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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

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Maya Papatuanuku Solomon is the mastermind behind the label Persephone Potions.

Maya Papatuanuku Solomon (Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa) is a familiar figure to many Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market goers. The 29-year-old is the owner of Persephone Potions and creates and sells handcrafted herbal infusions, herb salt, and beauty products.

This year, Maya started to study for a Diploma in Arts & Design at EIT. And there is a particular reason why she decided to do so.

Maya grew up in a town one hour out of Sydney. Her mother is Australian and her father comes from Whakaki (a settlement east of Wairoa). When her parents moved back from Australia in 2012, Maya was midway through her Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Naturopathy. She was also working on an organic farm and the attached health shop where she built her knowledge of herbal medicine.

When Maya visited her parents, she realised that Hawke’s Bay was the ideal place for growing herbs. A place with convenient access to high-quality produce, a vibrant food scene, and a market for her unique products. In 2017, she decided to leave Australia, put her studies on ice, and move in with her parents.

“My parents had a well-established garden. I started to grow more and different herbs, harvest and dry them, and create herbal blends. I tailored them to my own health needs, for example, to sleep better, boost my immune system, or for hormonal balance. I make sure that they are nice to drink too.”

Today, Maya is living and working at JJ Organics in Napier. She has enough space to grow her herbs, a flavourful mix of lemon balm, lavender, sage, rosemary, calendula, mint as well as natives like kawakawa, koromiko, and houhere, just to name a few. “My kaupapa is to makes herbs accessible, to educate people about their benefits, and about how to integrate them in their everyday life.”

To run her business more professionally and confidently, Maya felt she needed to brush up on her expertise. The one-year Arts & Design Diploma at EIT seemed like the perfect fit. “In just a few months I’ve picked up so many practical skills relevant for my work; computer programmes like Adobe Illustrator, graphic design skills, branding, packaging, photography, typography, marketing but also what goes behind creating a logo.”

A healthy work-life balance is Maya’s top priority. She enjoys spending time in the garden and going to festivals. She also joined a tribal fusion belly dance group. “I feel very much settled here in Hawke’s Bay. The place meets my needs. I’m close to nature but there is also a cultural scene and a demand for alternative and natural health.”

Her business is like her garden that needs nurturing to thrive. “I want my business to grow in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. I buy all my organic seedlings locally and grow them without using synthetic pesticides or herbicides. Continuing to produce small badges and handcrafted products is at the core of what I’m doing.”