Blue Spur Milk and Honey
Unique, organic, keepsakes
Up and down the West Coast, in offices and warehouses, home offices and kitchen tables, small businesses are flourishing. Development West Coast runs a nine-week programme called Co.Starters to equip aspiring entrepreneurs so they can turn ideas into action. Many of the businesses do not have a traditional store front, so in this series of Open for Business, the Greymouth Star and Development West Coast sample some of the emerging small enterprises that are helping shape the future.
The West Coast is renowned as an untamed natural wilderness, and we are blessed with talented local artisans who encapsulate that sense of the Coast in their products. Co.Starters participant Miriam Rees’ new business, Blue Spur Milk and Honey, does just that. With milk from her goats and beeswax and honey from her hives she handcrafts a range of rustic beauty products with environmentally friendly packaging.
Miriam is originally from the North Island. After a brief career in fashion design she moved down to Aoraki, Mt. Cook where her private pilot’s licence gave her the opportunity to work as a Radio Operator for Mt. Cook Airlines. She met her husband in Mt. Cook, and seven years later with a young family they moved to Christchurch.
“In Christchurch we really missed the mountains and bush, so we moved to the West Coast in 1992. The first winter here was just magic. It was so crisp and clear. We just loved the Coast lifestyle. I spent my spare time riding horses around the bush and creek in Kokatahi,” Miriam says.
“In 2009 we purchased our dream plot of land in Blue Spur, with paddocks surrounded by native bush. The first couple of years were spent scrubbing gorse and we got some goats to help with the job,” she says.
Miriam enjoyed working with the goats. This lead to milking them and using the milk to make soap and cheese.
“Our orchard was growing well - despite the goats’ best efforts! But we noticed an absence of bees. Five years ago, I acquired a beehive and the learning really began. Along with Sue Roper we started the West Coast Hobby Beekeepers Club. Working together with other beekeepers has been a great way to learn.
“I have three hives at present. Other than the important work they do pollinating flowers, the bonus in keeping hives is all the honey, propolis and beeswax you get,” she says.
With a Teaching Degree and Masters in Adult Literacy/Numeracy Education, Miriam had been working at Karoro Learning/Front-line Training for 17 years as an Academic Manager and then Campus Manager. When Front-Line Training closed the Greymouth campus at the end of 2017 Miriam was looking for a new venture.
“We all look at our dreams and want to do something we love. For me that is being out in our bush with the animals: our goats, geese, ducks, chickens, bees, and our Kelpie Zeb. I often talked soap making with my neighbour and friend Andrea Rogers (aka Chook). Chook makes some truly amazing soaps under the ‘The Crafty Chook, Wild Child Scrub Bars’ label. They look and smell absolutely divine,” Miriam says.
Miriam started experimenting; adding honey to her own goat’s milk soap and making solid hand lotion bars using her beeswax. With the help of her goats and bees, she found she could craft many different natural products and so ‘Blue Spur Milk and Honey’ was born.
“I now sell my products at the Revell Street Indoor Market in Hokitika. This is held every Saturday 9am to 2pm and is the Coolest Little Market on the West Coast. We have a great team and have lots of fun at the market,” she says.
Miriam also sells her products at special markets in Greymouth, Moana, Shantytown, Canterbury, some retail stores and online. She has a wide range of products from soaps, hand lotion bars, lip balms, eczema salves, bath bombs, and wax wraps. She is always working on new ways to use her goat’s milk and honey because she is passionate about the health benefits.
“Lye is used for saponification in soaps. When you buy soap or beauty products it is important to read the labels. If the ingredients are not listed, you don’t know what you are putting on your skin. Many so called ‘natural products’ contain palm oil, sodium laurate and other chemicals,” Miriam explains.
“Using a soap made with raw goat’s milk can really benefit the health of your skin. It is especially good for people with dry or sensitive skin or conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Goat’s milk contains lactic acids which help remove dead skin cells. This alleviates skin conditions by removing irritation.
“Goat’s milk is high in vitamin A which can help reduce lines and wrinkles. It also has antibacterial properties that can prevent the spread of acne. The fat molecules in goat’s milk help boost the moisturising quality and will not dry your skin like other soaps can.
“Raw honey is also really beneficial in beauty products. It contains natural vitamins and minerals and is loaded with antioxidants. Honey is a humectant, attracting and retaining moisture, so it really helps keep skin hydrated,” she says.
One of Blue Spur Milk and Honey’s best-selling products are their unique solid hand lotion bars.
“These are a rich combination of skin loving oils, shea and cocoa butters and beeswax crafted into a convenient bee patterned round bar that is solid at room temperature but melts on contact with your skin. Once you try one you won’t go back to liquid moisturizers in plastic bottles” Miriam says.
“I’ve made a real effort to ensure my packaging is environmentally friendly. There’s no point making a beautiful natural product and then wrapping it in plastic! I’ve even managed to source paperboard tubes for my lip balms. The charm of the West Coast is its raw natural beauty, and we want to keep it that way,” she says.
To help formalize her business ideas Miriam signed up for the Co.Starters business programme being delivered by WestREAP in Greymouth.
“I heard a lot of good things about the course from past participants. I’m really enjoying Co.Starters. I look forward to Thursday evenings and being surrounded by all these passionate people with such diverse business ideas. Co.Starters is really helping me refine some of my ideas for Blue Spur Milk and Honey.
“We have great facilitators in Fergal O’Gara (Marshall and Heaphy), Layla Dowthwaite (Freedom HR Ltd) and Anne Chapman (John Wood and Associates Limited). Every week there is a guest speaker; local entrepreneurs, accountants and lawyers. It’s fantastic to see the Greymouth business community getting behind the course, spreading their knowledge and sharing their inspiring stories.”
To see Miriam’s goat’s milk and honey products, visit her at the Revell Street Market in Hokitika, or check out Blue Spur Milk and Honey online www.facebook.com/BlueSpurMilkandHoney
“I heard a lot of good things about the course from past participants. I’m really enjoying Co.Starters. I look forward to Thursday evenings and being surrounded by all these passionate people with such diverse business ideas. Co.Starters is really helping me refine some of my ideas for Blue Spur Milk and Honey."
New River Kennels
Co.Starters graduate Paula Kerr and her partner, Murray Malloch, have recently launched a new business in Greymouth, offering quality, safe and secure canine boarding facilities. Their business, New River Kennels, specialises in the behavioral, wellbeing and personal needs of every dog.Learn more