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Leaving your job and creating a cottage industry takes courage

Creating a successful cottage industry is about finding a niche and making it your own, Marlborough entrepreneurs say.

Elsie Hall has owned Leighvander Cottage, which is nestled deep within Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, for 24 years. Her advice to anyone looking to start a home-based business is do your homework and corner an area of the market no-one else has.

Elsie’s studio and cafe business celebrates everything to do with lavender, and ranges from creating beauty products, medical products for humans and animals, and essential oils to selling plants, serving lavender tea and ice cream to tourists, and lavender chocolate at Christmas time. She even does oil paintings of lavender, which are for sale in her studio, in her spare time.

1474941110259When it comes to working with lavender trial and error has always been a vital part of the process, and Elsie says she was lucky to be able to work with two pharmacists in the early stages of her business.

At the time she started, in the early 1990s, organic products were not in vogue. “Nobody knew anything about natural products,” Elsie says. “All of the organic and natural products were not around 20 or 25 years ago. There were very few, if any. I think everyone used Nivea, back then in those days.”

The former Wairau Hospital laboratory technician tested her products on all sorts of people in the community until she had confidence that the product worked. She has patented six types of lavender, which all have ‘Leigh’ in their name, she says. They are named after her daughter.

The first one ever was Thumbelina Leigh. She has three more in the wings, and two will be released on the New Zealand market next spring. Another two are being trialled.

Elsie’s products are sold and freighted around New Zealand and overseas. She works with a distiller in Nelson to make lavender oil, but makes the other products at home.

She shares the workload with her Christchurch-based daughter, Vanessa.

Elsie says she started out with the idea that she wanted to grow something beautiful she could see from her kitchen window, but she wasn’t sure what. “I needed to fulfil my time here in the Wairau Valley or go back to work,” she said.

Her family were fourth-generation rose-growers, so growing things was “in the DNA”. She wanted to do something different to her family, and her “wonderful” childhood memories of lavender were one of the reasons she decided to focus on the plant.

Lavender has offered her an array of areas to work in, she says.

“There are just so many opportunities, so many different lines one could take,” she says.

See More at: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/small-business/84710406/leaving-your-job-and-creating-a-cottage-industry-takes-courage