Aromatherapist Rachael Pearce is a small business owner who has gone from strength to strength and is one of the ‘COVID positive’ businesses in the Bay.
Rachael owns and operates Wholesale Aroma Supplies, a local business which imports glass bottles, containers, inhalers etc for the natural health industry, including aromatherapists, homeopaths, naturopaths and skincare manufacturers to develop products (immune products, beard oils, hair products, honey based products, tonics, tinctures, immune boosters, household cleaners, yoga mat sprays – and more).
This has since grown to provide to clients in the cosmetic industry, health sector and manufacturing sector.
She started the business three years ago, when she decided to invest money into a business for her daughter’s future.
“I had a small online business selling bottles and accessories for essential oil users where I used to bring in colourful bottles by the tray and the freighting cost was way above the value of the bottles.
“I saw an opportunity at that time to import the bottles in bulk with the intention to sell to other people in the aromatherapy and natural health business.”
As demand for the products has increase, so has Rachael’s business grown to the point where she now operates a warehouse, employs warehouse staff, and has expanded the business by renting warehouse space and packing and sending out orders for other small businesses.
We asked Rachael some quick fire questions to get to know her and her business better.
What is your background in business – is this your first business? What previous industries have you worked in or jobs have you had?
I am one of those typical Kiwi chicks, bought up in the country with a number 8 fencing wire mentality.
I left school at 15 and studied fashion design, pattern drafting and tailoring for two years. I then proceeded to start my own sewing business, (where I rented an under store space from the local diary, and later a friends front lawn cabin) which I did off and on for several years, alternating it with bouts of office work whenever the creative flow ebbed or I needed to be around other people again.
At age 23 I went off for my OE experience – which was slightly different to most people, as I started in Israel volunteering in the Israeli Defence Force (Jewish Heritage). After a short-term stint working on three different Army bases, and learning how to strip and clean an M16 rifle and a military tank, I went to England where I was a nanny for a period of time before returning to NZ where I once again became self-employed as a sole charge nanny temp (usually while the parents were overseas).
I was then offered a job to return to England with three-year-old triplets to nanny them for six months while the family found a home and settled in London.
From here I went to the Russian Far East to volunteer with an organisation working with the Russian Jewish People for three months. My heart was broken by the number of children I met on the streets, dirty, hungry and begging for food, so I gained support from my church in New Zealand and went back for a year to work with a local church in Vladivostok. I started feeding the street kids, which led to starting a charity where I travelled the world to raise awareness and money for this work.
I stayed living in Vladivostok for nine years, where I then began to alternate three months on, three months off for the next five years. After getting married in 2010 and having my first baby at aged 40 years, we went back to living full time in Russia for a couple of years. The charity went through many changes and morphed into what it is today – Russian run, mostly Russian funded, and working under invitation and in cooperation with the local city and State governments. My involvement now is as a loved ‘mother’ who goes back to visit many of the young people I helped over the years and to meet their growing families.
I came back to New Zealand six years ago, and commenced my aromatherapy training and started my online business selling essential oils, diffusers and bottles etc to other oil users… and then Wholesale Aroma Supplies was born.
What do you enjoy the most about owning your own business? And what are some of the challenges?
The first thing I love, and the reason I will always want to be my own boss, is that I have the freedom to be a mother on my own terms. I can attend school sports days, be a parent helper in the class, stay home if my daughter is sick and be with her.
I also enjoy learning – about growing a business, new products, working with people. But all these things I enjoy also bring the biggest challenges, including the stress of a growing business, how to meet the weekly payments with cashflow, having staff that don’t share the same passion for the business and working with international cultures to get what I need.
Have you seen a rise in interest in your products over lockdown and beyond as more people get into making their own products and, if so, why do you think this is?
We had our best ever month in lockdown (March), due to the demand for bottles for hand sanitisers. This introduced our company to many businesses who had not previously heard about us and has grown our client base, particularly in the corporate market.
Since then we have seen smaller businesses start to approach us, and I enjoy working with them to decide which of our products best suits their needs and products.
What was your own business experience through the COVID-19 alert levels?
We had a lot of people wanting us to send bottles, but we had to go through the process of ensuring that they met the Essential Services Criteria… otherwise we could have been massively fined for sending items to them.
Some people did not like this and expected us to jump through hoops for them. Others were lovely and were prepared to wait till after lockdown. But we saw an increase of manufacturers finding us on the internet when their usual suppliers were unable to provide, which has led to a massive expansion of the business.
Personally, I had an eight- year-old at home and a 16-year-old exchange student – both of whom I had to help with home schooling. I was also trying to balance their needs with work, making sure that we were doing craft projects, going for walks, baking etc.
All in all, I found the time quite stressful as I am also contending with an autoimmune disease which limits the amount of energy I have in any one day!
We were using a local logistics company to process all our orders but sadly they were making so many mistakes it was ruining relationships with our clients sand causing huge emotional stress – so we had to take back the responsibility of processing the orders and customer satisfaction ourselves.
We have now taken on our own warehouse, employed warehouse staff and expanded the business by renting warehouse space, and packing and sending out orders for other small businesses.
What are some of your business goals for the next six months or so?
Now that we have our own facility, we are hoping to grow the pick and pack logistics side of the business, as well as reach out to more manufacturing businesses for the bigger corporate sales.
We are in the process of creating a corporate catalogue so then I can start calling on people and showing them what we have to offer.
Anything else you’d like to add about yourself or your business?
One of the unique aspects of our business is that we are owner operators and can show that we care about our clients. We have the ability to source clients’ requirements, so even if we don’t usually stock what they need, we are able to source what they want and provide for ongoing orders for them.
We also can now offer screen printing directly onto the bottles from the factory, which provides a cost effective way of labelling bottles.