Creator's Corner: Natural Harry | Eco Concept & Lifestyle Boutique
Harriet / Author & Shop Owner
Harriet Birrell’s mission is to encourage slow, conscious, and simple living. What started as a beach-side caravan selling organic plant-based food has evolved into recipe books and a conscious concept store selling eco-friendly and purposeful items.
Here, she talks about her journey, self-publishing two cookbooks and her advice for turning a passion into a career.
Tell us a little about yourself and your creative background:
I studied fashion design straight out of school and have always loved art and design in all its forms. Architecture, fine art, fashion, interiors, sculpture, food, all of it! I have always enjoyed that perfect balance and blend between function and design. Creativity has been the driving force behind every thing I have done with Natural Harry.
What has your journey looked like from self-publishing your recipe & lifestyle book, to opening up a conscious concept store?
I would not say that it has been a conventional evolution of a business. It began with studying integrative nutrition online (a short year-long course and an overview of dietary theories) back in late 2012. During that time I was nannying and my partner and I began to work on building a wooden vintage caravan from scratch. My passion for whole foods and creating beautiful spaces led up to fitting the caravan with a commercial kitchen and opening it as an organic smoothie and raw dessert vendor in a small beach town on the south Victorian Coast.
The food was so popular that I was inspired to write a recipe book with my tried and true favourite from those days. I self -published that in 2015! I wrote a second, larger recipe book in 2017 full to the brim with all year round simple whole-food plant-based recipes. I did the design and layout of both books so was able to incorporate my background in design there. I adored the process (lucky, because it is not easy). I self-published the second book "WHOLE by Natural Harry" and that was so popular that Hardie Grant has picked it up and it is now available Aus wide, in US, UK and translated in to German . Since self-publishing the second book I have opened an ethical fashion + lifestyle store in East Geelong with all my favourite things!
What are your guiding values and how are they reflected in the items you choose to carry?
At the bear minimum they (items) are ethically and environmentally produced. Meaning the people making them are more than well looked after and paid a fair wage, as well as being made out of ethically sourced, natural or up-cycled fibers. The non clothing items such as the skin care, perfume etc must be pure and natural as well as cruelty free. All of this must also be great quality, beautiful and local where possible. So there is a fair bit of criteria for one product to meet!
How and where do you source your stores treasures from?
Everywhere. 90% of the products are items that I have used and loved for years and trust. As much as possible they are Australian made. Many of the suppliers I knew personally before opening the store so I could trust their brands integrity.
What is Natural Harry’s overall mission?
For the store: To cause a ripple effect by offering sustainably made, ethical goods to the conscious consumer that are also beautiful - so that one day it’s the norm to purchase quality over quantity and ethical over cruelly.
For the rest: To inspire and support others to eat more WHOLE food and to show them how easy it is. To give readers the confidence to get into the kitchen and use a skill that will feed them and their families for life.
What does a typical day look like for you?
hahah I am asked that ALL the time. Unfortunately there is no such thing in my world. My non-negotiabes are 1/2 hour of movement that I love (usually a lap swim/yoga/walk with a mate) and playing with Fred. There is always small business related work involved and aside from that the day can entail any number of things. Photoshoots, sales assistant, paperwork, errands, ordering stock, recipe writing, recipe video production, book deliveries, surfing, etc etc. Oh and eating ahahah
Do you have creative habits or rituals that help you stay focused?
For me it is movement. For some reason, creative ideas for a new recipe or collaboration, and solutions to problems come to me when I am walking or swimming. I am not sure why. It seems to be the forward motion and energy movement is what’s key for me. When it comes to staying focused, I have the opposite problem. I have to actively try very hard to switch off and give my mind a rest. I am very naturally self disciplined and am working on giving myself more of a break. The reality is with a small business and wearing all the hats, you will never have every single thing done .
What influences your creativity?
So much. The environment, problem-solving, nostalgia, plants... and the list goes on.
What is your proudest moment in your journey so far?
That would have to be every time someone goes out of their way to tell me how owning WHOLE has changed them and been the catalyst to their new found love of cooking, preparing food, and taking care of themselves. Nothing can beat feeling as though you have helped someone look after themselves and exercise some self respect!
What are you most excited about right now?
Right now I am so excited about all the exciting things coming to the Natural Harry concept store. I am excited for the second year in that beautiful space and to continue to refine it and collaborate on some beautiful offerings with other local brands. I am also SO excited about the second book WHOLE being released overseas and translated into German! Oh and being engaged! That is super exciting!
What advice would you give aspiring ladies hoping to turn their passion into a career?
I would say always lead with your heart. Although it does leave you very vulnerable at times, you will never lose motivation and will remain in alignment with your "why"
Finish these sentences
My favorite item in my shop is Aside from my self-published recipe books… The Australian made eucalyptus fibre Clothing. Softer than silk, more absorbent than cotton and cooler than linen.
I lose track of time when I’m drawing, surfing, playing tennis, playing with Fred, laughing with a friend
I can watch Robin Hood Men in Tights (80's movie) over and over again.
My go to recipe is scrambled tofu, brekkie, lunch and dinner... always yum!
I believe that we will all do our bit to look after the environment one day!