Priest launched the Nelson business, Plantæ Certified Organic Skincare in December last year with her two daughters, Janelle, Fiona and another daughter, Jacinta has recently joined as well. Carol Priest is well known in the New Zealand skincare industry for her former range which she founded, Carol Priest Natural Cosmetics NZ.
Plantæ was launched with a vision to produce quality skincare using premium local ingredients including pure plant bioactive extracts extracted from locally sourced super fruit seeds and seed oils that are high in anti-aging essential fatty acids (EFAs) and which also contain nutrient rich skin protecting antioxidants and vitamins.
Other ingredients sourced locally include certified organic avocado and olive oils, beeswax and wild thyme honey and lavender oils.
The entire range of products contains typically greater than 95 per cent organic ingredients and are certified by BioGro, NZ's leading organic certifier.
The best seller to date is the Balance Phyto Nutrient Day Cream with antioxidant rich grapeseed extract from the Marlborough region.
Plantæ has already entered the UK and Canada and it is identifying more markets.
The export story so far
After launching in December, the products selling in a number of pharmacies and health food stores in New Zealand and online, we have entered the UK and Canada.
Very quickly after we launched our official website in April we started getting enquiries from all over the world. One of these enquiries was from the UK-based distributor Purely Natural Cosmetics. Purely Natural is also going to take our brand into the EU. The distributor was impressed by the quality and standards of Plantæ, and our products have received a good level of interest from UK consumers.
We would also like to be in UK department stores and in big pharmacy chains like Boots. The key is having good distributors.
In Canada, we are exporting through the retailer, Prologue Lifestyle which delivers to the US as well. It is an online and bricks and mortar retailer.
Using export advisors
We are currently working with the Auckland company, Katabolt, to strategically identify other international markets. They are helping us to research and professionalise how we choose the right markets for us. Jacinta is working with them; she must be devoting about 25 hours a week to this at the moment. They are helping us separate the wheat from the chaff - we are getting the list down to six countries and they will help us with their networks in these countries. The most likely next export markets are Australia, China, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. We receive a lot of export inquiries through our website. Through the website we have had two serious inquiries from Japan, also others from Korea and Taiwan. Due to the number of enquiries we are receiving we are designing a form which asks information of interested parties - to qualify their interest better. We don't want to be giving out huge amounts of samples to everyone.
Trade shows good venues for export prospects
We are also going to trade shows to spread the word. Last year, we exhibited at the Taiwan Organic Expo and this year we will exhibiting at Sydney International Spa and Beauty Expo at the end of August.
Educating the export market
Having had an export skincare business before, I learned a thing or two about Korean and Japanese attitudes toward skincare. Woman there prefer the moisturisers to have a light consistency. They do not like heavy greasy creams and prefer a large choice of products in each skincare step to choose from up to four different types creams to cleanse the skin.
One of the problems I encountered in the past was a lack of tolerance for any subtle colour variations in our organic creams from one batch to another. We are having to educate them that this is due to seasonal variations of colour in organic vegetable oils and plant waxes. Fragrance is also an issue - they like citrusy fresh fragrances.
Managing currency risk
We are getting training through NZTE on dealing with other currencies. They have been sending us on courses to try and manage that. We do it on a case by case basis.
Next week, we take a look at the kind of flexible working arrangments SME owners are offering their staff and themselves in the current market. Surely a perk of running your own business is an opportunity to have more freedom on how you work and when and you should be offering this to your staff too. Tell us your stories.