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Herbal Allies In Leadership with Laura Howarth (EP#198)

Today Mason welcomes Laura Howarth of Happy Herbs Co on the show for an insightful conversation around holistic business, using herbs as allies, staying in alignment with the vision and allowing the intention of the intuitive heart to lead.

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Today Mason welcomes Laura Howarth of Happy Herbs Co on the show for an insightful conversation around holistic business, using herbs as allies, staying in alignment with the vision and allowing the intention of the intuitive heart to lead.

Having been in each others orbit for the past 7 or so years through Happy High Herbs; the former incarnation of Happy Herbs Co, Laura and Mason share history in the herbal space. Recalling fond memories of times past when SuperFeast was operating out of a small garage in South Golden Beach in the NSW Northern Rivers Region. The pair reminisce on the simpler days while offering the ways in which the spirit of a business will call for change as it grows and expands. 

Through Happy Herbs Co, Laura champions a humanistic approach, highlighting that community and connection will always be at the core of everything she does as the custodian of one of Australia's leading herbal institutions.

In a digital age where ecommerce is increasingly outsourcing the interpersonal relationships forged through bricks and mortar business, Laura's ethos is centred around keeping human to human contact alive in a world driven by artificial intelligence.

It is inspiring and beautiful to hear Laura share the Happy Herbs Co story, reminding us that benevolent acts of rebellion have the potential to pioneer long lasting change.

With the rise in coverage and appreciation for the medicinal use of psychoactive and non psychoactive herbs within this country and abroad, let us all take a moment in reverence for the collective of humans, who through care and diligent action, have paved the way in the face of governmental bureaucracy and backlash. 

Whether you're a seasoned supporter or new to the Happy Herbs phenomenon, this chat offers a wonderful window into the history of the holistic medicine community in Australia.

 

Image of a bunch of lavender laying on a table.

"People often see the owner of the businesses, the entity and the businesses, what they're bringing forward in life. But I mean, I feel it for your business as well as ours is the actual Happy Herb Co is an entity unto itself and through its own journey it attracts different custodians or leaders and so on. So everything we do I surrender to the great life force and just go, okay, well on paper this doesn't look like a good idea, but in the divinity, the messages I'm getting through there to take us forward in this. And then there's always so much gold in that."
- Laura Howarth

Laura & Mason discuss:

  • The evolution of Happy High Herbs into Happy Herbs Co.
  • Laura's origin story.
  • Intention, integration and using herbs as allies in business. 
  • The value of human connection & in person offerings in the digital age.
  • The Happy Herb Humanity charity.

Who is Laura Howarth ?

Laura Howarth is the CEO and Company Leader of Happy Herb Co, a national retail franchise of herbal outlets operating for over 25 years. As a registered Ayurvedic Lifestyle Practitioner with a BA Hons in Business Administration, Laura’s experience leading unique and edgy companies spans over 20 years. A passionate advocate for community herbalism, Laura leads from the heart and champions business and enterprise endeavours that are not-just-for-profit.

Resource guide

Guest Links

Happy Herb Co Website
Happy Herb Co Instagram
Happy Herb Co Facebook
Happy Herb Co Youtube

Related Podcasts
Herbalism; The Peoples Medicine with Erin Lovell Verinder (EP#141)

Connect With Us
SuperFeast Instagram
SuperFeast Facebook
SuperFeast TikTok

 


Check Out The Transcript Below:

 

Mason:

Okay, Laura, we made it, finally.

Laura:

Oh, hi Mason.

Mason:

Well, yeah, it's so funny, I was actually just thinking about it, it was before I'd met you, I'd reached out to Ray to come on to the podcast and we just never lined it up because he was gallivanting around the world. And then we've had that history where you've lived down the road while I was working out of a double garage for SuperFeast. And it was an old friend, actually, oh God, sorry, I'm just going to ramble to start with. I just realised a friend, Dan Strelan, who got us in with Happy Herbs, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago, but he was the one who, without him, we wouldn't have had that relationship with you guys. It's seven years now or something like that?

Laura:

Yeah. At least. I seem to remember somebody had gone into Ray's bar in Maroochydore, an Elixir Bar, and started talking about this SuperFeast.

Mason:

That was him.

Laura:

And I remember the name going, "Wow, that's such a cool name for a business or a product." And that got my attention. And then when I first met you, you were one of the first people to bring mushrooms in, and I was quite taken by the spiritual aspect of that. It seemed like there was some divinity that you were like, "No, nobody could bring mushrooms in," and then all of a sudden the gateway was open for you. So I was quite attracted to that.

Mason:

I mean, yeah, I find it so funny we were literally a stone's throw away from each other living at South Golden Beach, and it was just such a funny grassroots time, I guess, for both businesses where we were dropping off two boxes over to your place and you'd drive them to Uki when you were working for Ray. And now you own Happy Herbs Co?

Laura:

Yep, yep.

Mason:

I'm keen to go back into the story. Do a lot of people still remember it as Happy High Herbs.

Laura:

Yeah. Absolutely. And even in some context, I'll refer to it as Happy High Herbs just because people understand it very quickly. But yeah, we've been through many evolutions and transitions to where we are now.

Mason:

I mean, because it's such a grassroots and beloved company, even I remember growing up and coming up here and going to the Happy Herb store and just being tripped out by how trippy it was and how counterculture it seemed, and it was just like a hippy haven. And those, I mean, I'd like to hear about the journey of maybe you get a backstory of maybe from the beginning of when Ray seeded it and what the purpose of it was, and then getting to that point where you're there working with Ray and seeing that the business is potentially needing to go through an evolution. For some reason sometimes I think it was like a Pokemon that needs to go through this big evolutionary cycle, become a new thing almost, but as long as it keeps the essence and the spirit in place, and it takes a bit of custodianship and stewardship to maintain the essence during those processes. I'm keen to hear more about it.

