The intoxicating smell of lavender hangs over the short walkway from the parking space to the shopfront on Owl’s Rest farm. Patricia Manicom, co-owner of the farm and co-founder of Owl’s Products, explains how the idyllic little farm came to be in her possession and how they’ve turned it into a successful business.
“My husband, Hedley, and I are originally from Johannesburg. My husband has always wanted to [take] early retirement at 55, leave the corporate life and do something else. And we were very fortunate that he could do that by taking an early retrenchment retirement package.”
At the time Manicom was a landscaper with a background in horticulture, so she was able to pack up her business and move to a new location without too much fuss.
“It took us two years to look at all the different places in South Africa, and when we did Route 62, we just fell in love with the valley. That was in January 2016. We then decided to look for what’s available in the area, not knowing what we wanted to do. [At the time], Owl’s Rest farm was for sale. It’s got a beautiful house and we bought the property and grew the business to what it is today.”
Owl’s Rest farm is located on Route 62, tucked away between Robertson and Ashton in the Cape Winelands in the Western Cape. Manicom says the farm is about three hectares, and on it they grow the olives and lavender they use to produce Owl’s Products.
A working farm
Manicom explains that all of the personal care products they manufacture have its base in the essential oils they make on the farm.
“We grow the lavender, rose geranium, and rosemary plants, and make essential oils from [those plants] using a method called hydrodistillation. Our personal care products are based on the lavender essentials oils and rose geranium essential oils, together with the rosemary essential oil. Our main products are soaps, body lotions, and moisturisers.”
Since Owl’s Rest is also an olive farm, the brand of course includes products like olive oils, olive pates, and a variety of preserves. The he reason the products are so varied, says Manicom, is because they often develop these products as a result of customer requests. “At some point during the Covid-19 pandemic, hand sanitiser ran out in the area.
“A wine farmer approached us to make hand sanitiser, so Hedley took pure alcohol and denatured it, using the floral water for distillation. Farmers came with big canisters to get hand sanitiser as there wasn’t any around.”
Manicom has the following advice for aspiring agriprenuers who may want to process their own products:
1 Don’t stop dreaming
Dreams do come true, and [dreams are] basically goal setting. It is important to set those goals. Whether [or not] it’s in the form of a dream, you get there when you work towards them.
2 Planning is important
Do you have a plan? Finances are [an] important [part of planning]. If you’re good at something, if you are a good marketer or good creative or if you are a good farmer, do what you’re good at. And get somebody else who’s good at finance, let them do the finances for you and pay them.
3 Don’t try and do it all yourself
You’ll burn yourself out if you do.
4 Give a little and say thank you
[This means], be kind to people and share your advice. It comes back to you big time.
5 Don’t be scared
And if you’re not sure, ask. It’s unbelievable how wonderful it is if you ask people for help or ask for advice or say ‘I haven’t seen this before. Have you seen this before?’. It really, really does do miracles because it opens up doors for you as well.
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