Kirsten, what initially drew you to the holistic wellness industry?
I come from a family of nurses and healers, and always assumed I too would be in the healing arts. My childhood was spent between the coastal jungles of Borneo, Malaysia and rural New Zealand; this immersion in nature in my youth lent itself to a fascination with the workings of the natural world. The sciences were always my favourite subjects at school, and I’d often borrow microscopes from the science lab, spending hours at home peeking into the intricacies of plant life.
The messaging around healthy eating in the ’90s was not particularly holistic in its approach and cultivated a negative and misinformed relationship with nutrition for many young women, including myself. Ultimately, it was a desire to deepen my understanding of true nourishment, my captivation with the life sciences, alongside the belief I would walk a healing professional path that led to studying naturopathy.
You studied naturopathy at Nature Care College. How has that foundational experience shaped your journey?
I began studying at 19 years old, which is such a formative time in shaping our approach to self, others and the world around us. I had just arrived in Sydney from New Zealand and had an insatiable appetite for education. That was almost 20 years ago now; I look back and recognise how studying naturopathy has enriched and moulded the direction of my life. I am a naturopath in the way I live, work and exist in the world.
I embarked on a full-time, four-year course, which completely immersed me in the world of naturopathy, not only through the subjects most commonly associated with a naturopath — nutrition and herbal medicine — but also through the sciences which form the foundations of naturopathy, including anatomy and physiology, botany, chemistry and pharmacology. My knowledge obviously expanded, but so did the depth of my appreciation for the intricate workings of the body and my sense of awe for the limitless capacity of nature to provide and heal through her medicines.
Aside from the wisdom imparted, I was able to tap into a collective of students and faculty who shared a purpose and path. This has stuck with me — I have an unwavering belief in the commonality we share and the central role our connection to nature plays in this.
Can you tell us about how you got started in business? What inspired you to launch your line of cafe-dispensaries Orchard St?
As a freshly pressed juice, enhancing the body’s potential to thrive through plant medicines is at the core of my approach. Perhaps like many budding herbalists, I always loved the old-world charm of herbal apothecaries, with the remedial potential of nature captured in a display of glass bottles and vials. This manifested into a vision to bring a dispensary-type model to Bondi and Bronte.
Orchard St. launched online in late 2012 with holistic juice cleanses, which allowed me to share the remedial potential of plant medicines in an accessible way. Within months we opened our first store in Bronte, a dispensary selling cold-pressed juices, herbal teas and lifestyle products alongside a full herbal and nutritional apothecary for my clinical naturopathic practice.
In Bronte I saw many customers being drawn to the remedial potential of plant medicines, but viewed them as something to be dosed as medicine, in capsule, tablet or tincture form. While there is value in this approach in times of need, when we work with plants in daily life, treating them as allies to support our daily state of being rather than saved for times of necessity, we reap their full potential. The Elixir Bar concept was envisioned as an opportunity to incorporate these plant medicines into our daily lives, through the food and beverage offerings, as well as the retail range.
You will soon celebrate 10 years of Orchard St. What lessons have you learnt along the way?
Hold true to your vision but be flexible. Times change, trends shift and knowledge evolves. Be willing to morph accordingly.
People are everything. Orchard St. is absolutely a sum of its parts. While I might be the driving force behind the business, it is only through our phenomenal team that this vision is continually brought to life.
Take time out. I’m not particularly adept at this one, but the insight and objective perspective provided from space is invaluable.
Let go. If something isn’t working out, and you really believe you’ve given it your best shot, don’t waste time, energy and resources holding on.
Find a mentor. They may or may not be walking the professional path you see for yourself, but find someone whose intellect and approach inspires you and who will be able to provide the guidance you need. For me this person is akin to my big sister; our direction has been different but the wisdom, insight and perspective she provides has always shone a light on my path.
Heal thyself. Tend to your own needs. Ultimately we are all of service in this industry, and to heal others we need to fill our own cup first. Tap into the toolkit at your fingertips.
How has the industry changed since you started out?
When I first graduated, natural health care was still perceived as an alternative measure. Naturopathic practitioners were often having to stand their ground amid a population still largely in disbelief of the benefits of a holistic approach to health. Both service and product offerings were segregated in tohose, with mainstream appeal having a more pharmaceutical approach, and the rest falling into the “herbal” or “hippy” league.
Since Orchard St. began, the way people prioritise their wellbeing has significantly shifted. There has been a movement from a general preventative health approach to conscious life enhancement; from basic healthy eating towards nutrition, plant medicine and lifestyle practices which promote the quality of life.
When we first launched the juice cleanses online in late 2012, there was nothing of its kind on the Australian market. Cold-pressed juice and juice “fasting” was a familiar concept to only a few health enthusiasts. Fortunately, the community was ripe and ready for it; it took off immediately and the juice cleanse industry has grown exponentially since.
Our second store, the Bondi Elixir Bar, opened in mid-2014 and it took a while for the locals to get onboard. Shifting expectations from a bacon and egg roll with a flat white to green juices, shroom lattes and ceremonial cacaos was a challenge for sure. But we persevered and got there!
Undoubtedly the most positive shift since I started out, not only in the healthcare industry but universally, is the growth of environmental awareness, and the importance placed on sustainable business practices. It is our greatest endeavour with Orchard St. to cultivate a gentler and kinder relationship with Mother Earth.
What is your advice for those who want to step into the world of natural health?
Your professional story can have many chapters; be willing to step into roles, grow ventures or pursue passions without necessarily believing this will be your “one chance”. Dip your toes in whatever tickles your fancy as the opportunities arise.
I wore many hats throughout my studies and before I began clinical practice. I worked in health food stores, pharmacies and dispensaries, did stints as a holistic private chef and a masseuse, sold herbal teas, ran a wholefoods cafe and assisted other clinical naturopaths. I travelled extensively exploring healing modalities and approaches. I have never stopped learning, perpetually studying and researching this field which is continually evolving.
We come into our profession as a sum of our experience, so while your studies form an epic foundation, they are only the start; let life also be an integral part of this path.
How do you stay passionate and motivated on your journey?
There have been hard times for the business when the stress has been almost too much to manage, and there have been hard times personally when I’ve been exhausted beyond measure. I’m a working mum with high expectations of myself and it’s definitely not always easy. But should I falter, I know the magnificent team that is Orchard St., the strength of the community that has grown around us, and the natural toolkit at my fingertips have the capacity to keep me on this path.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got two babies being born this August: one is a precious wee soul in my growing belly and the other is a new product offering.
After hearing the collective call for a more widely available cleanse and following my naturopathic imperative to provide a more potent plant medicine product, we’re stepping into the practitioner-grade supplement space with something that merges these needs. Formulated to reset and renew our inner state, this will be a premium-grade and purely plant-derived opportunity to begin within.
For more, visit organicstreet.com.au and @orcahrdstlove on Instagram. Discover the full range of courses at Nature Care College at naturecare.com.au