Laura:

Yeah, well, I mean the main thing that's been consistent throughout since it was very first born was the mission statement, which was all about promoting the appreciation and culture and use and availability for herbs. And we've steered in a few different directions from that, but that's always been the anchor point. And so yeah, Ray started it, I think it was 1996. And he was a corporate guy. He was a car salesman, a vacuum cleaner salesman. He was a salesman and he was reaching his midpoint in life in his fifties, and his partner started using herbs and he couldn't believe how amazing they were. And then he found out that we couldn't talk about them. And so he got quite angry about that and then this mission within himself was born and his life's work. And so he started opening up, our first shop was Market Stall in Uki and then the first shop in Nimbin, and he had a few, about seven shops, and he went to Woodford, and I think he put a little sign outside in Woodford saying franchises available.

 

I think he had this idea, and then it just exploded from there. And Happy High Herbs became a franchise of about 55 shops, including America, England, New Caledonia at one point, we were everywhere. And then one of the things that started happening to the herbs was as their psychoactive benefits were being promoted, we were very much about harm minimization and alternatives to drugs and so on, as their psychoactive benefits were becoming popular, they started to get banned. And so as part of protecting that Ray worked with a chemist to synthesise the psychoactive components of them so we then could have these legal highs, so to speak. And that was great. They were all long-standing tested, very good substances. But then at some point, the sex shops and things like that started getting onto it, and the market exploded for these synthetic kind of legal highs.

 

And so we then became the go-to if there was anything wrong, they would be at the front of our shop, even though we are still selling the herbs and trying to protect those. A lot of the stuff that was out there, such and such got hurt by this or that, and it wasn't us, but they'd be there on the front page or the Channel 7 news. And so we'd be like, that wasn't us. So they'd put an apology in the Guardian.

 

And so this kind of stain, but also this outlandish behaviour of ours became very popular and we pioneered quite a lot in that space. And yeah, so what happened with those molecules then is they just banned the molecules. So a new molecule would come out and they'd banned that molecule. And so what happened was all these substances were coming out into the market, not necessarily that we were getting involved in, but this is where the legal synthetic high story started going wrong.

 

And so we pulled back from that, and then eventually, about 10 years ago, they just made a blanket rule, the government, of anything that you suggest has a psychoactive effect is banned. So if I give you a cup of Chamomile tea, oh, apart from coffee, sugar, alcohol, all these other things that quite clearly are far more psychoactive than anything we'd understand. And these amazing herbs, ephedra which is pseudoephedrine, it's one of the best herbs for asthma and so many other things like kratom as well, which is amazing for addiction support. So many herbs got taken away there. So we had a choice then to go, we went into retraction shop, started to close and -

Mason:

What year was this?

Laura:

This was in 2013. It was pretty much the week I started, the ban happened the week I started with the company. And so that all felt a bit divine aligned as well. I was never really going to go for a job, but for some reason I found myself in front of Ray and he was "Find that girl a job" and "Well, we haven't got any, we're full." And he said, "I don't care. Just find her a job." So I said, "Okay." So I started just chipping away slowly.

Mason:

What position was that that he found you?

Laura:

Well, it was actually a franchise manager's job that was advertised, and they'd already decided to give it to a guy. I think they were trying to build the team with more men. And so they said, "Well, look, we can give you one day a week admin." And I'm like, "That's fine, but you still pay me the same as the franchise manager." And so Ray was like, "Wow, that girl's got balls." And so this real strong connection between us started. And then on the first week he took me aside and said, "I'd like to start thinking about retiring. I've got all these emails. What do we do?"

Mason:

How long? A week did you say?

Laura:

It was like the second day. And he's obviously felt this connection. And he said, "Come for lunch with me. I've got all these... I want to go to Burning Man, and I've got all these emails and I can't stay on top of them." And so in the background, then I started becoming Ray's secretary almost answering emails as if I was him. And so he trained me all about the herbs and the way he was doing business, and we formed this very special bond that led to his retirement and my stepping forward.

Mason:

Far out. Okay. I'm going to just step back into that story. So the herbal highs, because that was the Happy High Herbs, it was all there and kind of seemingly the brand revolved around the high herbs, but at the same time, all of the herbs, all the western herbs were there the entire time. So all of those other medicinal herbs were always a part of the franchises.

Laura:

Oh, a hundred percent. But once again, we can't go out and make any therapeutic claims about them, as some of the listeners will know about the TGA regulations, which is fair enough. You don't want people going, "Yeah, this'll cure, you of cancer," and then people avoid medicines that they need because somebody told them, Chamomile tea's going to fix them. So on the one hand I'm happy to protect that, but at the same time there's so much herbal wisdom that needs to be shared. And so that's where we come from is just sharing the herbal wisdom that's already out there. So we're not going to tell you that this is going to fix or treat you, but we're going to provide you all these herbs and all the information to go with it.

Mason:

And knowing you for a few years and having a little bit of a chat, we've already kind of talked a little bit about the spirit of business and we want to dive into that. Ray, I think I've met Ray once, but just know so many people that know him and partied with him and just have the most glowing amazing things to say about him. Obviously I relate. I can see, I guess you'd call him almost an elder in this space of just been here is a core seed of a purpose. And I take it so seriously. And I love seeing, there's a purpose statement about seeing that anchoring, allowing the organism to evolve and grow and become different renditions. I can imagine everyone within the businesses, just like you could always feel it was on track. It was never floating off into another direction.

 

It was never going to be corrupted because Ray was fighting furiously just for that spirit, and then he's felt you and you've got something in you that is able to get what he gets, which is very rare. That's often in reading all of these books about the role of a CEO used to be going in penetrating markets and being on that kind of high level, whereas it's shifting now to being the one who protects the source idea or the spirit and just tends to half pretty much of that. Did he say as much? Was he ever able to articulate what he sensed in you or there was a skill?

Laura:

Yeah, I think it might've been a skill. So I actually got sponsored to... obviously at the time it might've felt like a skill, but there was that connection that was formed there. And I was a housewife. I had kids seven, nine years old. Everybody else in the team was really cool and edgy and I come along. But what I'd had was when I first came to Australia from England, I worked with Wicked Campers and there was only 50 vans and I'd helped develop with the owner of the business, we took it to eight hundred and started going global. And he could see that I could work with a business like that that was edgy and that close to the owner of that business, the entrepreneur of that business. And so I think that was where he was like, wow, somebody with business skills that might be able to get my eccentricities. And I think that that's where we've had quite a good marriage in that sense, I suppose.

