Meet our Friday Muse Kate Guthrie, founder of INXHALE

27 June 2024
By Fashion Quarterly

With a passion for improving people’s lives through purposeful products, we speak to the woman behind Aotearoa’s latest wellness innovation, INXHALE.

Kate Guthrie. Image: supplied.

The idea for Kate Guthrie’s innovative olfactory business came about during a long drive from her family’s farm in Kurow to Blenheim in 2021. Realising that coffee simply wasn’t enough to keep her alert, she quickly identified a gap in the market for caffeine-free alternatives, and soon found herself venturing into the world of olfactory wellness. Her brand, INXHALE, was born soon after. Working with Professor Conan Fee, a perfumer and Head of the School of Product Design at Canterbury University, and cosmetic chemist Stacey Fraser (the latter of whom she met at a wellness retreat), Guthrie developed a small accessible olfactory inhaler which would utilise a blend of natural aroma compounds to help aid with cognitive function and mood. Having launched only late last year in 2023, INXHALE is already making its mark on the local wellness industry.

Curious to know more about different smells and their effect on our senses, we sat down with Guthrie to delve deeper into olfactory wellness, how she personally finds balance and manages stress, and what we can next expect to see from INXHALE.

In conversation with Kate Guthrie:

Tell us a bit about you, your background, and your career to-date:

I was very fortunate to grow up on a sheep and beef farm in the South Island’s Waitaki Valley. Fifteen years ago, I made Marlborough my home, where I raised my two children, Louis and Freda, alongside my husband George, who heads a construction business. I’ve had quite a diverse career path that reflects my interests and personality, ranging from cultivating vineyards in Central Otago to owning and establishing an organic shop, working in farming, the wine sector, and events and marketing.

My most recent endeavours stand out as my most impactful. I am the driving force behind REAL Workspace, an innovative office environment that blends architecture with wellness principles, redefining the relationship between work and personal well-being [more on this below]. Simultaneously, I launched INXHALE, an innovative olfactory inhaler designed to enhance physical and cognitive performance through the power of scent—a modern extension of traditional aromatherapy. 

I’m a determined person, and these ventures highlight my creativity, forward-thinking vision, and commitment to improving lives by being at the forefront of transformative concepts in health and wellness. 

What inspired the creation of INXHALE, and how did you come up with the concept of using olfactory inhalers?

In January 2021, I attended the Food + Health + Happiness Retreat at Maruia River Retreat and met the amazing Stacey Fraser. Her connection to innovation, creativity, and curiosity for formulations and ingredients produced products that stood out from the crowd. Her personality, passion, and knowledge about all things made us instantly connect. At that point, I knew I wanted to create something amazing with her involvement, though I wasn’t sure what it could be. I did know there were no barriers, and anything was possible.

A few months later, the idea of aromas came to me after a long drive from the family farm in Kurow to Blenheim. After my third coffee and a full stomach, I wondered if there was anything on the market that could keep me more alert while driving. I reached out to Stacey, and the rest is history. She’s a mover and a shaker, and within days, I had articles filling my inbox about the benefits of olfactory wellness. It became evident that our main focus was to produce something natural that would make a real difference in people’s lives—nothing gimmicky.

Extensive research was conducted around aroma compounds and how ingredients work together. Initially, we considered a car diffuser but found too many variables—heat, fan speed, impact on passengers, etc. Then came the light bulb moment of a nasal inhaler!

Stacey connected with Professor Conan Fee, a perfumer and Head of the School of Product Design at Canterbury University, and they developed a science-driven formula. Our research continually highlighted the benefits of aromas for health and wellness, making it clear that we needed to develop a calm formula as well.

Kate's family farm.

What challenges did you face during the development of INXHALE’s products, and how did you overcome them?

A year ago, I lost one of my best friends, Bridget, in a car accident near Christchurch. An ideas person, trusted sounding board, and true advocate, she was my main motivator behind creating INXHALE and the first person I confided in about my aroma concept. Navigating life without her is a constant challenge, with daily reminders of her absence. However, I am grateful for the time we shared and the lasting influence she will have on my life. This journey has had its challenges, but I’m fortunate to have surrounded myself with experts and friends who have followed through from product design to launch and beyond.

