This article appeared in Oh Natural - Your conscious beauty & lifestyle store.
Raised in Manurewa, Aucklander Michele Wilson created a high-flying career as a successful lawyer with legal partnership in her sights. But when her beloved grandmother passed, she experienced a vivid dream which drew her towards the discovery of Rongoá Máori. With ties to Waikato, Michele is of Tainui and Ngati Paoa descent, and her marae is Waiti. As with many Máori in the 70’s, her grandparents moved to Auckland to find work – which marked the beginning of a disconnect between Michele’s whánau and the rhythms of the land. Despite her urban childhood, this prophetic dream made Michele determined to reconnect with the practice of Rongoá and help preserve the knowledge for future generations.
Reaching out to widespread whanau, Michele gathered together threads of precious Rongoá wisdom, and applied this tikanga to create a Kawakawa based remedy for her small child’s severe skin allergies. To her delight the balm worked virtually overnight, and as other parents asked to try the eczema balm for their children, Michele’s skin remedy became a global phenomenon! Within six months, the Frankie Apothecary Kawakawa Balm was featured in Stuff, Britain’s Daily Mail, NZ Women’s Weekly, and numerous other publications, as well as winning a Top 10 Most Recommended Award from Ohbaby. Talk about an overnight sensation!
This rapid spread of awareness is no surprise – parents of children with sensitive skin conditions or eczema are always seeking a skin remedy that works; and finally finding a cream that soothes your child’s skin is a lot like a personal miracle! Skin allergies and eczema are absolutely heart-breaking in small children, and eczema is a common condition for New Zealand children. Starship reports that New Zealand is 9th out of 60 countries for rates of eczema in children, with around 17% of kiwi children suffering eczema. Eczema is more common in Māori and Pasifika children than other ethnicities, and hospital admissions for infective dermatitis and other forms of eczema and dermatitis are highest in infants under one year old. New Zealand was more than ready for a fast working skin remedy.
Michele saw the demand for the Kawakawa skin balm as catalyst to change her course dramatically. She left her legal career and began working on Frankie full time.
“I am one to always listen to my gut and what the universe shows me; and I saw this as a sign to embark on a journey to delve deeper into my knowledge of Rongoá Máori to find ways of helping people – whether that be by finding healthy skin, or finding their mauri; their purpose.”
MICHELE’S GO-TO PRODUCT? KAWAKAWA REPAIR BALM
The Kawakawa Repair Balm is made sustainably and incredibly multipurpose, and a million times more healing than synthetic based products. It’s a shift in conscious shopping, as Michele knows the one product can repair and heal all sorts of things alongside the eczema and skin irritations it is famous for.
“I wish more people knew how multipurpose the Frankie Kawakawa Balm is. People ask if I can create a nappy balm – don’t need to. Can I create a lip balm – don’t need to. Can I create a stretch mark cream – don’t need to. All they need is this one product.”
Some of the most common uses for the Kawakawa Repair Balm are as a topical eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis treatment; an intensive night repair balm for dry skin; an intensive body moisturiser; a beautiful lip balm or eyebrow balm, a stretch mark repair cream, a nappy balm, a nipple balm, a bug repellent, relief on chicken pox or as a hand cream.
Michele says she loves to see the photos and hear the incredible stories of her wonderful customers, from small children who can now enjoy daily life, to adults with serious skin issues who finally find relief.
“My favourite story was when a woman who had struggled with psoriasis for 30 years, had phototherapy treatment, and had been told by her hospital specialist that her condition would most likely not change, emailed me to say that her psoriasis had completely cleared from one hand after only one week of using the Frankie Kawakawa Repair Balm.”
CREATING AN ETHICAL, SUSTAINABLE FAMILY-BASED BUSINESS
All the Kawakawa for the Frankie balms is grown and harvested at the family home in Mangawhai, from a combination of wild, regenerative and new Kawakawa bushes organically grown from seed, which ensure the natural supply is not depleted. A Karakia is offered at each harvest to thank the forest for its bounty, and harvesting is always a family affair, with children, cousins and Michele’s father helping. Only a small amount is taken from each plant, and seeds are moved around the forest floor to encourage new growth. The Kawakawa is extracted as traditionally as possible, with no electricity at all used in the extraction process.
Michele loves working on the land with her children, and says they are “100% the reason” why she chose to leave her career to start her own business. Frankie allows her to have the flexibility to work around the children’s needs, and she believes that her work is having a wonderful effect on her children, who both have a keen interest in ‘mother nature’ and love developing their own products.
“I love seeing my children learning about Rongoá Máori, Papatuánuku, and things like wáirua – the idea that that which is unique is contained within; finding the feeling that you are connected, bound to and linked to all things unseen. This is an integral part of my work and our journey.”
The story of Frankie Apothecary is the story of a woman finding her true calling and has led Michele onto the start of a lifelong journey of learning and practising Rongoá. We look forward to seeing what beautiful, effective, sustainable products she creates next as she delves deeper into the world of healing.