Mason:

But you also get it so much just talking to you about what the business is going to become and what it represents you light up. And I think that's something, I mean, I've got such, it's not a boast and not that it's my job to have a bullshit radar, not that I'm trying to, but when you talk, you light up about what you're doing for the herbs. And I've never been able to find anyone who can articulate or a founder who recognises other people who get it to that extent with the skill as well being able to actually articulate it. Did you have a lot of spiritual development at that time of your life, had the spiritual realm been something you'd explored much?

Laura:

Well, it had, but I hadn't shared that with him. So I've got a very strong spiritual practise around surrender. And so before I'd heard about that job I'd actually just said to my husband at the time, "Oh, I'm never going to be employed again. It's time for me to develop my business consultancy," or whatever. And then all of a sudden there I am being employed by somebody on an hourly rate. It was strange. And so with my own spiritual practise, I just surrender and I can feel whether there's any life force within me for that, and that's what really matters. And so that's what guides me through everything really I suppose.

Mason:

That's cool. I mean, I think it's becoming more and more common in the business world hearing about that, but it's almost like that test of whether you're really applying your practise and if you can, then an organisational essence will reveal itself to you.

Laura:

Exactly. Yeah. And it's always been like that. And I think, because Ray is like, he's a legend. He's a magical being. He's 76 now, he's always the one on the dance floor having the most fun. He's an amazing human being to be around and his spirit has developed, created this entity of this business. And so when they changed the laws, I think the joy was taken out of it a little bit, and he was really sad about where it went to. And I think there was something there where I kind of stepped in and he went and did Elixir Bar and did some other creative herbal projects. And even you can imagine as an employee, as a general manager, my mojo goes up and down and I'm just working for somebody else, but it just had me by the balls basically. I just can't describe how this business has been in my soul centre.

 

And each time I'm like, no, I'm going to go away and do something else. It just wouldn't let me go. I'm quite an enthusiast anyway, so I could always just see this, no, there's a whole other evolution for it. I can feel it, I can see it. And I wasn't really a herbalist, but I went through my little phase of I've got business degrees and done things like that. And then when I had the children went through my phase of, oh, I want to be a healer. I did my Reiki and everything else, but it didn't feel very grounded. So I studied Ayurveda and I studied that for three years. Didn't really even understand it to be honest, but then I literally finished my final exam the day before I walked into his office. So there I am, I can prescribe herbs, I've got business degree, I've got all these other things. My life just added up in that moment. And I went, oh yeah, that makes sense now I wondered why I was doing that or this.

Mason:

And you've got the full array of herbs as well. I mean, it must be a fascinating thing. You must feel to be so on the pulse. I am just through the tonic herbs, but you've got all the mushrooms, all the tonic herbs, all the western herbs, all the Ayurvedic herbs, all the Chinese herbs, and you can watch what's going up. You could almost read the population of the community by seeing what type of herb is going... Is there a lot of that? And for you musing on, oh, why is it that everyone's shifting over in this direction or you start seeing a new herb that was previously never recognised for what it can do, all of a sudden the bubble bursts and it starts moving out the door.

Laura:

Yeah, well, it's actually really interesting for you to invite me to see it like that. I'm obviously watching the business and the patterns, but because we've got so many different areas of business, we've got bricks and mortar shops, we've got an online store and then we've got wholesale customers. And so it's quite hard to say our online store sells a lot of smoking herbs because that's our demographic there. But our shops, if I go and work in our, I love to work in our little Uki shop, it's a completely different ballgame. And it could just be everybody wants to be a goddess this week, and it's all about really juicing the women up. Or like you say, there'll be phases I think when men are really wanting their testosterone. So I hadn't actually thought of measuring, there's so much going on in this -

Mason:

There's so much to measure.

Laura:

I hadn't thought of measuring it from that point of view. But yeah, I mean it is, it's just such a playground. And for me, really, I didn't really know that much about herbs when I joined the company. And I'd say only now I'm catching myself going, well, actually I know quite a bit now. And really I play with the herbs quite a bit rather than go, okay, I really need this for that now or something.

Mason:

Getting on the front foot a little bit more rather than always be treating a symptom you mean? Like a ….

Laura:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And I think we moved warehouse last year and it was very much my creative project building the warehouse, and then I got to build a whole new production room. And the lady who normally makes our herbal blends had to take quite an extended amount of time. So I was at nighttime making all the herbal blends, so I'm actually getting my hands in it. I've got my hair net on. And I'd never really got that deep into them before and something just completely shifted in me. And now it's like I just really feel part of the herbs and it's so much beyond that.

Mason:

Let's talk about that because the purpose statement is so potent, but I always know it's the tip of the iceberg and then there's this mass underneath. I'm sure there's a lot about the business that has nothing to do with herbs. It's about the community and what the herbs open as a gateway, but then there is such a huge part of the business obviously that is just herbs and getting herbs into people's lives. Is there an intricate way that what you guys talk about is the mission of what it's about bringing herbs to the community?

Laura:

Yeah, well, I mean a lot of our content, we're always pumping contact out on the aspect of our mission around the education and the appreciation of them. So it's not even just about here's a load of herbal wisdom. It's almost as if you were to breed that appreciation in people for herbs, they'll go and find and teach themselves anyway at their own pace.

 

But yeah, we're always, four big pieces of content a week is how to use them. But I feel like we still quite haven't... I think maybe even myself as the company leader, need to step into that a bit more and share my journey with it because I can make a pot of moontime tea, but then I'll get the herbs and whack them on the belly and cling film it and sit there with them and I'm like, oh, have I actually shared that with people? And then I might chuck them in the bath and just having that more holistic experience with them. So a big part of it is the education of herbs, and we're really quite passionate about that. But I kind of just feel like we're not quite getting through as much as I would really like to that engagement I suppose. But the content's amazing. The recipes are-

Mason:

It's good content.

Laura:

I mean the cocktails, the mocktails, the bliss balls, everything, just how to get herbs in you through your daily life. One of our mentors, Isabell Shipard, who's no longer with us, but she's the queen of herbal literacy in Australia and she's got a book Herbs In Our Daily Life, and -

Mason:

That's a great book. I think we've got a copy out there.

