Formula Botanica now has thousands of students in over 110 countries around the world. We love keeping up with our students and finding out what they’re up to – if you look on our Formula Botanica graduates page, you’ll see many dozens of organic brands all around the world. Today we speak to one of our students in New Zealand, who runs her gorgeous natural brand called Archeus.
Georgina is currently working through our Advanced Diploma and we wanted to share Georgina’s story to show you who our students are and why they enrol with Formula Botanica. Georgina runs an amazing business and we want to inspire you with her story.
Hi Georgina, can you please tell us a bit more about you and your background?
My name is Georgina Langdale and I am based in New Zealand. I grew up on a farm, initially in England but then in New Zealand. What followed was an international career that traversed the arts, corporate sector and conservation. But where ever possible I tried to bring my love of nature into my working world.
I’ve worked in radio, television and ran a small cultural communications agency in London. Along the way I was really lucky to have the opportunity to work at the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew. These gardens aren’t just a beautiful place to visit, they are a treasure trove of over 350 years of plant data and history, a research and conservation facility and a great communicator for our natural world. While working at Kew I used the opportunity to spend time in the magnificent reference library losing myself in ethnobotanic texts relating to the use of plants in medicine and healing.
In 2008 I was invited to take on a role with the United Nations Environment Programme working on the influential TEEB study into The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (basically making an economic case for the conservation of nature). It was during this time that I got thinking about how I could build a 21st Century company from scratch – one that draws from, and gives back to, Nature. And I realised that I wanted to do that here, back in New Zealand so I returned here in 2011.
Meanwhile over the years I have kept my private passions fuelled by taking studies in environmental science, massage therapy, herbalism, aromatherapy, reiki and naturopathy and somewhere deep inside personal interests and professional experience began to combine.
Where are you based and what do you?
My business is called Archeus and is based in the countryside near Napier in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. This region is famous for its gorgeous vineyards and orchards. We are very fortunate as we have five and a half acres which includes beautiful gardens. There are many medicinal herbs I have planted and many that were already there, along with a myriad of beautiful well-established trees on the property and stunning views over a winding estuary to the city of Napier and the Pacific Ocean in the distance. I have a large apothecary building on the property that I work in but as sales have grown I have leased a separate commercial space just down the road, for the production of my products.
Archeus is inspired by nature and the traditions of the artisan and the herbal healer. Nature provides us with so much and so I believe it is only right to give something back. With this in mind I have placed plant conservation at the very heart of the company. Every product I sell contributes some funds to my conservation project pot.
I wanted to create a business that celebrates and upholds the craft of the artisan. I celebrate the fact it takes time to make many of my products and processes that cannot be replicated by some distant contract manufacturer somewhere. I make everything in small batches – little and often. Batch sizes may vary from 1 – 20 litres at a time. I have a range of alembic stills so I can make hydrosols from plants growing around the property such as lavender, rosemary and pine. I make many of the tinctures I use and I gather all the plant materials used in things like my smudge sticks from plants and trees on the property.
I believe that this direct relationship with nature adds to the products I make, and most certainly influences my approach to formulation. To know a plant, how and where it grows, how it responds to local climate and seasons, how other creatures respond to it or other plants grow around it is all part of understanding how and when to use it in products you make.
The region I am based in is a great wine-growing area and in viticulture there is a term ‘terroir’ which refers to how a particular region’s climate, soils and aspect (terrain) affect the taste of wine. I am becoming increasingly interested in applying this concept to my products, by using the captured spirit of plants in essences, hydrosols etc. that I have made to augment certain characteristics of the final product and imbue it with qualities unique to my property.
The other day I was giving a talk to about 50 women and someone came up afterwards and said, ‘you are not just a skincare expert, you are an alchemist’. I loved that!!!
Where did the name Archeus come from and where did you get the inspiration for your brand?
