Female-led Nelson business one of first in NZ to get boost from SheEO

by Fiona Terry / 06 April, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Sheeo

Georgia Richards (left) and Dot Kettle in their peony fields at harvest time. Photo/Tim Cuff.

Nelson skincare company Dove River Peonies is one of the first five New Zealand businesses to receive a venture capital boost from SheEO, a global venture supporting female entrepreneurs.

SheEO was started by Canadian Vicki Saunders in 2015 and provides interest-free loans to women-led business ventures that are revenue generating, have export potential, and create a better world through their business model, product or service. This year is the first time that the process has been undertaken in New Zealand.

Dove River Peonies' owners Dot Kettle and Georgia Richards will receive a share of $500,000 interest-free loan.

Back in 2016, North & South spoke to the couple.

Coming up roses

Nelson peony growers Dot Kettle and Georgia Richards have found a novel way to get to the root of the problem.

The lush paddock alongside Dot Kettle and Georgia Richards’ home was, until a few years ago, a barren dust bowl. Now it’s dense with foliage, humming with bees and vibrant with splashes of corals and crimsons – a nurtured space that has proved perfect for propagating peonies.

With more than 18,000 of the prized plants now covering three hectares of their land, and a keen demand for the organically grown buds they produce, the former city slickers have had to dig deep to hone their horticultural skills. What’s more, they’ve discovered that beneath the ground is something of potentially greater value than the flowers.

The couple relocated to Nelson after Kettle was offered a job as chief executive of the city’s Chamber of Commerce. They bought a 40ha block in the Dovedale Valley, near Motueka, complete with its giant oak trees, rustic villa, bush-clad hill and flat paddocks, which were previously used to house pigs. Having traded in their soft-top Saab for a Land Rover Discovery, they hatched a plan to establish an income-generating crop to enable Richards to step back from her government-based IT analyst career.

After investigating potential options, they decided to grow peonies. “Apparently our land in the valley is perfect for them, getting extremely hot in summer and very cold in winter,” says Kettle, who previously worked as a speechwriter and adviser to Helen Clark when she was prime minister.

It was a steep learning curve, but the more they researched the plant, the more their attention was drawn to its unexpected healing properties. “In Chinese and European herbal medicine, peony root has been used for centuries because its active ingredient, paeoniflorin, is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and is used to treat hormonal imbalances,” says Richards. “We realised there could be a huge opportunity here to make a difference.”

Kettle and Richards’ three sons (Baxter, 11, Otto, nine, and Bruno, seven) suffer from eczema and the pair had spent thousands of dollars trying to find ways of managing it. Looking for an alternative to steroids, they decided to give peony root a go, using excess pieces from the autumnal practice of dividing tubers to generate more plants. With a number duly hand-scrubbed (a laborious process for which Richards has subsequently helped to design a machine), they worked with a local business to develop soap incorporating the nutty-smelling root.

The end result was tested successfully on their sons; then family and friends suffering from eczema were given samples, and also reported improvements. In 2013, the couple started selling the soaps at Nelson’s Saturday market, alongside their fresh flowers.

The response was so positive that in 2014, they launched a range of skin creams. “They’re fantastic for people with sensitive skin and psoriasis,” says Richards. Peony-based teas have since been added to the Dove River Peonies collection – dubbed “PM Tea” due to their hormonal balancing properties – and a selection of shampoos will soon follow.

“When I look at this paddock, it’s not just the beauty and overwhelming sense of abundance I see but the healing powers it possesses,” says Kettle. “It’s quite extraordinary. We still export flowers and also dry petals for weddings, but it’s the root that’s now the gold for us.” 

This was published in the January 2016 issue of North & South.

Latest

A big science investment - but where’s the transparency?
99199 2018-11-17 00:00:00Z Tech

A big science investment - but where’s the transpa…

by Peter Griffin

An extra $420m is being pumped into the National Science Challenges - but the reasoning behind the increased investment won't be released.

Read more
NZ music legend Gray Bartlett has a new album – and a wild past
99182 2018-11-16 13:32:58Z Music

NZ music legend Gray Bartlett has a new album – an…

by Donna Chisholm

We revisit this profile on award-winning guitarist Gray Bartlett, who's just released a new album, Platinum!

Read more
Vint Cerf: The father of the Internet reflects on what his creation has become
99178 2018-11-16 13:13:08Z Tech

Vint Cerf: The father of the Internet reflects on …

by Peter Griffin

"We were just a bunch of engineers trying to make it work. It didn't even occur to us that anybody would want to wreck it," says Vint Cerf.

Read more
Win a double pass to the NZ premiere screening of Mary Queen of Scots
99165 2018-11-16 10:51:28Z Win

Win a double pass to the NZ premiere screening of …

by The Listener

Starring Academy Award nominees Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart.

Read more
Goodside: The North Shore’s new food precinct
99155 2018-11-16 09:33:23Z Auckland Eats

Goodside: The North Shore’s new food precinct

by Alex Blackwood

North Shore residents will have plenty to choose from at Goodside.

Read more
A tribute to the dexterous, powerful and vulnerable Douglas Wright
99153 2018-11-16 08:25:30Z Arts

A tribute to the dexterous, powerful and vulnerabl…

by Sarah Foster-Sproull

To choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull, Douglas Wright was both mentor and friend.

Read more
The death of Radio Live
99147 2018-11-16 06:54:48Z Radio

The death of Radio Live

by Colin Peacock

14 years after launching “the new voice of talk radio”, MediaWorks will silence Radio Live. Mediawatch looks at what could replace it.

Read more
Should Lime scooters stay or should they go?
99103 2018-11-16 00:00:00Z Social issues

Should Lime scooters stay or should they go?

by The Listener

For every safety warning, there’ll be a righteous uproar about the public good regarding the environment. It's about finding the right balance.

Read more