Laura:

And that's it. It's just even that concept of all right, well how can I bring it in a little bit at a time?

Mason:

Yeah, and you guys do such a amazing job. And I know what you mean though, there's a feeling of like, oh, we can do so much more. There's such a different level of when you're giving people tips and helping people appreciate. But maybe what I was thinking is, you know what it's like when you fully integrate onto the herbal path and you really invite those herbies into your life, how much completely transforms and changes, but just through content it's hard to communicate that.

 

But you do have the franchise owners on the ground who are being full advocates, getting that face time with people. And because people can interact with the stores and the stores who've got the decor, when you walk in there, you're like, I know exactly where I'm at. I know that the herbs aren't just a commodity here. They're alive and the intention of integration of these herbs into the community and into medicine and all that is very much alive. When you go in there and you talk to the people who are manning those, womanning stores, they're just like, they're on their purposeful paths.

Laura:

Exactly. And that's where I look at the digital world now, and you guys do such a great job of being out there on social media and I just get overwhelmed by it. And so for me, because I do work in the shop and have a lot to do with the shopkeepers, for me, it's really important for us to have more shops for people to have places to go to talk about it. If somebody's having libido issues for them to actually be able to come and talk to somebody in a safe non-judgmental space or if they've got addiction issues. And so the value in the shops... So we could promote the digital world and the online world so much more than we do.

 

But what we are working on now is really renovating the franchise and we were talking about magnetism in business. I had this little thing magnetise don't advertise. And so what we're creating now is our little happy herb learning hub, a digital space for all of our team to come together. And we're trying to infuse and infect and make sure it's kept alive, that desire and consistency of how we're talking to people and how important it is. And the more we shine from the inside, the more we attract more people to be in the stores for that.

 

And I've never met anybody who works in our shops that isn't like, oh my God, I love it and I helped this person today. And as much as we try with live chat on the online store and things like that to keep that going, it's just amazing. It just breeds an energy by having the shops. And so that's what we're doing now is more shops that we're opening ourselves up as a franchise. We're completely right in the process of redoing the model and really attracting people who want to have a business for themselves, but be part of a bigger collective and a bigger force for good.

Mason:

That's exciting.

Laura:

Yeah, it's really been for the years I've been looking at how we move forward with the company for its survival. And once again, always coming back to that mission for herbs is, okay, well, which serves the mission for herbs most about promoting the appreciation and the accessibility. And it's always that people to people, human interaction.

Mason:

You have that access to the Uki store, which is cool. But in terms of the HQ team, how do you stay in touch with the feedback and the results that you're getting? Do you have a direct feedback loop where you get to hear with what happened to this woman and her menstruation, with this person in their addiction? Do you get to hear it constantly?

Laura:

Well, we get it to some extent. There's some franchisees that we're very close and in dialogue with all the time. And so Nick, our business manager, he's always the one on the phone and talking to everyone. When we went into retraction a few years ago and it started to change, we all became our own little separate entities so to speak, but now this is what I'm working on now is rebuilding that connection. So we are sharing ideas.

 

And so we just brought out a new smoking blend, super chilled, and it was one of the shop staff was like, "Oh, I really love smoking wild lettuce with them [inaudible 00:23:35] and putting this together." And we're like, "All right, well we'll make a blend with that." And so then we take it to the team and we are formulating, all right, well how'd you get this to smoke smooth and be a... unfortunately smoking is very bad for your health, but a lot of people do come to us for alternatives and some herbs can actually provide a lot of anxiety relief through that. So then we get to design it and we go, all right, well how's this making you feel? And the designer goes on a whole exploration of that, so everything's got its own personality as well.

Mason:

That's cool. I mean a franchise model that has that, I've never really thought about franchises that much to be honest and the ins and outs and what you're going through in terms of everyone's... Once the business gets to a point where everyone's like, all right, they're just doing their own thing and they're not really connected and let's just keep it in this superficial business transaction, I don't think people would appreciate just how hard it is to turn a ship back in the direction where's there's integration. And not even for the lack of want from everyone. I'm sure you guys want it, the franchisees want it, but to actually... It's when a business grows up I can imagine. I'm just thinking of examples in my own and my friends' businesses, it goes through these ruptures and it's like, all right, well now do you ossify and just stay there and just go and make it kind of standard business or do you go through the repair process no matter what it takes?

 

And that's probably the difference between someone, if Ray got to the point and you didn't come along and he's just like, oh, you know what, bugger it. There's just that person there. They know business. Good. You take over. Wouldn't have the sensitivity to be like, no, no, no, this is worth three years really, really solid resources pouring into this area of the business. It would've just been like, no, the way is digital and online and let's just get as many as possible. So these are little things I guess everyone listening, these are the little things around when we talk about businesses that have their own realised soul, these are the things where you talk to the business and you go, what do you want to become? And it's an objective thing. You can feel, well, the spirit's going to abandon if you ossify and you keep a level of disconnect between areas of the business. So I think that's cool hearing that.

 

And I think as much as everyone would normally go just a complete digital online store, that's where it's at. Others would be like, yeah, there's a part of it for sure. But on another level, physical, everyone's all of a sudden going to get so sick of the AI and the digital world. I know this sounds funny, a lot of the time I don't like buying online and I will go and find a store where I can just have an interaction even though it's probably sometimes way more inconvenient just to have that level of interaction directly with the product before I buy it. Herbs, I can imagine, with that many herbs as well, I can imagine your community is going to appreciate that move.

Laura:

And it's always been a dilemma because on the one hand, looking at it from a business point of view is, okay, the online store is a lot easier to manage and the margins are better and things like that. And so all of our social media, we did a big turn last year was we want to talk about a herb or a product and everybody's you got to put Shop Now, you're going to put a discount on it, you're going to encourage people to buy on the spot. And so I ended that a couple of years ago. It's been a transition to get the digital marketing to completely understand it, but it's really like, no, it's only on our social medias if it's Learn Now. And so we do Google advertising for some of the products, but always the geolocation is around the shop. Anyway, if we don't have a shop we can advertise, but pretty much all our social media is really about building that ethos and community connection.

