Passion for less plastic wrapping in everyday life has made accidental entrepreneurs of Stacia Jenson and Miko Hayashi.
The Hawkes Bay couple started investing time and thought in alternative materials for food protection. Eighteen months on, their LilyBee Wrap business employs eight people, sells its eco-friendly product online and through a growing number of stores. They are also opening doors at some of New Zealand’s biggest companies. LilyBee Wrap is cotton fabric treated with a mix of beeswax, tree resin and coconut oil, and presented to the consumer as a visually attractive, hygienic and reusable food wrap in place of plastic film and other forms of plastic container.
Demand for LilyBee Wrap has taken off since Stacia and Miko sold their first batches at the Hastings farmers market and Stacia says they were blown away when Countdown approached them about adding the product to its growing range of sustainability choices for customers. “It’s been a wild ride keeping up with demand … we now employ eight people, mostly mothers who can work flexible hours while their children are at school,” she says. The couple have moved LilyBee Wrap production from home to leased business premises in Napier and they have joined GS1 to supply into Countdown and other stores.
Stacia believes LilyBee Wrap has tapped people’s growing alarm with the omnipresence of plastic wrapping. “It will become like smoking, people are turning away as they realise just now inundated we are with plastic. They feel overwhelmed and getting the stuff away from our food is a great place to start.”
The couple had their realisation while on a van trip around New Zealand. They were increasingly uneasy about the accumulation of plastic wrapping and its effect on their food in the summer heat. “Miko started experimenting with other materials including bees wax, it took a while but he came up with a solution which could be applied to the fabric, preferably organic cotton, and works extremely well,” says Stacia. Miko, his previous career includes cooking, keeps his recipe secret (as any good entrepreneur would!)
Other products are in the pipeline, along with new business relationships. Indeed, LilyBee Wrap has found common ground with Air New Zealand after Stacia’s approach with sample wraps. “They were very positive and we’re working on a new product especially for Air New Zealand.”
Business might be booming, but Stacia and Miko are determined to keep LilyBee Wrap a family business – that includes their baby daughter – and to retain their farmers’ market stall. And yes, the wraps are packaged in brown paper (now proudly bearing GS1 barcodes).
For more information: www.lilybeewrap.com