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Whilst the thriving natural environment of the Waimakariri District was a key driver in James Malcolm’s choice of location for his new honey business back in 2011, it was the community support and spirit that kept him here after disaster struck.
Six years after he started Natural New Zealand Honey in Okuku, business was buzzing for James.
“It was May, 2017,” explains Laura Malcolm, Sales Manager at Natural New Zealand Honey. “A paraffin dipper which we use to preserve the wooden bee boxes caught fire. There was a handful of people at the shed that day and we all did our best to extinguish the fire but unfortunately by the time the fire brigade arrived the iron on the shed was glowing red and the building paper had started to burn on the inside of the shed. I had to make the call to get out as our staff’s safety was paramount.”
With the business infrastructure largely in tatters, it would have been easy to walk away. But the local community pitched in to ensure the business was able to get back on its feet.
“Through the smoke there was sunshine,” says Laura. “Everyone just stepped up from the start. Every local fire unit, farmers, contractors and neighbours spending hours cleaning up. The food kept coming and there was plenty of team moral to keep us going. We are very grateful to our community here in North Canterbury.”
After the clean-up, it became clear that, despite what was lost, there was an opportunity for development. “If you dwell on the negatives it will get you down, so you have to look at the positives. Because of the fire, we had multiple opportunities to do things differently,” explains Laura.
As well as making changes to their equipment and the size of their buildings, a number of new ventures were formed and a new acquisition made.
“Since the fire we have formed Natural Wood & Co - a joinery workshop specialising in wood products and custom joinery - and Natural Extraction Ltd, which is a honey extraction plant offering contract extraction to local beekeepers across the South Island.”
Natural New Zealand Honey also purchased artisan honey business Foothills Honey, and conducted a complete rebrand.
“In the past there has been low brand awareness around Foothills Honey so we decided to completely re-brand with an aesthetically pleasing glass jar that is environmentally friendly, and very colourful and modern labelling. We want to offer people the whole package from plant to plate, and offer everyday people like you and I honest, export-quality honey.”
“The fire has been such a huge learning process for everyone in the company. Everyone is a lot more cautious for one, but the team has become closer and stronger, and the teamwork and community presence here in North Canterbury has been amazing.”
“We are a people business and this was very apparent when overcoming such a huge obstacle.”
Natural New Zealand Honey is located at 100 Foothills Road, Okuku. The Foothills brand of honey is available in Foodstuffs supermarkets, nationwide. For more information on Natural New Zealand Honey visit https://www.naturalnzhoney.co.nz/.