Bondi-based Kirsten Shanks is the type of woman who makes you want to change your life...
She radiates health, speaks with conviction and passion, and moves through the world in a way that makes it impossible not to crave whatever it is she’s having. From a daily meditation practice to regular herbal teas, to a diet full of whole foods and organic veggies, she is living proof that beauty radiates from the inside out.
But make no mistake – Kirsten is no lady of health-focused leisure. As a naturopath, herbalist, nutritionist and the founder of renowned health and wellness enterprise Orchard St., she is an entrepreneur to be reckoned with.
We spoke to Kirsten about her approach to wellbeing, life since becoming a mother, and the trials and tribulations of managing a business with a young family. With her balanced lifestyle and honest words, we’re ready to drink from the Orchard Street cup.
Photography: Grace Alyssa Kyo | Go to www.orchardstreet.com.au
Tell us about Orchard St. and what inspired the launch...
From the moment of conception, the intention behind Orchard St. has always been to share the experience of wellness. I am a Naturopath with a deep reverence for the plant kingdom, and I try to weave plant medicines through every one of our creations so that they may become part of a lifestyle; a daily ritual that honours health and celebrates nature.
In the six years since our launch, as the community has become more receptive, I’ve expanded our offerings bit by bit to become an all-encompassing ‘holistic health’ brand. We offer several ‘ways to wellness’; our juices, smoothies and elixirs, our herbal medicines and apothecary products, a suite of lifestyle or daily ritual products and plant-based edibles, available in our shops.
The concept came into focus in my mind’s eye in a crystal clear moment in New York, early 2012. The following year, back home in Sydney, we launched online as a holistic juice cleanse program; a platform to weave mindfulness and plant medicines into collective awareness.
Our first store, The Dispensary in Bronte opened soon after, as a storefront for my naturopathic clinic, and a tangible experience to balance the online offerings. Excited to explore new ways to weave plant medicines into food and beverages, we then opened the two Elixir Bars (Bondi then Paddington) in rapid succession.
The growth of awareness in the last four or five years since opening the stores gives an encouraging insight into the receptivity of customers to plant-based eating; in the early days we would have people walking out daily, bewildered that we only use fresh nut milks, served mushroom lattes and couldn’t make them a bacon and egg roll! These days almost anyone is willing to try an elixir or raw treat as greater awareness of the benefits of plant-based eating have expanded.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
Without a doubt, it’s the people I encounter daily, so many of whom I would never have met without the business. What a unique blessing to be introduced to such creative, passionate, powerful souls, each doing their part for the greater good.
The community of customers, creatives, dreamers, drifters, fellow business owners, journos, practitioners and staff near and far. Oh the staff. I have such deep respect, gratitude and love for the souls who have collectively made up our business over the years. I absolutely treasure my general manager. We truly are a sum of our parts.
Humans aside, it’s the potential to positively impact lives. What a gift! To share access to the wonders of the plant kingdom, a taste of mindfulness, some relief from niggles of the body and mind, a glimpse, even if only momentarily, of a healthier, happier way of being.
Have you always been on a path of healing and helping others through wellness?
The women in my family have always lived on the land in New Zealand as nurses and healers. I always knew I would be in the healing arts. A childhood in the coastal jungles of Borneo and adolescence in rural New Zealand lent time in nature to being an integral part of life.
The sciences were always my strongest subjects at school, due to a pure fascination with Mother Nature. I’d often borrow the microscopes from the science lab at high school, spending hours at home peeking into in the intricacies of plant life. Even teen partying days were typically on the land, dancing in fields and raving under the stars.
These adolescent years also bought a darker personal journey to navigate the link between food, emotional and spiritual health. Unfortunately, the messaging around healthy eating in the ’90s was still targeting fat as the devil, and like so many young women I was a victim of the fear this created. The diet industry has a lot to answer for in many people’s negative relationship and misunderstanding of nutrition.
The path to understanding the meaning of true nourishment ultimately led me to study Naturopathy, with the degree’s large focus on holistic nutrition. Food became medicine of the most wondrous and natural kind. An innate trust in the healing power of nature was rekindled.