From perfume to hand sanitiser

Otago Blue Apothecary owner Elizabeth Ulberg has introduced bilingual labels on her hand...
Otago Blue Apothecary owner Elizabeth Ulberg has introduced bilingual labels on her hand sanitiser products. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
Everything is going ka pai for a new Dunedin business.

Elizabeth Ulberg, of Waikouaiti, was set to launch a perfume she produced in her home but then Covid-19 hit, shelving her plans.

Instead of sulking, she diversified her business to join the fight against the virus.

Ms Ulberg said a global pandemic was the wrong time to launch a "luxury" product, so her dream of selling perfume had been mothballed.

An ingredient in her botanical perfume was alcohol, which she "made from scratch" in her home by fermenting yeast, sugar and water and running it through a still twice to boost its potency.

When the virus hit, hand sanitiser was in short supply, causing people to stockpile it and sell it at inflated prices.

The sanitiser hoarding spurred her decision to create alcohol to make sanitiser.

In lockdown, she began selling it in Dunedin shops.

When mass-produced hand sanitiser began to flood the market, she took a moment to reflect on ways to make it more sustainable, such as selling a bigger bottle to refill a smaller spray bottle.

She feared when the virus was defeated, the environment would be a casualty, as piles of used face masks, latex gloves and empty sanitiser bottles were left behind.

She also took time to consider the health of the sanitiser user.

The frequent use of sanitisers had caused the "cracking" of the skin on hands so she created a balm — which contains the shrub kawakawa — to "buffer the damage".

Having the Maori language on her products was important so she rebranded labels with bilingual product information.

She would like to see more use of the Maori language "in our business environment".

Maori Language Week starts on Monday.

Her "blue sky" dream was to have her hand sanitiser on sale across New Zealand and, when the time was right, to see her perfume on the shelves of international department stores.

"If I could make a living making perfume, that would be wonderful."


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