The Natural, Skin-Healing Power of Kawakawa

Kara Kawa

It was her upbringing in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand, foraging in her backyard surrounded by native plants, that inspired Kara Cowin to start Kara Kawa. Her skincare range is made from kawakawa and 100% natural ingredients. Kawakawa is a native New Zealand tree that is one of the most important herbs used in traditional Māori medicine. It is used to treat a wide range of ailments, including wounds, skin disorders, stomach issues and burns, because of its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. Kara Kawa products are gentle, effective and made by hand in Kara’s specially designed and built Kara Cottage. Here, she shares her story with The Natural Parent Magazine.

The passion: What inspired you to set up your business? 

I grew up in the Marlborough Sounds surrounded by native plants and nature. I can remember when I was young we had a book called How to Survive in the Bush, on the Coast, in the Mountains of New Zealand. My brother and I used to go out and forage for food in our backyard and make up all sorts of concoctions. 

My upbringing and where I grew up is the inspiration and passion that drove me to start Kara Kawa. 

The fact that natural skincare was so expensive when it didn’t have to be. And because of this, people were using non-natural products, most of which have long-term side effects. 

The launch: How did you start out in the beginning? 

An opportunity to make a natural healing balm for a local tattoo artist began my journey. She needed Kawakawa Healing Balm for healing tattoos, and I had the time and the knowledge to do it. 

I started out making small batches. The very first batch made 100g of Kawakawa Healing Balm and it took me over six weeks to produce from start to finish. 

I had a small stall to start with at one of the local markets, sales were hard and the days were long. But I persevered and quickly increased the people’s knowledge of how Kawakawa can help our skin. 

The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business? 

A local company fell in love with my Kawakawa Healing Balm, and all of their customers loved the results, so the demand increased from there. Customer feedback has been amazing, with people telling me how much the Healing Balm has helped their eczema, psoriasis and many other ailments. This gave me the push to further increase my product range, get my business online, and in more shops. 

Another breakthrough was finally having my own room to make my products. During the lockdown, my partner and I were able to finish off the building and setting up of my Kara Kawa Cottage. This is a standalone cottage that is set up specifically for my business. It is mainly benches and shelves that provide me with the ultimate area for making and producing my handmade products in a clean and safe environment. 

Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family? 

Balancing work and family has been a struggle since I started Kara Kawa. I have to stick to a tight schedule to fit everything into my day, but quite often days do not run to plan. Some nights I can be found in my cottage at 10pm wrestling a batch of soap or packaging orders. 

Working from home allows me to see my family and friends more than if I worked full time elsewhere. As long as I plan for it, I can take a day off if needed. 

My 17-year-old son loves helping me out, so we get to work and hang out at the same time.  

I also work 15 hours a week in a retail job, which I love because it gives me the opportunity to get out of the house and meet new people. Otherwise, I would probably just stay at home, become a recluse and work all of the time. 

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