 

And something I was really inspired by Ray, I had a little proud moment in the last few months was we've always been a philanthropic organisation, which was why I was really attracted to Ray and how he does business. And so for the last five years, we haven't really been in a position to do that so much. And we've just recently applied for the charity, Happy Herb Humanity. I was trying to come up with a name for it because I really love the idea of humanity and because we've always been HHH Happy High Herbs, and I'm like, yeah, it's the three H's.

 

And what that gives us the ability is to support projects that are aligned with anything really about expanding your consciousness or promoting the appreciation of herbs and things like that. But it allows us to put funds into that. And so if we open up a new shop and whatever the income franchise fee is, there'll be a big chunk of that put into the Humanity Fund and then that shopkeeper gets to spend it in their community and start to... And so I'm trying to breed that culture into the new franchisees that come along as well by supporting that.

 

And so that's really exciting. And that's where the whole business becomes a playground as well. And for good. And like you were saying as well, Mason, really your business is about being for good and doing business different. And I think that's how we're going to change the world because businesses affect everyone. So the better we can be at business and so to speak.

Mason:

And I can see why Ray jumped out of his skin because I was saying, you have business skills, you want to go into business consultancy, yet here you are talking, you were able to literally take the baton from him and have the capacity. I can imagine when those laws came in and started taking out that rendition of the business you know that you're going to have to go through a complete new evolutionary cycle. And the business is always going to change, it's the only inevitable, but businesses need to stay alive because I think that's the thing that we're seeing. I've ironically started SuperFeast because I was feeling such in a rejection state of institutions, especially institutions of learning and medicine. And then as I was talking to someone today, ironically becoming an institution. We're institutions in our ourself.

 

And so it becomes less of a oh damn institutions and it's like looking internally and going, all right, what was making my skin crawl? And it was the fact that, it's the same when humans don't have enough essence to go through initiation cycles and evolve into the next aspect of who they are and shed their skin and let go of something that was, and let go of resentments or let go of a part of themselves they thought was their identity, but they shed that identity and grow into their potential.

 

And businesses are the same. And I feel like we're getting to that point where a lot of people have said, yeah, business is going to be how we're going to change the world. And I've always gone, yeah, but it's businesses that have appropriate stewards who, in the instance, I know it's going to happen to me as well, where I'm not going to be the most appropriate person to take this business through an evolutionary cycle. But it is my job to make sure that the spirit is so communicated and so present that it can be sensed that the next person who takes it can't just veer off and turn it into whatever they want.

 

I often joke about how when it gets to the point where my will gets handed out and then say one of my kids' partner kind of gets into the business and then they go, oh, great, now I'm in a position of power. Let's just sell to this person. And then it's going to trigger a hologram of me from the grave going, "Hello, you tried to go against the constitution of the business, but here I am, here is everything in place." It needs to be impossible to veer off. And I sometimes think I'm just talking like a triper even when I talk about this, but normalising that conversation in business so that institutions of business or learning or medicine can evolve without just becoming grumpy old men or women in a way. You know what I mean? I don't know if you want to say anything.

Laura:

No, and it's excitement. It's exciting and it's almost as if people often see the owner of the businesses, the entity and the businesses, what they're bringing forward in life. But I mean, I feel it for your business as well as ours is the actual Happy Herb Co is an entity unto itself and through its own journey it attracts different custodians or leaders and so on. So everything we do I surrender to the great life force and just go, okay, well on paper this doesn't look like a good idea, but in the divinity, the messages I'm getting through there to take us forward in this. And then there's always so much gold in that.

 

And I think that the more we lead from that space, the more we are led along with it as well. So really, for me, I feel like, wow, well this is my opportunity to express and so I'm going to give it my best go. And I can really see that with you as well, it's your expression, it's like having a child, isn't it? You bring them into the world. They've got your life force, they've got your genes, but ultimately it's going to evolve into what it's meant to evolve into.

Mason:

It's the exact same as respectful parenting or just being a parent that isn't just going to turn into a stage Mom or Dad.

Laura:

Yeah, exactly. We read books along the way, it's how to do this or how to clean up the poo.

Mason:

And it's challenging, it's really challenging to feel, and I think that's the most challenging thing in business, is first of all, for founder or owner to not enmesh their own beliefs fully. Once the business gets to a certain point where it's standing on its own and it's like, okay, you're not a baby anymore, you're not a little child and you've got your own emotions and you've got your own beliefs here. And believe me, everyone, I know this sounds trippy, but this is just literally what it is.

 

And there are institutions, you can see modern medicine institutions that you can feel, if you go back to the core that sometimes it might be, even though lots of good might be coming or maybe it may had to grow that fast and expand that fast in order to meet population booms, the agility and the adaptability and the capacity for it to integrate is maybe crusted over a little bit, but it's there. That seed of intention in which all of that came from is there.

 

And if you can just continue to have people waken up and getting in that sensed feeling and going, maybe we don't need to do it this way all the time, maybe we don't need to treat patients this way all the time. That's where, likewise for me, there's times that business opportunities came across and I'd be like, no, that's complete opposite of what we're trying to do here. Why would we [inaudible 00:35:02]? This is way early on. Sometimes that is the case. Sometimes there is just a sheer no, but it doesn't come from ideological perspectives, it doesn't come from my political views. I'm I need to unmesh myself from the business and have faith in it and have trust and surrender and be like, right, where do you want to go? You're not going to get corrupted because I'm going to make sure that your purpose doesn't get tweaked at all.

 

And likewise, I've got what other business would call values, and I'm keen to go into yours. We call them virtues. It is the way I relate to them, like in Taoism, how virtuous nature emerges from our organs when the qi flows. So I looked around and I'm like, values, I couldn't get my head around it. It works for other businesses in the sense that this is what we value, so you value it. I'm like, all I can tell you is when the qi is flowing, this is the value or the virtue that emerges.

 

And so you go into ventures and you go into things and you feel those virtues go down. Sometimes you're like, right that was like right let's learn that lesson. You go into this one. I never thought I'd be in a pharmacy next to certain medicines and things. And then all of a sudden you do it and you feel the virtuous joy and fun come up in the business. We're working in this infiltrating, integrating side by side kind of thing and you're like, oh, okay, this is what the business wants. And so I'm keen to hear more about, first of all, whatever you relate to the values as?

