I am Maxine Shea one of the Founders of Hemp Collective, a multifaceted business that utilises hemp to create a range of sustainable and ethical hemp products. 

Up until last year, we also hand-planted and harvested hemp on our small-scale farm situated between the sea and the mountains of the Byron Bay hinterland. 

Throughout the last five years, we have developed some of the best hemp products on the market, including a beautiful range of shampoo, conditioner and soap bars, plus a pet range that will have your furry friend shining from the inside out. The great thing is that all of these products are all-natural, non-toxic and utilise organic plant-derived ingredients that are better for us and the planet. 

Together, we have spent years researching cannabis to ensure our business and products are backed by integrity and knowledge. We are not a fly-by-night operation, rather, part of a grassroots movement ushering Australia into a new era of cannabis acceptance and legalisation. 

When did you start your business? What was the inspiration behind starting this business?

Hemp Collective started from our need for natural solutions. Nine years ago, our journey began with the birth of our son who suffered severe eczema. We realised the foods & products we ‘thought’ were safe, were actually doing more harm than good. 

About the same time, my (Maxine) health began to decline with chronic headaches, depression, fatigue and hormonal problems. It was then that I was diagnosed with a rare non-cancerous brain tumour. Western medicine offered more ultimatums than suggestions. Even though they performed brain surgery, the tumour kept growing. So we investigated other, less toxic options. 

In our research, the Hemp plant kept coming up time and time again. The statistics and clinical research studies were astonishing, including hemp’s medicinal & environmental advantages. We struggled to understand why the world had turned its back on such an incredible plant. 

As our knowledge grew, so did our love for all things Hemp.That was when we introduced Hemp into our everyday life and decided to share this versatile plant with others. Consequently, Hemp Collective was born! Our business is built on conscious, sustainable and ethical principles, but it’s more than selling amazing Hemp hair, Body & Pet Care products. We have involved ourselves in pioneering an industry and the ongoing education of the misunderstood hemp plant.

What are you most excited about in your business?

There are so many things to be excited about in our business. 

To mention a few: 

1. Making quality eco products for a sustainable future for our customers 2. It is one of the most amazing plants to grow, more so when we know how versatile this misunderstood plant is. 

3. How we are helping to pioneer the hemp industry 

We push boundaries to help people understand hemp — that drives us to keep doing what we do. It really comes down to helping people live a sustainable life, supporting regional and sustainable production by making safe, high-quality goods, and to reinvigorate our society by applying craftsmanship and quality valued above over-consumption and standardisation. 

Hemp is an amazing plant because it is so versatile & by growing Hemp, it absorbs CO2 due to the natural photosynthesis — making it carbon-negative! Good for us and the planet! 

What has been the most challenging thing about starting your business?

There have been a number of challenges that running a Hemp business has presented which we have had to overcome. 

The first one that comes to mind is when Facebook decided to delete, not just my Hemp Collective business manager account which held about 10 other business pages, but also my personal account! This took place 1 month after COVID and we lost 50% of the revenue! There was no one to contact or to help me and that’s when I started to do a little bit of research and found that it wasn’t just indicative of our Hemp brand but many all over the world. 

It was traumatizing but it taught us a valuable lesson—-to make sure that we didn’t put all our ‘hemp eggs’ in one basket. So, we turned our sights to our owned content i.e. newsletters, blogs, SEO & our PR ethics focusing on providing exceptional customer service to our valued stockists and customers.

Without a way to tell the world about what we have to offer, it was going to keep our business stagnated & unable to grow and we weren’t ready to become another small business statistic! 

What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a business?

Being passionate about a product or idea is great, but always start at the end and work back i.e start at the market and ask lots of questions of people who are already in your industry. 

Market research is integral, try not to listen to the noise, however. Have a plan so that you don’t get pulled into another area and be ready to pivot and change in the times ahead. Keep an open mind. 

There are many great resources around such as mentor programs, online resources & some great government resources out there. Attend industry events and get to know who’s who in your market. 

Having a good mentor who you can trust is super important and only surround yourself with the people that bring you up and not down. Don’t dismiss, however, the fact that the latter is as much a guiding source—our enemies, or the things that bring us down, are there to teach us, for they WILL challenge us. Facing the challenge & winning is where the triumph lies. 

Why did you enter and what did you enjoy the most about being part of the awards?

I entered to be able to meet other Mum’s in business &, it goes without saying, that external recognition is super motivating. The latter is the stamp of approval we need to know we are on the right track. Putting in the hard work is then rewarded—- in our case, the winning of Gold and Bronze in 2 categories!!! 

I love that I am able to be an inspiration for other women in business just as they have for me and to prove to myself that my health issues don’t get in the way of doing what I do.

What surprised you most about the awards?

The community spirit that was shown on the night – even though it was all done via zoom!! It goes without saying that a supportive community of Mum’s doing great things, makes for the inspiration to drive forward & achieve goals. Needless to say, that is always a good thing!!

How did the awards help you in your business?

The awards were a great way to help us be recognised for our achievements & gave us some great content and helped us leverage our PR efforts. I am not sure about the impact of the Ausmumprenuer awards on my business as it’s about brand awareness and we are never sure where our customers are on our buyer’s journey so I am sure the more times we enter the more times people will see our brand.

What advice would you give to other mums thinking about entering the awards?

Just go for it – there is nothing but a small fee to lose. I didn’t think I was going to win after seeing the calaba of women who entered, but I did. I felt terribly proud to be recognised for all the hard work and juggling a business and being a Mum entails.

What has been the best thing about starting your own business?

Helping our customers to have access to reasonably priced natural eco products that are not only healthy for themselves and their furry friends but help them have a positive & sustainable impact on the earth. For us, it’s a win for the planet and our customers’ back-pocket, in that, they are not paying for excess packaging – just the good stuff!

We push boundaries to help people understand hemp — that drives us to keep doing what we do. It really comes down to helping people live a sustainable life, supporting regional and sustainable production by making safe, high-quality goods, and to reinvigorate our society, by applying craftsmanship and quality valued above over-consumption and standardisation.

Hemp is an amazing plant because it is so versatile but by growing Hemp it absorbs CO2 due to the natural photosynthesis — making it carbon-negative! Good for us and the planet! 

What are your big plans for the future?

We have a number of big moves moving forward: 

We have our sights set on overseas expansion next year. We have been asked if we will start to sell into countries such as Japan (they love our products) and the USA. 

Starting a Podcasting channel to help educate people about hemp and cannabis. Hemp innovation is happening all around the world and interviewing some amazing people who have hemp knowledge ready to share would be to our, & consequently, everyone’s advantage. 

Putting our hemp education course online to help other people not make the same mistakes we did. This will be tailored to people who are interested in starting out in the hemp industry. It will also outline the pitfalls of being in an emerging industry and how to overcome this. 

Working on more PR opportunities, not only around hemp & sustainability but empowering others with their health and the benefits that can be done if we just change our mindset. 

We also have some exciting ideas on future plans for product expansion into our pet line next year. 

We have a big vision for other hemp business ideas in the future. Preparing for when legislation changes—we will potentially be looking for crowd-funding or investors to help make this project happen. Watch this space. 

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