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

Germany considered changing the autobahn speed limit and people weren't happy
102497 2019-02-21 00:00:00Z World

Germany considered changing the autobahn speed lim…

by Cathrin Schaer

A Government-initiated working group suggested putting a speed limit of 130km/h on motorways to lower emissions and make roads safer. Big mistake.

Read more
Stan & Ollie pays tribute to Laurel and Hardy's brilliant buffoonery
102440 2019-02-21 00:00:00Z Movies

Stan & Ollie pays tribute to Laurel and Hardy's br…

by James Robins

John C Reilly and Steve Coogan are lifelong devotees to comic duo Laurel and Hardy – and it shows.

Read more
Colin Hogg: Why my mates matter (and keep on ending up in my books)
102594 2019-02-21 00:00:00Z Books

Colin Hogg: Why my mates matter (and keep on endin…

by Colin Hogg

With his second book about Sam Hunt proving a hit, Colin Hogg ponders why so much of his writing career has been inspired by his mates.

Read more
Vote for your favourite dish in the 2019 Peugeot People’s Choice Award
102345 2019-02-21 00:00:00Z Top 50 Restaurants

Vote for your favourite dish in the 2019 Peugeot P…

by Metro

Vote for your favourite dish in the 2019 Peugeot People’s Choice Award and be in to win dinner for two.

Read more
Death of the gods: The woeful response to kauri dieback disease
102578 2019-02-21 00:00:00Z Planet

Death of the gods: The woeful response to kauri di…

by Bob Harvey

The closer you get to a kauri, the more you realise you are looking at one of the wonders of the planet.

Read more
National’s failure to grasp climate change a major challenge for NZ
102598 2019-02-21 00:00:00Z Planet

National’s failure to grasp climate change a major…

by Steve Abel

National's Bluegreen wing are set to hold their annual conference this weekend. Greenpeace’s Steve Abel will be there to challenge the party.

Read more
The native Mandarin speaker who's translating te reo on television
102606 2019-02-20 22:10:47Z Education

The native Mandarin speaker who's translating te r…

by Vomle Springford

Lidu Gong first started learning te reo in bed.

Read more
Win a double pass to Everybody Knows
102573 2019-02-20 13:19:44Z Win

Win a double pass to Everybody Knows

by The Listener

Starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, Everybody Knows is a gripping new thriller about the fissures and fault lines that can tear a family apart.

Read more