Tui Balms and their sustainable co-created cooperative business model
Colin Isles, a New Zealand beekeeper created Bee Balm in the early 1980s. He had a desire to build a community business and so gifted the recipe to the local Tui Community in Golden Bay who made his Bee Balm in the kitchen of their community farm house, pouring each individual pot using a big teapot. As the word got out about this amazing healing balm and the business grew it became evident that the balm had outgrown the volunteer model and so they created a workers cooperative with the understanding that the profits wouldn't go into the personal pockets of the workers, but instead be used to support the Tui Community and other local community groups and charities. Each year Tui Balms donate all the profits that are unused in growing the business - at least 5% of sales. In the 2016 / 2017 financial year over $38,000 went to 18 different charities include Earthcare Education Aotearoa, Habitat for Humanity, Wilderland Trust, Nelson-Marlborough Rescue Helicopter and The Golden Bay Integrated Health Centre.
It has been 33 years since the humble beginnings of hand pouring bee balm in the community kitchen. Now Tui Balms have their own on-site purpose-built premises. Filling has been automated, the branding re-imagined and there are dozens of new product lines including special formulas for massage, sports, women's health, babies and natural bug repellent.
The Tui balm business model is genuinely cooperative with the 13 team members all collaborating on ideas and decision making is achieved through consensus. The team should work fewer than 30 hours a week and the flat pay structure recognizes the importance of the entire team with a difference of only $5 an hour between the top and bottom hourly wage rates.
That's what we call our commitment to high quality natural ingredients. All of the ingredients are either whole substances occurring in nature or they are directly taken from whole substances.
Tui balms have nothing in them that shouldn't be there. No parabens, stabalizers, coloring agents, synthetic fragrances, artificial preservatives or emulsifiers. They also contain no water which reduces the need for preservatives and emulsifiers. The vitamin E which is sourced from non GMO soybeans acts as a natural preservative in the product. The beeswax is certified organic beeswax from a local New Zealand beekeeper. None of our products are tested on animals and we're certified cruelty-free with Choose Cruelty Free Limited.
What is a balm and why are they so good?
Prior to industrial times, healing products were usually balms, made by the healers who had an understanding of plants healing properties. Balms nurture and heal in a gentle and safe way, enhancing the body's natural ability to heal - as opposed to synthetic creams which in suppressing symptoms and killing off organisms often kill off good organisms at the same time.
Most of our balms contain essential oils as the active ingredients - there are a few aspects in which balms are superior to oils alone. Most importantly, the semi-solid state of balms mean they provide the ideal friction for body work and can be applied smoothly and evenly without disrupting the flow of the massage. The organic beeswax, pure olive oil and almond oils we use in our balms are ideal carriers for the active ingredients and moisten and nourish the skin.