The accidental entrepreneur wants to get the planet in better shape for her son.
Fifty-five million. That’s how many metres of plastic Stacia Jensen estimates her company LilyBee Wrap has saved from the ocean since launching four years ago. Not a bad result for someone who only came to New Zealand 12 years ago and who calls herself an “accidental entrepreneur”.
“I didn’t plan on doing this, but I’ve always been good at falling into things,” says Stacia, 40.
Those “things” include producing reusable and rewashable wraps – crafted by hand from sustainable beeswax – that do away with the need for plastic food coverings. Today, Stacia makes around 60 products, including flat wraps, bags, eco-products and fire starters.
“It’s a joke that we’re an eco gateway drug,” she laughs. “Customers use our wraps and then they might switch to a reusable bottle or make other lifestyle changes. I want to people to realise they don’t have to be zero-waste, they can start small and do whatever they can do to help the environment.”
Stacia’s story begins in Portland, Oregon where she was born to a family that included a NASA scientist. Growing up, she veered more towards meditation, yoga and spirituality.
Her husband Drew was a captain in the US Army but, while on deployment to Iraq in 2007, he was shot by a sniper and died a few months later.
Grieving, she admits, was as hard as you’d imagine it would be. So when Stacia’s step-sister invited her on a round-the-world surfing trip, she signed up immediately.
When they arrived in Raglan, Stacia realised she’d found the place that could help heal her grief. And so she stayed, teaching yoga in Raglan and the Coromandel.
It was while on an extended road trip with her then-partner that Stacia realised the plastic covering their store-bought vegetables was leaching into their food.
“I started wondering what people used before plastic and came across beeswax wraps. I thought I’d have a go at making my own, so bought some cotton from Spotlight and melted down a beeswax candle.”
While she was tinkering with the formula, Stacia discovered she was pregnant with her son, now four. “I think I got PTSD that year – starting a business and having a baby!”
Stacia is now single – “Who has time for a partner?!” – and runs LilyBee from a Napier production facility, where the words “When intention meets action, we change the world” are scribbled in a large font on a chalkboard. Pre-Covid, the United States was Stacia’s biggest market.
“Just before lockdown, the US turned back a $100,000 order which was already on the ship. It was heartbreaking, but we’ve adjusted and our company values, of being kind and seeing the good in people, have helped us get through.”
Stacia has always leaned into environmental causes, but says becoming a parent solidified that. “It makes you think about your environmental impact and wanting to leave the planet a better place for your children.”