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Hidden Gems: Meet Gabrielle Mirkin of Activist Mānuka Honey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gabrielle Mirkin.

Hi Gabrielle, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was living and working in New York City as an Art Director at Vogue Magazine. Shortly after my 30th birthday, I became very sick literally overnight. I had many scary neurological symptoms and was finally diagnosed with Lyme Disease. The dis-ease I experienced was from more than just the tick bite which causes Lyme Disease; my body and mind were so toxic from living a life completely out of balance, that my glass just overflowed… I was constantly over-stimulated and depleted. My mind loved the idea of a big city, but my physical body did not.

After a month spent in Switzerland at a Biological Medicine Clinic, I returned to New Zealand, where my husband Luke and I spent a year living quietly on our piece of land in the Coromandel. Some bee-keeping friends asked if they could place some hives on our land and we happily agreed. It was a transformative year. As my health began to improve, I became deeply interested in natural foods, preparing all our food from scratch, including nut milk, bread, granola, green juices, chocolates and fermented foods such as sauerkraut. I really believe in the human body’s innate capacity to heal itself if provided with the right tools — one of these being nourishing foods from the earth and Mānuka Honey. Luke and I felt a pull towards creating a business that reflected our interest in the natural world and Luke’s life-long passion for surfing. We began noticing the activity of the local bees as we walked through the thick native bush to get to the ocean. We became so aware of the bees’ activity as the earth warmed with the sun that we learned to tell the time by their movements and began to understand their key role as environmental indicators. That was a magical moment for us. We felt the need to build a business that was in tune with our lifestyle and passions. We felt like we had kind of lost that, and that year in the Coromandel brought that back.

Although we talked at the time about creating a honey brand as ‘a romantic idea’, we didn’t take the possibility seriously until we returned to the United States and started to look at the way Mānuka Honey was presented on the world stage.

A lot of the time, there’s this amazing resource made by bees and the beekeepers are doing a passionate and labor-intensive job, but it ends up being sold offshore and being diluted by mass distributors who dump it into chain stores and label it with whatever numbers they want (Mānuka Honey is graded and scientifically tested for its potency). We saw an opportunity to do something really beautiful — to work with the beekeepers to tell a transparent story while elevating Mānuka. And so, Activist Mānuka was born.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Growing a business in a controlled manner, while continuing to consider all touchpoints of the brand without losing connection is always our focus and our biggest challenge. I guess maintaining what you have established while continuing to evolve; it can feel like you’re bursting at the seams sometimes. Finding the right people and skillsets to help is a crucial part.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Activist Mānuka Honey?
Activist Raw Mānuka Honey is wildcrafted in Aotearoa, New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native Mānuka Bush during a short seasonal window in the spring and summer. Our Mānuka Honey is a beautiful and rare resource with considerably higher levels of enzymes and antibacterial properties than found in other honey. It is truly one of Mother Nature’s special gifts to us.

Activist is a Mānuka Honey company founded by wife and husband, Gabrielle Mirkin and Luke Harwood. Our shared passion for the earth and natural products can be traced to our childhoods in New Zealand.

Luke’s love for surfing and the native coastal land of New Zealand lead him to understand the important role bees play as environmental indicators and was the founding catalyst for Activist. Gabrielle’s time in New York City working as a Senior Art Director at Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar led to a slowdown and the pursuit of new interests outside of the fast-paced world of fashion publications. Gabrielle’s love for radiant health, natural healing therapies and food from the earth was a central driver for the development of Activist.

As a family, we’ve built a company that works prolifically with natural resources, not only natural resources but ones with an origin from our native country of New Zealand; which is our larger playground and one which we have a deeper understanding with. The ability to build a brand with limited industrial impact was something that was very important to us. In essence, we are simply letting Mother Nature, the seasonal cycles, symbiotic relationships, and microclimates, cultivate the basis of our products. It is our role to present these to the world in their highest and unadulterated form with as little human interference and corporate shortcomings as possible.

ACTIVIST® is a leading global Mānuka brand in Health & Wellness and Clean Beauty Categories. Activist is currently positioned in the world’s top clean beauty and wellness stores. ACTIVIST® is a beautiful offering that people desire in their everyday rituals, as part of a lifestyle choice. Design focus where craft meets science, Activist products are seen as a kitchen and bathroom status symbol item, that embodies true wellness and clean beauty with a transparent and ethical sourcing message while delivering unique and beneficial product functionalities. We offer a product portfolio of high-grade medicinal Manuka Honeys, ingestible wellness products and topical skincare and Clean Beauty offerings.

Where do you see things going in the next 5-10 years?
Sourcing will become a huge component due to climate change and pressure being put on natural resources; finding the ability to source high-quality ingredients will be a huge focus and will be a very important aspect to the consumer. Transparency will be more important than ever.

Our personal views on sustainability are driven around conservation. We naturally gravitate to a less is more approach to life and simple living; a lifetime of surfing has been an important teacher of this. Surfers tend to be natural environmentalists and surfing represents the ebbs and flows of life. Over time you become a student of coastal weather patterns and climates while relishing in the beauty of native settings and the natural sculptures that are seen as regional landmarks. It’s hard not to have respect or a greater understanding of the larger living organism that our global environment is when so closely connected to it.

As for business, it’s important to us that each product under Activist is presented with 100% transparency, sustainability and natural ingredients. Each of our products are created from a genuine and personal story of use and need. We choose to stay away from single-serve style products or packs that create an excessive packaging-waste to intrinsic product ratio. We also don’t think about sustainability as a “cost”; its benefits are its own reward! While we still have a lot of work to do we truly believe that excessive consumerism and human consumption is one of the largest problems that is driving so many issues in the world right now. That is why we stick to the Activist way of sustainable business practices, organic sales growth and only using what you need — all while being grateful for what we have.

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Image Credits
All images courtesy of @activistmanuka

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