When Nadie Tillman decided to return to the peace of Northland's Tutukaka Coast after living in Los Angeles for 10 years, she seized the opportunity to make a business from her natural surrounds. Her company Awaken Therapies draws on her Māori heritage to create natural healing balms, using primarily native New Zealand flora.
1. Hi Nadie! Tell us a bit about Awaken Therapies. What do you do, and how did the business come about?
Awaken Therapies is a home-based business handcrafting small batches of natural healing balms using primarily native New Zealand flora. I've always had an interest in the natural healing arts, but I had the proverbial light-bulb-moment when I combined my learning from Te Wānanga o Aotearoa's certificate in small business management with rongoa (traditional Māori medicine) appreciation. It made sense that I could market a line of healing balms made from native New Zealand plants by calling on innate wisdom from my Māori heritage; my grandfather was a known Māori healer, and my grandmother used to do house clearings.
Some bandy the word organic around a bit too freely; I use spray free, wild-picked plant material that yes, is organic in origin, but when labeling product organic without being certified, I feel that’s purposely misleading. I also buy in certified organic calendula and comfrey root. The kawakawa grows beautifully in my back yard.
The business came about through the desire to use fewer chemicals on our bodies, and with knowing that these plants have absolutely amazing healing qualities. More and more people are being drawn to natural products, steering away from harmful pharmaceuticals. I like to say my balms are simple but effective. Extremely effective. I have customers who have tried everything for eczema and psoriasis, and yet this simple, inexpensive balm has been better than them all.
Above: The stunning Tutukaka Coast, where Awaken Therapies is based.
2. Where are you based? How important is location to what you do?
I am located on the Tutukaka Coast in Northland which is absolutely breathtaking and soul soothing, so I feel this sense of peace transfers to my balms.
3. Tell us a bit about your product range
I currently make kawakawa balm and oil, and have recently introduced a vegan version. These are good for any skin irritations including cuts and scrapes, nappy rash, eczema and psoriasis, and they're super nourishing and moisturising – great for faces and bodies. Kawakawa has anti-fungal properties. I also make calendula balm, which is a treasure trove of anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Great for banishing warts and taking the itch out of bites, and healing on burns, cuts and bites.
Tupakihi and comfrey balm is good for aching muscles, inflammation, bruising, strains and sprains, gout and chest congestion. It's also brilliant on arthritis.
The last balm in the range is the Mum & Bub balm, which is a combination of the kawakawa and calendula for extra oomph. All the balms are very gentle (but mighty) and even those with sensitive skin can use them with no issues.
4. When did you discover Go Native?
I first discovered Go Native around four years ago when I was experimenting and thinking I would just make balms for family and as gifts for friends – so they've been a big part of my journey! I use a few core ingredients from Go Native in my balms to this day.
5. Have you had any mishaps in the process of making your own balms?
I haven’t really had any mishaps as such – maybe accidentally dipping a finger in a balm but it just gets added to those I use around home. Maybe adhering labels a little too wonky!
6. What's the coolest thing you've learned in the process of running your business and making your products?
The coolest thing about doing this is the satisfaction of knowing something I’ve made with my own two hands has helped so many people. I’m very passionate about my balms because I know how well they work. A local childcare center in Tikipunga uses it and the children all know it as the ‘Magic Balm’ as it fixes all their ailments, I love that.
7. What natural beauty products or ingredients do you find yourself recommending most often?
I’m not a huge consumer of beauty products. I use water to wash my face and kawakawa balm to moisturise. I used kawakawa balm for sunburn and chapped lips. I use it on my animals as it stops infections from worsening and gets them under control. My kids use it. My son's teenage friends use it. I have the balms in my bedroom, my car and my handbag because they work on almost anything.
8. Who are your favourite social media follows for inspiration?
One of my favourite social media follows on Instagram is Urb Apothecary in Santa Cruz, CA as they make plant-centered products that are ‘good for you, good for your spirit, and good for the earth’
You can find Nadie's products on the Awaken Therapies Facebook page, where orders can be made directly. Pick ups can be made in person locally in the Whangarei area at Bin Inn Kamo, Power Plant and Eco Hub.
If you're a maker that uses Go Native ingredients, we'd love to feature you on these pages! Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org