The word Archeus [Ah-kee-us] originates from the early 16th Century. It was the term created by the physician and alchemist, Paracelsus, for the vital force that connects man, nature and the universe. Paracelsus believed that to heal and to do alchemy one had to work with this force, this Archeus. Today we know this force by many other names such as prana, anima mundi, chi, mauri, but I love the strength and mysticism of Archeus. I also particularly like that it does not infer a particular industry sector or gender. This gives me the latitude to develop the Archeus brand in a number of ways.
I am inspired by the way we have worked with nature throughout the ages such as traditional herbalism and the rituals that pay respect to and connect us with the natural world. When I lived in London for many years there were times when I would feel very disconnected from nature and would have paid anything for a pot of something that would soak into my skin and make me feel connected again. I figured there must be others feeling like me and so I started to dream about creating Archeus so I could meet that need.
I approach the formulation of my skincare products by drawing knowledge and inspiration from the herbalist tradition end of the spectrum rather than the contemporary beauty trends side of things. I want to make sure every ingredient is there for a healing reason, not as a filler or a fad and I like to see how ancient traditions can meet our needs in this modern world. I think of this as ‘nature wisdom for modern living’.
What type of skincare products do you sell at Archeus and which one is your favourite?
I make a modest range of skincare products including moisturisers, facial oils and mists, cleansers, masks, balms and perfume oils.
I am proud of my Archeus Vital Ink Tattoo Conditioning Oil because in 2015 it was selected as a finalist for Best New Natural Product at the Pure Beauty Awards – wonderful recognition and encouragement for a small artisan apothecary!
I must confess though I am very fond of my Everlasting Oil with Calendula & Helichrysum. I love it because it captures the magic of applying traditional herbal knowledge to creating a modern skincare product. It takes days to make because of the slow artisanal process of maceration and is deliciously gentle and kind to the skin.
To be honest I see 2017 as the year of phasing out some of my older formulas and bringing in some new ones. I have developed as a formulator over the past few years and feel that some of the more standard products don’t really fit in the Archeus offering anymore. This creates a bit of a business challenge though as I have customers who love them!
We see that you also run workshops. Can you tell us a little about them and how they work?
I’ve been running workshops for just over a year. The workshops take place in my apothecary building which was originally a boatshed but underwent an ‘upcycle makeover’ when my partner and I bought our rural five acre property a few years ago. It’s a really beautiful location, surrounded by nature!
The idea of sharing knowledge is important to me and how I work. I think of myself as another link in a daisy chain of women healers and alchemists through time. These traditions have been built on the handing on of knowledge from mother to daughter, wise woman to apprentice and for me it is part of that legacy to maintain this tradition.
Workshops are limited to eight to ten participants and are a day or half a day long. I teach a variety of topics such as making your own natural skincare products, natural perfumery, making your own incense, candles and smudge sticks. I don’t set out to blind people with science in these workshops, but I do attempt to open doors onto centuries of herbal wisdom, the language, legend and lore of plants and the joy of being able to do something for yourself and friends and family.
People travel from all over New Zealand to come to these workshops and I have even had people travel from a far afield as Australia and Tonga to come to one, which is lovely. Coming to one of my workshops is often an opportunity for mothers and daughters to bond, friends to celebrate birthdays or special occasions and overly stressed professionals to drop out for a day and give themselves a treat.
Which courses are you taking with Formula Botanica and how do you intend to use this information in your business?
I am a great believer in continuing professional development and so I like to keep studying. I have found that the more I have learned over the years the more I enjoy seeing how different people do things. I love those ‘ah I hadn’t thought of that’ moments. It is very easy to become set in one’s ways and this can apply to how you formulate products as much as anything else. Continuing to study is a nice way of shaking your own tree a bit. I am enrolled in the Advanced Diploma in Organic Cosmetic Science at the moment and I must confess that it can be hard making time for the study as the business grows but I am not going to beat myself up about that – it will get done and I look forward to moments when I can take a bit of time out to do the course. It might inspire some new Archeus products!
