Margie Thomas is well-known in Tauranga for her bubbly personality and can-do attitude. She’s also the creator of HoneyBliss, a natural skincare range that uses the healing powers of active Manuka honey and high quality essential oils. What’s more, Margie lovingly manufactures the range of balms, butters, moisturisers and spritzers, herself.
Since first getting married at the tender age of 19, she’s had 35 shifts of house and has lived in a number of different countries. Along the way she has raised six children – five of her own and a step daughter from the age of 7. Her youngest two are now 26.
Margie has worked in a diverse range of jobs and businesses – teaching, dairy farming, tutoring and running a garden centre and plant nursery –and eventually discovered she really loved plants and was fascinated with their healing properties.
Now, with over 23 years experience as an aromatherapist and massage therapist and continuous study of chemistry and the skin, Margie has brought her varied background into creating a job she loves. She gets to design and produce natural skincare products so that people have healthier choices available, without sacrificing the effectiveness or quality of ingredients. How cool is that!
focus had the opportunity to interview Margie and find out more.
What got you started on this journey of making your own products and starting HoneyBliss?
I spotted, or rather stumbled across a gap in the market. Quite a few years ago, I was raising five children on my own and working as an aromatherapist and part-time teacher in the Coromandel. I was looking to buy effective, natural skincare and first aid products that were affordable and of the highest quality. I just couldn’t find anything.
That’s where it all began. I started making my own skincare and healing balms and with a lot of additional chemistry and skin study, I added to my plant and aromatherapy knowledge and experience. Initially I developed these products for family, then friends, then clients. A move to Tauranga 20 years ago, where I knew no-one, was the best decision I ever made. It led to a new marriage, a short spell at youth tutoring and then the opportunity to work and learn alongside other natural health practitioners for over 10 years. I grabbed this opportunity to dive back into plant chemistry and study.
Following a guest visit to Venus Women’s Network, in 2012, I was inspired to put my ideas to work and developed Bee All Balms. I began producing the products commercially and have since expanded into men’s and women’s skincare and animal balms. I rebranded in May 2013 and launched HoneyBliss.
Tell us about the ingredients you use in HoneyBliss
I use organically sourced ingredients where possible to produce HoneyBliss skin and body care, muscle, animal, and skin healing balms. I try and source many of the ingredients locally, through growers who care passionately about what they produce –Manuka honey, avocado, olive, macadamia and calendula oils are some of these.
What are you passionate about?
Design and creation. I love getting a brief or trying to solve a skin problem and creating a gorgeous, natural product from the ground up that will multi-task and perform. I always get a buzz from being able to help. It never gets stale for me, when two seemingly opposing forces –oils and water-based ingredients – stop repelling each other and finally come together into a luscious cream, lotion or balm. Every day is different and I thrive on challenges. Client support and follow up is also something I strongly believe in and I’m always happy to field questions about my products.
What’s unique about HoneyBliss?
Active Manuka honey is the ingredient behind our name, HoneyBliss, and it’s included in every single one of the 60+ products in our range. The Bliss part comes from the combination of essential oils and botanical ingredients which work in synergy with the honey. As an aromatherapist, every essential oil blend has to earn its place and inclusion therapeutically and not just because of its fragrance. Clients work with me directly and, as the designer, manufacturer and seller, I’m able to provide the information and accountability for each and every product I sell.
Did you ever have a mentor to show you the ropes or has everything been done by trial and error?
No, I’ve never had a mentor. I’ve been a trial and error girl whose done a lot of studying and have knowledge behind me. I set myself a goal of what I want to achieve and then work backwards to see what skills and ingredients I need to get there. It’s definitely a longer way to get there but very satisfying too.
Give us an idea of what it’s like running a business from home?
I love it but it’s been tricky at times, especially when HoneyBliss started to take off. My kitchen has to be sterilised between product making and our own use.
At one stage HoneyBliss ingredients, pots, jars and packaging fell out at us from nearly every cupboard in the house. It hadn’t quite made it to our bedroom, but it was gradually taking over.
The move to our current home, 2½ years ago, has been fabulous as I now have a large separate studio which has allowed us to set up a commercial kitchen and office area. It’s created a much needed separation between work and home mentally as well as physically. I didn’t appreciate how much this meant to me until I began to step away from work and ‘go home’. A wonderful difference for me and my head space, not to mention my family.
I operate by appointment only and am unavailable if people just drop by. If I’m in the middle of product making, I can’t stop what I’m doing – my clients have now become used to this and phone or text me first.
Do you get any outside help with the business?
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from the Venus Women’s Network was to use experts in their own field as much as possible. I have wonderful women who support HoneyBliss in accountancy, graphics and design, website, marketing and mentoring, to name a few.
I also have outside help with some of the office administration, organisation and systems.
What tips would you give to women starting their own businesses?
Join an organisation to give and receive support, knowledge and friendship as much as for networking. When you work alone a lot of the time, these relationships are invaluable for you to tap into other people’s experiences and knowledge. It also helps create a support network for learning and sharing, as much as for referral work.
If you could rewind the clock five years, what would you do differently in your business?
Quite a lot! I’d probably save myself a lot of time by engaging the right people to help me move ahead straight away. I would have worked with a mentor from the get go. As a one-woman band when I started, I was wearing every single hat and didn’t have the expertise and knowledge to make the best decisions. I wasn’t always playing to my own strengths.
What are your plans for HoneyBliss?
After spending a lot of energy trying to get HoneyBliss into specialty retail outlets, vets, physios, beauty therapy outlets etc., I have learned to rather focus on and promote the story of HoneyBliss and the retail side. The drive for retail shops to stock a particular brand, comes from customer demand. Outlets are now coming to me to stock HoneyBliss and the brand is gaining a reputation for quality and ingredients.
Soon, I’ll be talking to some of my amazing clients to see if they would like to promote HoneyBliss on a more structured basis. I will offer support, training and incentives for these great HoneyBliss ambassadors to bring in new customers.
I have also taken on some contract work as a designer for a larger company and enjoy the process and learning curve. This has given me another challenge and path of design outside of HoneyBliss, which I am thoroughly enjoying.
Where can our readers buy HoneyBliss?
My retail side runs from my website, my home studio and parties. My wholesale side supplies specialty outlets. I am available by appointment for purchasing products, a free consult, mini facial or foot treatment. Bayfair and Papamoa vets stock my animal products. The Beauty Spa@Oropi Hot Pools, John’s Photo Pharmacy, Hands on Osteopathy, Crossfit Alliance Gym Papamoa are some of the local stockists of HoneyBliss products.
When HoneyBliss isn’t taking up all your time, what are your interests?
I am a watercolour and acrylic artist and have been fortunate to be part of a wonderful group for many years. I am a passionate gardener, love walking my dogs, practise yoga and enjoy the wonderful camaraderie of an outside aqua-jogging class at the Toi Ohomai pool. I read three books a week, of all sorts, and am part of another wonderful group of strong women in a bookclub. I love movies, play the piano and guitar badly and love many types of music. Being one of five sisters, I am very family orientated –we have a very strong bond in spite of living in different parts of the country. My six children and now several grandchildren are scattered around the country but they are still a huge part of my life. My husband, Phil, and I are both keen to do some travelling and an overseas trip is planned.
Right now, I feel very grateful to have the life I’ve created and look forward to all the adventures ahead.