Text by Mads Hvitved Grand / hört
Photos by Jørgen Asmussen / LittleManShouting
While many entrepreneurs say they hope to reap what they sow, they usually mean it metaphorically. For Durita Hansen however, this is literally her business. With the aim of rekindling the somewhat forgotten Faroese practice of utilizing locally grown, aromatic plants to make herbal tea, she founded the startup URT in 2022 and brought her first three blends to market last summer.
Durita has sought out the herbs, often stowed away unseen in the Faroese country side, that offer a taste experience unique to the Faroe Islands with their mild winters, the salty fog from the Atlantic Ocean and an abundance of downpour. Her blends contain ingredients such as heather flower, mint, chamomile, fennel seeds, elderflower, aniseed. And not least stinging nettle.
“In the Faroe Islands, the sheep eat everything that grows. Except nettle,” Durita says. “Our sheep seem to particularly steer clear of nettle. So that’s a main ingredient in my blends. Primarily because of its fragrance, taste and beneficial effects, though.”
Durita’s blends consist entirely of herbs that can be found on the islands, with no tea added.
“Part of the purpose of producing home grown herbal tea is to remind locals of the numerous benefits of the many beautiful and healthy plants we are blessed with here in the Faroe Islands,” Durita says.
The raw materials used in the products launched by URT – ‘urt’ is Faroese for ‘herb’ – are either home grown in Durita’s garden east of the capital Tórshavn, in a family owned strip of land on neighboring island Sandoy or harvested on open land where the local farmer’s allow Durita to compete with the grazing sheep for sprouts, leaves and stems.
Startup in a cup
The notion to become an entrepreneur had been brewing in the back of Durita’s head, even some time before URT poured its first cup of herbal tea. Originally trained in dentistry as a clinical assistant, Durita was intent on starting her own business. A couple of years ago, she applied for funding of a completely different project; a digital gift app she had been working on for some time. For various reasons, it didn’t pan out. In part because an international bank launched a similar app almost simultaneously.
“It was tough then and there. But I quickly came to see it as a blessing in disguise. Spending all day in front of a computer, immersed in digital development, is really not for me. But I learned a great deal from the process and the experience prepared me for a new project and ensured that I got off to a much better start with URT,“ Durita says.
That initial attempt harnessed her ability to develop an idea, devise a vision for the company, obtain complete clarity of her target group and to flesh out a strong business plan. While conceptualizing URT, Durita has used Hugskotið, Tórshavn’s startup hub, to learn about business model-formulation and various ways of funding. Prior to launch, she obtained funding both through local crowdfunding and through Vinnuframi, a national initiative that provides support to innovative trade and industry projects that will lead to a more diversified and sustainable business sector in the Faroe Islands.
Sow, harvest, sell, repeat
After her first year in business, Durita is getting the feel of URT’s phases. Planning and planting comes first, then gathering, picking and harvesting before the herbs are dried, mixed to shape URT’s exclusive blends and then promoting and selling complete the cycle.
“I love being out and around, getting my fingers into the soil. I have always been quite creative, drawing, designing, using my hands, so I really enjoy the marketing side of the business. Combining all of this is great. URT is so much in sync with me and I really do see it as a life project, as I try to inspire others to fully cultivate their own interests,” Durita says.
So what next steps are on the boil for URT? Launching new blends? Diversifying? Going kombucha?
“Actually, I can see the business taking multiple directions, though I don’t see myself opening a café. Preferably I could join forces with someone, add distribution channels, bring others onboard for the busy season during harvest. I hope to be able to make a living out of URT. To grow. But not too much. I would like to strike a balance that allows me to keep my authenticity,” she concludes.
While some entrepreneurs storm ahead, Durita takes an unhurried approach. Feet firmly planted among fragrant Faroese herbs. And proving that you can in fact build a sustainable business one cup at a time.