While talking about study, over the last 30 years I have undertaken training in all sorts of things including herbalism, massage, anatomy & physiology, nutrition, naturopathy, reiki, bach flower essences and this all works its way into my business. I am an avid reader and so keep devouring texts on these and related topics. I believe that study in subjects such as anatomy & physiology is an important pre-requisite for developing skincare products; a sound understanding of herbalism means you know what each botanical ingredient does and where and when to use them – or not use them. Spending time really understanding contraindications etc is important and you really owe that sort of due diligence to your customers. The other area of study not to be overlooked is getting to grips with cosmetic legislation. I studied EU cosmetic legislation at the very beginning of my Archeus journey and I found taking the time to do that has been invaluable.Building a business takes time and a lot of energy. Never stop learning! via @ArcheusVital Click To Tweet
What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
1. I love seeing how a brand builds. I get a huge kick out of seeing people respond so warmly to my products and workshops and ethos. It is a special feeling seeing people respond to something that didn’t exist before you created it. I think there is a path that new businesses take where at the beginning they don’t have an identity of their own, they are an extension of you and your hard work, but then over time that starts to change. Brand perception builds and your little business baby starts to stand on its own two feet and people start to recognise the brand and not necessarily you. I love seeing that happen. Until about a year ago I was pulling Archeus along with my energy and now it has its own momentum and I am now the one running to keep up.
2. I love the fact that I can build a business how I want to – in my case this was to create a business that placed sustainability and plant conservation at its core. I am the land and the land is me; nature provides us with so much food, shelter, clothes, medicines, cultural identity…. beautiful ingredients for our products, so I believe it is only right that we should give something back. I have set up a plant conservation project in my local region to restore native plant habitats so that a rare and precious plant that is significant to me and to the history of the region may thrive in this landscape once again. A portion of proceeds from every single product I sell goes towards this conservation work.
3. And I love the creative freedom that running my own business brings. Who says I can’t sell smudge sticks, handcrafted from trees and plants growing on my property, as well as moisturiser!?
Oh and there is one more thing I love about running my own business and that is that I think I have become a more confident person because of it. I have learned to believe in myself and my vision. You have to have courage because at times it can be scary and you have to never be afraid of asking for help if you need it. Building a business teaches you a lot about you.
What was the hardest thing about launching your own skincare range?
This question follows on nicely from my last point. For me one of the hardest things about launching a skincare range was not one I was expecting – and that was the identity crisis it brought with it! I had built up a successful career in Europe and travelled the world working as a consultant, first in cultural communications and then in global environmental issues and economics. I had a tribe. People knew me. Then I returned to NZ to start to build Archeus because I knew that deep down I just had to get my hands back into the soil and my head into creating this business I had been dreaming of. I hadn’t lived in NZ for about 20 years so admittedly that didn’t help as I had no tribe any more. When people asked what I did and I said something about setting up a skincare business, their eyes would glaze over and they would kind of walk away. I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously and that suddenly I had gone from respected professional to a loser! This is where the courage bit came in for me. Courage to keep going in spite of this.
I am glad I hung in there.
The other thing that can be hard at times is when you open a magazine and see all these other skincare brands and you think ‘oh my god how am I ever going to cut through all this competition?’ I don’t worry about that so much anymore because each has its own story and I think that one of the joys of the internet is that it has supported a renaissance of the artisan. We can reach much bigger audiences than we ever could before and so I think this brings with it opportunity for the minnows as well as the sharks.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to aspiring skincare entrepreneurs who want to follow in your footsteps?
Be patient. Building a business takes time and a lot of energy (and money)… and never stop learning!
Update 2021: Since we interviewed Georgina in 2018, she has pivoted the focus of her business and while still making products as a white label enterprise, she now focuses her energy on a new project – The Centre for Nature Connection. Georgina trains, coaches and consults on ways to help people connect with nature. You can find her at:
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Lorraine Dallmeier is a Biologist, Chartered Environmentalist and the CEO of Formula Botanica, the award-winning online organic cosmetic science school. Read more about Lorraine and the Formula Botanica Team.