While botanicals, and organic ingredients in skincare are all the rage now, when Sarah Cowan’s mother, Lynn Kirkland, launched a range of herbal beauty products—products free of synthetics and chemical nasties and brimming with active goodness—from her home in New Zealand 30 years ago, she was pretty much on her own.
“We call her a pioneer,” said Cowan, proudly. “Back then natural products weren’t at all mainstream like they are today. But she wasn’t phased by the industry being new, she just believed in what she was doing, and she deeply wanted to share it with others.”
The roots of Kirkland’s journey began with the ill health of her son, Craig, who had been suffering from ongoing respiratory infections.
“Nothing seemed to stop it,” said Cowan. “My mum says the turning point was when she took him back to the doctor and asked what else they could do besides more antibiotics, and the doctor just shrugged his shoulders and said ‘I don’t know.’”
At a seemingly dead end and frustrated, Kirkland took things into her own hands and sought a solution to her son’s health issues closer to home—specifically in her own garden.
“Mum decided to take the power back into her own hands and to look to see what nature could offer,” said Cowan.
Completing a herbal diploma in1990, Kirkland began to experiment and make remedies from her kitchen, using fresh ingredients grown on her own farm, and trialing them on her son as well as friends and neighbours. After being inundated with requests for more of her homemade products, she knew she was onto a winner and so, in 1993, The Herb Farm was born.
Initially selling from her home “cupboard,” Kirkland soon expanded to a retail shop, followed by ‘destination’ gardens and a cafe, and purpose built manufacturing facility, all on the family’s idyllic 15 acres in Palmerston North, on New Zealand’s North Island.
“My mother had a vision for a place where people could come and experience the magic of nature and herbs,” said Cowan.
But it wasn’t just the customers who had been won over, Cowan herself was equally enamoured by her mother’s venture.
Despite a successful stint modelling overseas, she felt the pull of the family business and returned home to join Lynn. Embarking on a business degree, she bought into The Herb Farm 15 years ago, and now helps steer its direction via her position as managing director.
“It combined my love of natural living and my freshly acquired business degree!” said Cowan.
In the years that followed, The Herb Farm has rapidly grown their NZ customer base and beyond, now counting Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, China, and—most recently—Australia, as fans of their 100 percent natural “farm to face” skincare line.
“We started selling on Amazon.com.au to reach Australian customers about two years ago,” said Cowan. “Knowing the great tools available on Amazon, we jumped on the opportunity as soon as we could.”
Launching with their full skincare range—including the top-selling Nourishing Rose Face Cream—they gradually added more products, restocking based on what was selling, and what wasn’t.
“Amazon Australia allowed us to both reach a much wider Australian audience,” said Cowan. “And to test what works in this market in a very cost-effective way by leveraging Amazon’s expansive resources. It’s great to be able to see what Aussies are buying, and from which states.”
Looking towards the future, Cowan wants to replicate the success The Herb Farm has had on Amazon Australia overseas.
“It’s definitely on our radar,” she said. “We’ve had interest from the US already, so working with Amazon.com is something we’d like to explore.”
But ultimately, the most important consideration for Cowan is to stay true to her mum’s initial vision: to provide sustainable, all-natural products that really make a difference.
“Those core values we started with are key,” said Cowan. “It’s so important to us as we grow that we hold true to them, because they do get challenged the bigger you get."
“It’s not all about profit—it’s about people, and taking them on this journey with us. I see it as our responsibility to make a positive impact on the world for future generations,” Cowan said, smiling. “That’s what’s really important.”
The Herb Farm is one of the hundreds of NZ businesses selling on Amazon.com.au. See more.