Pukka Herbs - a success story

In March 2006 I wrote an article for Green Futures magazine in their ‘Sustainable Entrepreneur’ series. It was about Sebastian Pole, founder of Pukka Herbs. He started the business in 2001, to supply practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine with a reliable source of good quality, fairly traded herbs. By 2006 they were still running on a shoestring, although turnover was growing rapidly. Now, you can buy Pukka herb teas in shops all over the country, from the supermarket giants to tiny corner shops. They’ve won numerous awards and are still growing.

It’s not just a success story in terms of persuading people to drink herb teas, although making them both delicious and efficacious obviously helps. At the outset, most of the herbs involved were still being collected from the wild, and both quality and quantity were unreliable. Sebastian persuaded local farmers to grow plants that they thought of as weeds, provided them with a reliable income and micro-credit to buy herb driers and other equipment, and the training to farm organically and sustainably. As he said, ‘You can’t have a remedy that’s truly healing, even if it’s organically grown and prepared with love, if the person who grew it is not getting a fair deal.’ It didn’t seem to make much sense in business terms, but Pukka Herbs have proved that it can work, and it’s not just about making a profit.

It’s an inspiring story, and worth remembering when you buy your next packet of herb tea. This is ‘green medicine’ in every sense.