Laura:

Yeah, well firstly, I was so pleased to see you being able to get in the pharmacies as well, and I was like, wow, that's somebody who's really, you've gotten TGA listed, you've gone, I'm going to take that next step. I can hear that with you within your own business context as well as like, okay, well look, SuperFeast wants... The way for it to be out there in more people's lives is I have to step up and I have to accept that this is going to be a little bit more serious than what we originally thought.

Mason:

Yeah, definitely that thing.

Laura:

And for people around people around us to recognise that, that is actually the barefoot CEO is to go, well, I've actually got to get serious and that might mean that I'm getting a bit more serious with you now. And that's SuperFeast that wants to come through. And I have that with Happy Herbs as well, is that I've got to sharpen my pencil a bit and so on. So yeah, with the values, I've had the same struggle. I've come from that you learn about business, you're supposed to have all your values, so you put it to your team and go, what are your values?

Mason:

Integrity.

Laura:

Exactly. I'm like, hang on a minute, I've got 20 values and I've got whittle it down to three. What for? Just to tick some I do business well book. And then I also know what our why is. It's something that sometimes I can't really explain and I'm trying to sit down and write about it. And so recently I integrated it into the mission statement to say, this is our mission because we want to reinvigorate herbal wisdom together. It was one thing having a mission statement, but it was another to actually let everybody know why. So to be honest, everybody on the team shares a set of values, but it's not spoken about. It's not on big words on the wall because it all starts with love and compassion and kindness. It doesn't go beyond that.

 

So yeah, we don't actually have it written down in some structured way. I'm in the process now of creating this learning hub, and so I'm making all this video content, which I've seen you've done for your team and your outer team as well. You've done a really great job of it. And so that's something I'm doing as well as trying to communicate this. And rather than it being with words, it's an energy that I want to convey almost. It's like, can you feel it? This is who we are. So I haven't worked out how to do it yet. Organisational structures, values, how are we supposed to shape that for a more holistic business language?

Mason:

I hear you. For so long we didn't have values and everyone was just like, come on, do that. Went through the process with all the team and the team write wrote down family and love. And I was like, yeah, all these things, hell yeah, we all value them. And then thinking about value. What is value? Yeah, we value the team. Okay, we write, team.

 

It's just like that's why the word the feeling, when I switched it around and went, what does it feel like when the value... What shines the most in the business when it's all there? So when you talk about that love and compassion, it's an obvious one. Or when you were talking about there's this invisible appreciation of this aliveness around everyone gets the herbs this is a alive, this isn't just some dead thing here. You must feel times when that diminishes or when you bring new people on board and you're like, oh God, maybe you don't quite get it or maybe you haven't had that yet.

 

Well, I think what if I had to switch, myself included, everyone in five years, how would I make sure that they were aware that they were steering the ship in the right direction and that they could palpabley see that this is what needs to emerge and there would be no way for them to misconstrue what love meant or what compassion meant. And that's where I was at with love and compassion and I was like, no, no, no. Love and compassion are the result of something more pinnacle. And that's where I got with things. And everyone's like, well, you have to use this word because this is the word it always is. And I'm like, yeah, but it's not the linchpin. If I use every single word in my values like gratitude and love and compassion and higher thinking, and I'm like, oh, it's just too many. And that's probably what you had with your team.

Laura:

Then there's no room for joy. We're only allowed to have five, but joy... It's like, yeah, it's a language barrier.

Mason:

It's funny. Joy is one of the virtues in SuperFeast.

Laura:

Is it? Because we were Happy Herb Company or Happy Herb Co, now we trimmed it, and we were always Happy High Herbs. And so one of the things when we were going through one of our earlier transitions was being taken more seriously in the herbal world. So we looked at all the different archetypes and we were very much in the jester archetype, and so we were looking more to want to be more in the magician. And so we started calling in the energies of these different archetypes.

 

And so I'm like, well, do we drop the word happy out of the name and Ray's like why not have the word happy in the name? Seriously? And I was just like, absolutely. Yeah, we could be more serious herbs or take us seriously. We're like, yeah, let's keep the word happy and just work with that. And so that's why we trimmed it from Happy Herb Company because the word company dominated it, and the code can be compassion and cohesiveness and collaboration and everything else, but the word happy still dominates the company name. And actually to polish a business up and still call it happy this happy that, it was something I had to move through, but I'm so glad we did. Now it's like actually that is the foundation of it all, and yeah, definitely covers joy.

Mason:

I mean you got to be patient when you're working with the residents.

Laura:

Exactly. Yeah. And it's like any relationship, you've got to go through those moments.

Mason:

That's the thing, relationship. So you've got to have a relationship with this movement. Remember that it's not completely yourself and your wants. It's not the team, it's the relationship the team has with the organisation, that you have with the organisation. So what's been the biggest in terms of your relationship with Happy Herbs, do you need to allow it to go through phases where it figures out for itself?

Laura:

Most definitely. Yeah. And for me as well, I learned a lot about procrastination. I'd be wanting to move something and I'm like, I'm procrastinating here and beating myself up about procrastination. But now I've actually learned the difference between procrastination and a blockage and just being patient for everything else in the universe to do its thing so then we can open up and then, yeah, sure, let's lead now in this space. But yeah... Give me the question again.

Mason:

I've moved on with you. We were talking about relationship and being patient while the organisation needs to figure out what it was.

Laura:

Yeah. It's kind of like there's a light that brightens up inside of me, and that's when I know to move. And if I'm not illuminated, then I tend to just keep everything as it is. It was interesting because podcast with Mason, what are we going to talk about? And I said, I come up with this title, Herbal Allies to Illuminate the Leadership Path and where I play with them. And so that's very much, if I'm feeling bright and shiny and turned on, then I'm going to be working all night on Sundays when it's quiet and doing that. But if I'm not, then I just let that [inaudible 00:44:18].

