Matakana Botanicals (formerly Les Floralies) is a small family business which is simply dedicated to producing unique body care products
It all started back in 1986 when the founder of the company (then Les Floralies), Colyn Devereux (who I will refer to as Mum), was looking for a new “creative” opportunity. With a background in fashion and design she has always had a knack of picking the emerging new season styles and colours, back then they called them trends. Some people said my mother was very '"trendy"! We just thought she was real clever.
However, around this time the world was just starting to enter a “green” phase. People were suddenly questioning what they were buying and if it was good or bad for the environment. Some people cared, some did not. One product that was not helping was room fresheners sold in aerosol cans which contained a nasty ingredient called CFC’s. Research was showing that CFC’s were causing huge damage to the ozone layer and this did not sit well with Mum, sister Charlotte, me and about three million other Kiwis (New Zealanders).
A few months later having had an inspiring moment, Mum announced she had come up with an idea to replace nasty aerosol cans. She declared to my sister and I one night that she was going to make fragrant pot pourri from recycled wood shavings and other botanicals as long as they had fallen off a tree. We both thought she was joking and going slightly mad, until the next day I found myself being coaxed to climb up a huge silo at a timber yard to collect some fresh wood shavings.
Underneath our old house we had a large claw foot bath tub which we actually kept coal in, to run the home fires. This was soon emptied to become a dye and perfume bath for the fragrant wood shavings. Mum would be gone for hours experimenting with different colours and fragrances. She would then lay the dyed pot pourri outside to dry in the sun. Our house was alive with fresh aromas and the neighbours even thought we were excellent gardeners growing such fragrant flowers.
Mum was soon in search of all sorts of botanicals of different shapes and sizes to enhance its appearance. She even called up Watties, who produce most of New Zealand’s canned produce, to find out what they did with the used peach stones. Mum was real convincing but we underestimated a large eight-wheeler truck turning up filled with fermenting peach stones.
Soon she was preparing wood pot pourri in all sorts of colours so people could coordinate to a room’s interior. Word rapidly spread and soon we were all going flat out dyeing by day, bagging by night then delivering the next day. She decided we needed a fancy european name to make the products “desirable” and came up with Les Floralies which is the name of the flower markets in Belgium.
Even when it rained and we could not dry outside, Mum would put the wet wood shavings in a pillow slip and place in the clothes dryer. This sometimes caused great impact on the next load of washing to go through often ending in multi coloured garments which could have us associated with some real 'green' people.
Unfortunately, at this time (1987) the world share market crashed and New Zealand took a huge hit. Not the most ideal time to start a business but this was being driven out of passion to be creating something which looked good, smelled good, was good for you, affordable and was enhancing people’s wellbeing - something that we carry on today. It was not long before the media picked up on this little kiwi company doing good and soon exposed this talented lady creating unique room fragrance products from underneath her house. Mum even made the front cover of a few magazines.
Looking back after a few years running I think almost every third or fourth house in New Zealand would have had a bowl of our fragrant wood pot pourri in their house and this item had become an iconic Kiwi product. It had been made in a 'No 8 wire' type of way utilising on old bath tub initially to manufacture but also refined and packaged so to meet the High St market. It was at this time I suggested to Mum that we should maybe have a go at selling it in Australia, so at the age of 21, I packed my bags and headed off. These were great times as I was able to see a lot of Australia and visited towns like Wagga Wagga and ??. The Australians really liked our products and so did a major department store called David Jones. I think Mum had to buy another bath tub then.
After three to fours years of producing fragrant wood pourri it was time to set our sites on new areas of wellbeing. At this stage the emphasis was on using recycled packaging and soon we created our first range of bath and body products presented in olive green recycled bottles (old coke bottles) with cork stoppers and wax melted over the top …..no easy job! Soon this range gained a lot of attention locally and internationally and soon made way for many other ranges to be created and launched each year. These included Coming up Roses, Seascape, Senses, Zoe, Images & Dreams and many others.
Over the next few years the company experienced a lot of growth which really was a reflection of the unique products which were being created and the continued support and interest from the media. Highlights for the business over these years included:
Mum, soon was gaining the respect of business leaders in New Zealand and being invited to regularly publically speak at many functions across the country. This included speaking in front of the Prime Minister through to speaking to a small group of students. Either way I am sure she inspired both.
Then in 1999 Mum decided it was time for a change of direction and wished to take a bit of time out and I was offered the opportunity to purchase the business.This was a rather big move as I went from Sales Representative to Managing Director almost overnight. Nothing like jumping in the deep end!
However this was an exciting opportunity as it now gave me the creative opportunity to influence the design and direction of new ranges. Also prior to working at Les Floralies I had just completed a Horticulture course at university and have always maintained a great interest in working with plants and understanding their benefits. And no I don’t sound like David Belamy.
Today I enjoy getting down to the grass root levels and working along side growers and bee keepers where I know I am sourcing the best quality key ingredients direct from the farm gate.The ranges I create today are inspired by some of New Zealand’s most unique regions with the packaging being a reflection of these locations.
If there is one thing I am guilty of is being an overly proud Kiwi, often promoting our place (country) before our products. But then again I do believe they go hand in hand as our products are proudly “Made from New Zealand” which we now wish to share with people globally with a desire to export more.
Like our small beginnings we still have the same outlook with the emphasis on creating unique products which not only smell good but are good for you and assist to enhance your wellbeing.
We hope you have the opportunity to try our ranges and take home a piece of New Zealand to enjoy.
PS: If you are ever wondering what happened to Mum...she got bored walking the dogs and set up a smart maternity wear company www.eggmaternity.co.nz
with my sister!!