Leaving city life to build a new future on Aotea/Great Barrier Island sounds like a dream. For Felicitas Weisbach it has come true, along with starting Kaitoke Wilds, her essential oils and natural skincare business. She and her partner share care of their young son; she works part-time at the island's radio station and he serves on the local board.
Felicitas, who worked in social media while in Auckland, now lives off the grid and sells at markets and online. A long-time interest in aromatherapy first saw her “tailoring to what I needed myself” before realising her remedies had wider appeal.
It’s been tough juggling the time-consuming tasks of making the oils, seeking quality ingredients and plastic-free packaging and even weighing the ethics of being a company which, from an island base, inevitably involves import/export. Felicitas admits to working through a mini crisis, but buoyed by a loyal following of local customers dropping in for refills she is forging ahead.
Setting up a small solar-powered studio separate from home was an important step. On top of the essential oils, she now makes gentle solar-infused products using medicinal herbs and flowers in a healing kawakawa oil base.
She has tracked down artisan growers across New Zealand, whereas with essential oils, only a limited range originates here.
“Kaitoke Wilds Forager’s Collection was born of the yearning to create something magic which was truly 100 per cent Aotearoa,” she says.
Ingredients are organic, spray-free or wild harvested, then dried and blended in micro-batches. “My vision is to create a network of growers, to encourage locally grown and produced… to have the smallest possible carbon footprint.”