Mason:

It's something we probably take for granted working around Herb so much. When you look at what herbs do, maybe you can tell us what you see in terms of having herbal allies enabling you to go through this process as a leader of this, which is really, it's an institution, it's an important organisation to Australia, especially within this community. It's very important to the herbal movement.

 

And so you've got a bunch of herbs that you are consistently using that are working on your body that enable you to go through these processes so you stay inspired and you're not being bogged down by dysfunction. But when you think about it in terms of for your nervous system, for you hormones, can you tell how the herbs are actually helping you in that process?

Laura:

Well, I have my little friendly bunch, which I called my ninja herbs for when I need to run the business like a ninja and for focus, there's an Amazonian herb called [inaudible 00:45:18]. I'm sorry if I pronounced it wrong. I don't know if you've tried it, but it's caffeine, but it's very stable, but it's very sharp. And so if I mix that with a bit of ginkgo that takes blood to your extremities and your neurons and everything else, then that's probably occupying my teapot the most. I like it.

 

And then the herbs when I'm needing to feel sharp, I always use my spiritual practise in union with it too, so I'll always surrender and let the herb do its thing. To be honest, there was a lot of the early years where I didn't actually really engage with the herbs that much. I was just kind of doing my business manager job, and so now I'm kind of letting them in and the subtleties of it's like there's a whole potency that comes with it.

 

And creativity, there's so many herbs for creativity and it's the actual ceremony that you go through. So it's like, okay, well if I really need to get out of my way, I am going to be drinking blue lily or damiana or something that's really going to open my heart space, but it's also going to drop the noise of business basically and let me start thinking. So yeah, there's all different aspects. Grounding's a big one. I don't tend to necessarily get anxious so much, but I can get overexcited and I use Reishi a lot in that situation. Reishi really seems to ground me and keep me with my God self kind of thing.

 

And even something similar like Chamomile. I never knew Chamomile tasted so good. I'd had it at the supermarket,so it was only maybe even a few months ago, I actually picked up a Chamomile and I was like, wow, I was blown away by it and it put me in a really nice space. So I use it like that really. It's not like I've got high blood pressure, so I need to drink this, or it's just more of, okay, I need to shift something on more of an energetic level and it just helps take me out of my human form a little bit more.

 

And I play with them. And that's what I want to share like I was saying before, if I have a cup of menstruation tea, it's like whack it on your belly as well. Actually look at the colour of the herbs and just be with it. And so that's been a big journey for me. And being 50 now and changing as a woman, it's my whole approach to business feels like it's changing too.

Mason:

Is it like shifting in tone or you're feeling like you're integrating different parts so they're working smoother? Because I think I would imagine, let me just take a guess, some people to this age, and I feel them being not so integrated and they go the way I did it was wrong and now this is, I've found the new way verse from what I can feel for you. Is this from you, is this beautiful integration of how you have done things and infused it with these other aspects that you've becoming aware of. Just wanted to put that out there.

Laura:

Yeah, it's kind of like I'm at the moment formulating an oil with somebody, womb wisdom oil. So as a woman in my time of life, it's nice to just be reminded of that feminine aspect and then coming from that place of care for everything. So care about what your packaging is or care about where your profits go and care about things like that. Whereas before, I was a little bit more like A plus B equals C, and that makes good business and we love everyone and the team's happy. But this is just coming from a deeper place.

 

And I think I'm a big fan of going very deep with plant medicines or psychedelics if I can get to a country where we can have them and just to completely get out of my own way and let that come forward and clear a bit of the crap too. So no integrated because I bought the business and then we moved warehouse and we've rebranded and so much that all that integration's kind of just gently come about. And so I can see some women are like, right, I'm a CEO now, and they can maybe step into that masculine energy more and be a bit more of a tyrant. Whereas for me it's just, well, if it didn't get done, it didn't get done. There's no beating myself up about it.

Mason:

That's probably one of the biggest evolutions of business I think you will see happening is both those big Yang times and the integration of the Yin times. And it's always funny, I mean, working with HR law is very Yin a lot of the time isn't it? But regardless, I've found, and we've discussed a little bit about the intricacies, we don't have to go into all the details, but how it's been like, okay, accept it how it is here in Australia and then make it work to the philosophy that you are committed to. Even though we're dealt this kind of Yang culture and the Yang business culture and the Yang HR, so on and so forth, be patient and this new philosophy is going to breathe itself in.

Laura:

It's having the courage and the faith we spoke about again. And yeah, I've heard you talk about business a few times, and I'm quite intrigued because obviously it infuses into your medicines and your herbs and the tonics and everything that you deliver, and it's almost as if your business practises are so well married to that too and infused in that philosophy.

Mason:

This is what I was actually curious about with the herbs, we were talking about values and that kind of thing, what that core baseline, I mean that earth medicine philosophy. And when you go and learn from the hub that you're talking about in going and learning about those foundations to herbal medicine and the philosophy that it comes from, how much of that is there within the business model?

Laura:

Well, it's actually inspiring me talking to you now, because now I'm thinking of different herbs. So rather than five philosophies, we could have five herbs that are actually standing strong in this or that. So actually, my creative mind's going off now because these are not necessarily our values, but these are the herbs that are inspiring our movement, so to speak, and the characteristics of that. Yeah, I'm definitely going to...

Mason:

Well, and that's the thing, it's always there. It's just you look under the rocks and for me, it was funny, the way that the values came about, the virtues. I was just thinking about it for so long. I was like, got to get this down, got to get this down. As I said, going through the process, writing it down, diluted it down to five in a process I did with someone external. And they're like, great, there's your values. And I'm like, that's not it. And then it just went [inaudible 00:52:07] one day I had my offsite that I was going to have, and just they all came through and I just went, when is the time when I've felt the spark of the potential of the business and my excitement at the height and what were the different tones? And I just went and wrote them down, just quickly caught them, and they weren't perfect.

 

But then as I went through, there were five originally, and then the sixth one just was like, no, I'm popping up. And it was like five and it was like five organs, five major organs of... Five Elements of Taoism plus another organ that I consider so fundamental. And then as I've studied them, I've tracked them back to each of these organs and gone, oh my gosh, that is the virtue of the Heart. Oh my gosh, I do have a virtue of the Kidney of the business and it's not the Kidneys, it's the Water. So I'm like, oh, the business is water. This is the way the virtue is expressed. And it was just really nice to be like, oh, I didn't really have to try that hard. That was there all along.

