When Nadia Key first left school, she was like many school leavers who didn’t know what to do. After taking a gap year and doing some local volunteering, she decided to follow the path of education and went into a teaching degree. “I loved my first year and wanted to become a special education teacher and work with disadvantaged youth,” she tells us.
But she soon realised the classroom environment wasn’t suited to her. “I struggled with some of the politics and struggled to believe that it was all about the kids sometimes,” she says.
In her final year, she focussed on studies around issues of equity. “I became interested in the ‘pay it forward’ idea, seeing models of how people can work towards the common good of the community. I had this idea, I didn’t know what to do with it but I was passionate.”
After finishing her degree, she saved up to go overseas. But her trip was cut short following a sudden illness and she was forced to come back home. Bedridden and restless, it was in this moment that the idea of La Luna was born.
“I started a little Instagram business, making and selling handmade soaps,” she says. The idea was simple: for every soap she sold, she would donate another to a care pack, delivered to Women’s Refuge. Soon, the business picked up and she started getting asked about more products.
At the beginning of 2019, she decided to take the plunge and put everything into expanding the business. Selling sustainable, ethical and up-cycled homewares, accessories and gifts, 80% of the products are made by Nadia and her business-partner Mum, Elke. In July last year, Nadia opened her first shop in Kumeu.
The La Luna Project
At the heart of the business is her charity, La Luna Project for which 10-50% of the sales get donated back to. “I wanted to give people the chance to buy something that was NZ-made or sourced ethically with a portion of the sales going back into our communities,” Nadia tells us.
Going back to her teaching roots, she started with the education system, with a vision to provide equal opportunity for youth. “I talked to a lot of friends in the profession and asked, ‘what are the basic things kids need that they’re lacking?’”
Starting with period care packs, the project grew to deliver stationery packs, winter woolies and snack packs to primary schools throughout the country.
“We drop off between 10-50 packs at a time. It’s great because now the kids just know they’re there, they don’t even need to come and ask. They know that if they’ve got their period, for example, they can come and grab one of the packs,” says Nadia.
Small purchases making big impacts
The response from schools and teachers has been hugely positive, Nadia tells us. “One teacher told me about a student who never came to school with stationery and was so embarrassed about telling the teacher that they just sat there and didn’t write anything down,” recalls Nadia. “Basic things like stationary seem like such small things but can have a big effect.”
Shame, judgement and stigma are many of the feelings surrounding poverty, particularly when it comes to children.
“At that age, the anxiety of not having the necessities affects you immensely. Whilst there’s equal opportunity when it comes to education, these kids don’t necessarily have the same access because of a lack of food, clothing and resources. Now, kids in more privileged positions are becoming aware that not everyone is on the same playing field and that if we can work together we can help each other out,” says Nadia.
Nadia hopes to see more businesses pick up on this ‘paying it forward’ model. “It’s such a small thing for people to come and buy products that are all ethical and sustainable but also doing a little bit of extra good,” she says. “I feel like if every business gave this tiny bit, 5% or 2%, it’s amazing how much putting that money back into a community can help it grow and flourish.”
Bringing awareness to period poverty in New Zealand
One of the major issues Nadia is trying to tackle through La Luna is period poverty. A recent KidsCan survey found that a quarter of New Zealand women report having missed school or work because they have been unable to afford sanitary items.
Period poverty, while a big issue in New Zealand, is not often talked about, especially at the primary school level, says Nadia.
“Statistically, girls are getting their periods a lot earlier than they have before,” Nadia tells us. “Nowadays, it’s quite common for girls in Year 3 to 6 to get their period. A lot of the times, it’s not discussed, or parents might not even think to talk to them about it because it’s happening so much younger than before.”
From talking to primary school teachers and her own research, Nadia saw the need for period education and resources. “A lot of girls are quite ashamed and scared and don’t know at that age how to approach it. Kids won’t come to school, or they’ll lock themselves in bathrooms.”
She hopes that by having these packs available in primary schools, it will take away the stigma. “We like to include a little handcrafted soap, spare pair of underwear, chocolate, and an info pack explaining what’s happening. It’s about educating rather than making them feel silly for not knowing.”
Growing a community
While still a small business, Nadia has big dreams for its future. “The pipe dream is to expand to a couple store fronts in the North Island and South Island and showcase other products,” she says.
For now, she’s making sure to keep the same values and beliefs that she started with. “We want to make sure the products are affordable and attainable,” she says.
She also wants to open a space for talks, workshops, and courses. “I want La Luna to be more than just a shop, because that’s how it started. It always started as a community and I want it to continue to grow that way.”
To find out more visit laluna.org.nz