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Stuff: Maori eczema remedy spells good business for west Auckland mum

Michele Wilson with daughters Frankie, 19 months, and Eva, 5, who were the inspiration to starting a company using traditional Maori remedies to help children with sensitive skin.
Michele Wilson with daughters Frankie, 19 months, and Eva, 5, who were the inspiration to starting a company using traditional Maori remedies to help children with sensitive skin.

Michele Wilson's solution to her daughter's eczema problem quickly became a booming business.

The Te Atatu Peninsula mother of two turned to her own heritage, embracing the use of Maori herbal medicine, or rongoa, to make a product to help her daughter Eva's eczema.

She began foraging in the Mangawhai bush for traditional healing plants under her father's guidance. 

First she turned to kawakawa to make her own sunscreen for her daughter, now 5.

"Her eczema was so bad. It was all over her back of her legs and knees. Eva was so itchy she would cry and wake up with blood all over her sheets," Wilson, 32, says. I just wanted to help my daughter. She couldn't even wear sunscreen."

Within weeks the word had spread and Wilson had more orders than she could keep up with.  

Wilson, who is of the Tainui iwi, was doing so well she decided to give up her full-time job as a lawyer and concentrate on the business.

"The Te Atatu Peninsula community is very supportive, and within weeks word had spread and I had more orders than I could keep up with," Wilson says.

"Now I rent a commercial kitchen and my products are sold as far afield as Denmark."

The west Auckland mum has a range of natural skin products under the name Frankie Apothecary, after her second daughter Frankie, 19 months, because Wilson started the business when on maternity leave from work.

Wilson has been named as a finalist in the OhBaby! magazine's national awards in six different categories. 

"We're up against some really big fish and I'm just so humbled to be included."

Wilson works around 50 hours a week, putting in most hours late at night when her daughters are sleeping or on weekends.

She collects all of the plant materials and makes the products herself using traditional Maori methods.

There are several plants used for different medicinal purposes, these include kawakawa, manuka and harakeke which can help with different medical concerns.

"New mums think they need something for everything. But kawakawa cream is great for everything like cradle cap, nipple barrier and nappy rash," Wilson says.


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