WHILE JEN KOVACH sells her herbal personal care products in local stores, online and in a corner of her other business, a North Country inn, she will never give up craft fairs and country fairs. “I still do a handful of fairs each year,” she said. “It’s a good way to reach potential customers, to answer their questions. For a product like my ‘Funky Feet’ salve, people feel comfortable asking me questions. It empowers them to heal themselves.”
Kovach is the entrepreneur behind Garden Dreams, a full line of herbal products for bath, body and healing. From her workshop in Eaton she’s determined to change the way Granite Staters think about skincare, one chapped hand or funky foot at a time.
Kovach didn’t start out in the garden; she was an English major in college, and found a corporate job after graduation. But it wasn’t a good fit for Kovach, and when a friend called and asked her if she’d like to work in an environmental school, she decided she would and quit the corporate gig.
She eventually found her way to the Earle Family Farm in Center Conway, where she “fell in love with food, how food is grown.” Elizabeth Earle had an herb garden, and Kovach helped her, learning herb lore and uses. She then took an eight-month internship with a Maine herbalist, Corinne Martin, and learned to make tinctures, salves and teas. She developed a passion for herbal bath and body products, and when two friends gave her a book on goat milk soap, on separate occasions, she added that to her repertoire.
Kovach began selling her products at craft fairs, and after a particularly successful Fryeburg Fair in 1988, she knew she was ready for full-time. She developed her creations alongside her own life stages and those of her friends.
“For example, in my mid- to late 20s, I was making a lot of skin creams. When my friends started having babies I developed baby creams. As we all get older, I’m working on eye creams.”
Kovach added, “I look at what someone wants, look at what it does, and dial into whatever herbs and essential oils are good for the body.”
She has recently begun developing CBD products based on hemp grown on a friend’s farm in Maine. She has added CBD to her nerve-healing oil and to a pain salve. Last year she debuted the CBD products at the Fryeburg Fair. “I felt ready to field all the questions,” she said.
Face creams and the nerve-healing oil are her top sellers, Kovach said, adding that the nerve oil got a boost when she developed the version with the CBD. This year she’s offering a peppermint/spearmint/CBD lip balm for the holidays and winter.
She offers a trio of goat milk soaps for $14.75; “I Can’t Be Bothered” bug repellent, $12; CBD lip balm for $6 and non-CBD lip balms for $4; and for a cancer patient, her “Bring Joy Radiation Recovery” for $20.
Kovach still grows some of her own herbs, and sources the others in Maine and New Hampshire.
She’s also busy helping her fiancé Kevin Flynn run the Snowvillage Inn, a business he owned, sold and recently bought back. She sells her products at the Inn, at the Local Grocer in North Conway, at Spice and Grain in Fryeburg, at Local Works in Bethlehem, and from her website.
While Kovach would like to see her items in more local stores, she “has no desire to be on QVC,” she said. She’s toyed with the idea of teaching classes on CBD’s uses and virtues.
And she wouldn’t mind seeing the Garden Dreams label in more stores in the southern part of the state, but she’s not actively looking. Most of her successes, she said, have come from word-of-mouth and the products themselves.
Like her products, the process is organic.
For more information, visit www.gardendreamsorg.