Honey running through her veins… A Beekeeper’s Daughter

By Emma Darragh

Meet Ashlee Strange; the born and bred beekeeper’s daughter from Tairua, who is soothing the skin of many with her homemade honey scented skincare.

Ashlee has long been interested in creating natural health and skincare products and has known the healing properties of honey long before scientific evidence proved it to be true.  She grew up in the family of one of the Coromandel’s biggest beekeeping establishments; Haywards Honey.

“My family have been in the honey business for 35 years.” says Ashlee.  Haywards Honey are a well-known family business, with the second generation now stepping up to continue the legacy.  Ashlee’s husband Glenn is involved in the beekeeping, along with Ashlee’s brother Jason and cousins Molly and Luke.   Ashlee has recently created a different role for herself in the family business; to utilise the readily available beeswax by making skincare products for others to enjoy. 

“Honey is good for everything,” says Ashlee.  “It’s antibacterial and antiviral.  As kids we never had to go to the doctor. We put honey on our cuts. We even put propolis on our cereal!” 

Ashlee inherited her parents’ value for natural health - “Dad puts honey on everything!”  Mum Corina’s background in homeopathy and reiki offered Ashlee a knowledge base of natural healing.  She also grew up with that quintessential Coromandel quality of using what you’ve got, rather than rushing out to buy things.  Pre online-shopping, Tairua’s geographical isolation meant you couldn’t buy whatever you wanted.  You had to make do, instead.

Every product Ashlee makes contains either honey or beeswax, and provision has been made to eventually use pollen and propolis too.  “At the beginning, I did a lot of experimenting,” she explains.  “The base products usually include coconut oil, shea and cocoa butter, and sweet almond oil.  Then I add my signature ingredients;  the beeswax or honey.”  She also investigates medicinal uses for her homegrown herbs, fruit, and even the weeds growing in the garden, creating products to meet the many requests she receives from customers.

For now, Beekeeper’s Daughter products are available through the facebook page of the same name, and by request.  Further down the track, Ashlee will develop a website and feature the range in speciality shops. Part of her business strategy is to engage her customers, by finding out what they actually want and need.  She’s been inundated with requests, from bug balms to body scrubs, to hard-working hand creams.  There is clearly no shortage of demand for skin soothing salves made with wholesome local and natural ingredients.  Ashlee spends a lot of time researching, then develops recipes using the raw ingredients she has to hand. In addition to beekeeping, the family have a citrus orchard and avocado trees, and Ashlee is a keen gardener. When she started developing skincare, she purchased all her ingredients and followed recipes to the letter.  Now she has confidence in her concoctions, and can look outside, see what is growing and utilise it in her products for maximum health benefits. 

Ashlee and her husband Glenn have two sons, Jack (3) and Zeb (3 months).  She laughs when I question the timing of establishing a new venture, while up to the elbows in young family life.  Ashlee says in some ways it couldn’t be a tougher time, but she also credits being a mum with the drive to develop her range and create products for babies and children.   She likes to know exactly what she’s putting into her products, what is being absorbed by her children, and to share that knowledge with others.  Listening to the experiences of families around her, Ashlee has researched and developed first aid ointment, belly butter for pregnancy, vapour rub for congested children and miracle balm, which she says is good for eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions.

As for the busy-ness of mixing family with business, she says; “If I don’t do it now it’ll just get further and further away.  I’ve been wanting to do it for several years.  Now is the time.” 

Her extended family are close-knit, offering strong support with the new venture and the children.  Naming her range the ‘Beekeeper’s Daughter’ was Ashlee’s nod to her close relationship with her dad, Bonk.  It was also a way to honour all his hard work in a unique family business that has become as much a way of life as a way to make a living. “He’s quietly stoked about the name,” says Ashlee.  Her parents and husband Glenn are very supportive, and excited to see the new dimension she has added to the family business.

This quietly unassuming yet remarkable Tairua mum has made a natural progression from an upbringing steeped in honey.  She brings an innovative way of utilising what is available to share the healing properties of an extraordinary Coromandel resource.

Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/Abeekeepersdaughter/