Other challenges…

The formulation required a unique inhaler design, which became our biggest challenge. However, after Stacey returned from Bangkok with APAUL’s award-winning inhaler, we knew we had something special. I reached out to APAUL, and after multiple meetings, he agreed to collaborate for the launch of INXHALE—the award-winning inhaler paired with ‘arguably’ our award-winning formula. This concept and functionality of the inhaler is very common and has been prevalent for years, especially in Asia, however, it could resemble a vape being inhaled in imagery. Therefore, dedicated significant effort to educating people about functional fragrances and normalising their use here in New Zealand.

As someone who understands the pressures of achieving work-life balance, how do you personally manage stress and maintain your own balance?

Exercise is essential for me. I love the hills and being out in wide open spaces. Occasionally, I need an emotional recharge. Aro-Ha in Glenorchy was life-changing, and I still apply things from my time there in everyday life. I’m about to do Dave Woods’ 1:1 intensive workshop, which will benefit both my business and personal life. I respond better to physical therapy than to talking with someone. 

How has living in Marlborough and your connection to the rural community influenced your approach to creating your products?

I think growing up rurally in wide open spaces and fresh air has helped shape my wellness journey and given me a real appreciation for the natural world. For years, I interacted with functional products in nature, unaware of their incredible benefits. Now, through innovation, I can share the hidden potential through well-designed wellness products, making these natural wonders accessible to everyone.

What kind of feedback have you received from the INXHALE community so far?

Customer feedback has been really positive, from line haul transport drivers and sports professionals to people with trouble sleeping or anxiety. It’s encouraging to hear that what’s been developed makes a true difference in people’s lives, no matter how young or old. 

You’re also the founder of + REAL Workspace, a co-shared office space in Marlborough designed around the idea of Wellness Architecture. Can you tell us more about this?

REAL Workspace was an RWA architectural design that exists to challenge the stereotypical office environment by connecting work with wellbeing. Combining wellness architecture, natural ventilation, and ergonomic workstations with the principles of productivity and human connection. We have created a co-working space that provides a comfortable, healthy, and energy-efficient environment which plays an important role in the productivity of our tenants. We contracted Jade Hurst, a wellness architect, to help us realise this vision through the careful placement of natural light, walls, and ceilings to create flow within the structure. Structural insulated panels were used to create the ultimate high-performing thermally efficient space, with less waste and creating a low-energy building. We were careful to mitigate the toxins in materials and furnishings used across both the construction and interiors. 

How do you envision the future of workspaces evolving, especially in terms of integrating wellness and productivity enhancements?

On average, we spend 21 hours per day inside, and the implications of this are evident in our mental, physical, and emotional health. The future of workspaces should prioritise wellness and productivity through hybrid work models, biophilic design, and smart technology. It’s not necessary to spend a lot of money to incorporate wellness amenities, ergonomic innovations, and sustainable practices. Mental health support, community building, and collaboration, along with customisable and flexible spaces, can meet individual needs. Workspaces will evolve into holistic spaces that foster both personal well-being and professional productivity. The benefits of workplace wellness extend beyond the office, positively impacting family and friends.

Do you have any exciting projects in the works that you can tell us about?

All my energy and focus are currently on evolving and expanding INXHALE, as well as managing REAL Workspace. With INXHALE, we are working on several exciting initiatives to enhance our product line and reach a broader audience. This includes developing new formulations and collaborating with wellness experts and neuroscientists.

Who inspires you personally and professionally? 

On a personal level, my grandfather Bob, who had a community-oriented mindset, inspires me. A well-respected, compassionate man with strong values, he surrounded himself with wholesome, kind-hearted people. Professionally, Victoria Beckham is a remarkable woman and a true testament to the power of hard work! I love her blend of creativity, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit. The transition from pop stardom to a highly respected fashion designer showcases her ability to reinvent herself and excel in different fields. She balances her professional life with a strong commitment to her family, demonstrating the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Quickfire questions:

My go-to place for a coffee in Marlborough… Thomas’s and Son’s Cafe.

Last TV show I binged… The Kardashians!

The next place I want to visit… Bali

My style icon is… VB for street wear and Barry Crump for farm wear.

This season I’m splurging on… According to my husband “less is more 2024”. Looks like a new piece of jewellery is out of the question!

My guilty pleasure is…  Infrared Saunas and baths.

My dream collaboration would be with… Wendy Suzuki, a Professor in Neural Science based in New York.

Best place to dine in Marlborough… Harvest.

Imagery: supplied.

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