Laura:

And that's the thing, isn't it? Everything is already there. It's just about us being receptive to it. And so once again, it's not about what we're doing in business, it's how we are when we're doing it. And then you say you just find it under the rock, or you just find that right space where the spark and the light within you or the business goes bang, and it's like it's on. Let's do it.

Mason:

Yeah, that receptivity, that's a good word. And then hearing you talk about procrastination and in that typical Yang culture, you're just like, no, well bugger it. Keep going. And you're just going to burst past or potentially move far away from the thing that the procrastination is actually telling you, you need to stop and listen to and go look under a couple of rocks.

Laura:

Yeah.

Mason:

I like it. I think it's so nice to see that transition of the business and you're obviously so lit up and you're in a creative process, which is always the most inspiring thing. And then herbs, I just don't feel like... It's funny with such an institution, you must feel it sometimes where you're gone into that receivership and you're like, oh, the business maybe Ray maybe thought that, how's it ever going to be something more, how am I ever going to have more impact if I can't do the herbal highs or anything like that? And then just maintaining that faith.

Laura:

Well, we've had, Ray and I used to have some really funky meetings I was saying about using the plant medicines or the psychedelics, and we'd get to a juncture in the business and it'd be like right time, we need to have one of those big meetings where we go off into the forest for a couple of days. And so one meeting is we really felt like he was handing over to us, and it was when we were really in retraction, that was some franchisees that were making a lot of negative noise and there was some that really wanted to be elevated. And so five o'clock in the morning we had a bit of San Pedro and we climbed a mountain. Took us seven hours, and on the way down we'd be having conversations and Ray would fall over every time we'd hit something and we'd go, ah, that means confusion.

 

And so we'd sit wherever he's fallen and we'd unpack it and by the time we got to the bottom, we actually realised I was leading the way by the time we got to the bottom. But just by doing business in that context and actually stopping and going, we're going to be really present with everything. It was amazing.

 

And there was another time we'd had a lot of psilocybin and he had this hot tub. We were all dressed or whatever, but he's in this hot tub. We had this four hour meeting with him in the hot tub and me sitting there, and then when he pulled the plug, it was like, it released all the negativity. It was almost all the things that we were stuck on went down. And I left, and then he came down from the meeting and then we just nailed it. It was just that massive clearing of us and it's such a great way to work with each other.

Mason:

So amazing. And I imagine this community's resonating with hearing that, but then maybe not realising that how much integration and implementation goes in after those sessions.

Laura:

Absolutely. Yeah, exactly. And this is it, and this is where people might see us going, oh, they're becoming more serious business now. But it's like when we really get down to the bottom of it and get to the crux of it, we're working with forces that are outside of our realm, and so we just have to be in alignment with that as much as possible, I suppose.

Mason:

Yeah, that's probably something, and living where we live, you probably know a few healers and body workers and you hear just how important it is for them to keep their field clear and have their practise really tight so that they're in resonance and they're not picking up other people's stuff, so on and so forth. I really think if you want to play in this level of business, it's something you need to realise in terms of being a receptor, you need your practise. That's probably something I didn't appreciate.

 

I was just like, right, I'm going to go into the business. I'm going to go a little bit heavier into business and let the practises kind of slip because I just didn't really, even though I know this all theoretically, just had my time of being dragged through the mud. So I wake up to myself of realising that this is the same work. It's the exact same work. You need to stay clean. You need to stay present, you need to have your field constantly being realised and analysed so that you know what's you and what's the entity as well.

Laura:

Yeah. And that's it. And to be authentic in that, for my own being. Sometimes I don't actually drink herbs for weeks and weeks and weeks and I'm like, oh my God. And then I can actually start to see, oh, well everything's getting a bit clunky and I'm not feeling in alignment. Even the weeks before leading up to our chat and I came here this morning, I'm like, wow, well actually I've just been drinking my normal tea from the supermarket and I haven't actually, wow, where am I at?

 

So I checked in with myself on that. And I don't beat myself up about that anymore. I used to have a little bit of imposter syndrome because I wasn't bathing in herbs every day, but as long as I keep coming back to it and I keep deepening the relationship and the habits of being more in alignment with it than not, then it's all good.

Mason:

Oh, it's so cool. I really appreciate you coming and sharing so generously and we've come a long way from when I was dropping off that box or two to your place when I was on my way back from our double garage in South Golden Beach.

Laura:

And I so love in our new warehouse, the SuperFeast shelf is massive now, and it's growing and growing and we've had a lot of people, some of our shops will stock the mushroom providers and so on. We won't supply anybody else's. I've always known that your integrity is so strong with it. So I just trust that in everything it does. I'm not just saying that, it really is. No, we know vibrationally that this is amazing, these mushrooms and these tonic herbs and so everything else can go do its thing.

Mason:

Yeah, I appreciate it. I'm just excited we're at that point. We're I think coming out of some deep work and we have been able to send you a little bit of content for the hub and saying where I think I'm really feeling really excited about deepening, the connection with the shop owners, the franchise owners, and getting them supported. So the content and I think we're going to see another little boom of herbal wisdom and knowledge coming. We're all going to feel another creative process.

Laura:

I look forward to witnessing our journeys together as we grow wiser and older and grayer and stronger and happier.

Mason:

Me too. Yeah, it's all inevitable. Is there anywhere in particular that people can go and just check out everything that is going on over at Happy Herbs co?

Laura:

Well, happyherbcompany.com is our main website, and then there's a online store from there. We are in the process of revamping it, but just get in touch with us as well if you want to know more. And I really do want to grow the franchise, so if anybody feels aligned with that and you're like, oh, I'd love a little shop there, then just come and talk to us because really excited about it at the moment.

Mason:

Cool. The Instagram's cool as well. Go follow them on Instagram.

Laura:

Yeah. We've got Instagram, we've got Facebook, we've got... The website's got it all.

Mason:

Amazing. Thank you so much for coming.

Laura:

Thanks, Mason.

 

 

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