers and the welcome back I have received at The Nelson Market. There was great support at our return, people seem genuinely happy I’m back and they’re buying up large.”
Emma told me there have been plenty of international visitors turning up at the market too with a Japanese Naturopath taking packets of her herbal teas back to Japan. “It’s so good to see these tourists return after the last few years.”
Her stall at the Nelson Market is in the “funky foodie isle next to Craft Pate” and she says it’s great to be amongst our unique Nelson artisans at the market.
So how did this not-so-little herbal tea company grow to the point it was so busy the owner needed a break? “When I started it in 2015 I wanted to make the space we had at home really productive and thought that if I could create a business out of a steep south facing section close to the city it would also help other people, I wanted to break some myths people have about not being able to do a lot with small, colder south facing plots of land and wanted to create something viable.
“Because I love herbal teas it was an obvious option for me to choose, something I could do at home without needing a huge amount of land, but the location of the garden meant I needed to use sturdy plants that would withstand the frosts and I really wanted to showcase organic produce.”
Emma started giving the teas to friends and family first and they kept asking for more, “I realised I had a potential business and created a Facebook page to see if there was a demand beyond friends and family, I harvested my herbs, dried them, made my four favourite blends and sold out in two days, two weeks later I harvested the last of my herbs and they sold out in two days as well.
“We dug up all the lawns, planted lots of herbs and haven’t looked back.”
Heke Homemade Herbals has grown to a range of over 70 blends and each herbal tea blend is organic, loose-leaf tea with no additives – it’s just the plant. The business has grown to the point she needs to buy most ingredients, “my home garden is just too small to meet the demand these days” but she only sources the best organic herbs and black tea she can find.
“If the quality isn’t right I won’t buy it, the integrity of my products is vital to me, I don’t want to sell something I’m not happy with.”
Heke Homemade Herbals has some gorgeous summer iced brews like “Kiwi As”, “Purple Plush”, “Apple Rose” and “Summer Love” as well as a much requested “Christmas Tea” that will be available in November. “I’m really excited that people are requesting their favourite seasonal blends, it validates what I do.”
“Now that I’m refreshed I have a lot more energy to put into the business, the break is exactly what both me and the business needed.”
Heke Homemade Herbals are sold to people and business from Dunedin to Northland with most buying from Emma’s website www.hekehomemadeherbals.co.nz
She says “as always, our business Facebook page is the place to hear all the latest news and discuss herbs, organic gardening, natural health products plus all the markets we’re attending this season.”
If you haven’t done so already it’s time you discovered Heke Homemade Herbals too, they are wonderful teas packed with flavour and made right here in Nelson.