Auckland skin care brand Syrene, founded in 2016 by Jo Gilberd and Karen Yang, is powering on with its expansion into new markets. Young talks about working through disruption from Covid-19 and the long term plans for the brand.
What does your business do?
Syrene is a women's skincare brand inspired by the ocean and made up of ingredients from the sea, such as seaweed extracts, including ephemer. The business is based in Takapuna, Auckland, and was founded in late 2016 and launched later in 2017. Our products are sold in pharmacies and department store Smith & Caughey's in New Zealand, Australia and parts of Asia, and most recently in Mecca, which has always been our target.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I had been working for a lot of famous New Zealand brands exporting products to different countries, mainly to Asia, and Jo has 35 years' experience with product development, she had been working for big brands in the UK, and we thought New Zealand had a gap for natural skincare. New Zealand has a lot of amazing skincare products but most are quite rich and cream-based. We felt the market needed a luxury pharmacy brand.
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Where do you see the brand in five years' time?
We're definitely looking at international global markets; we just launched into the UK and European markets and we've just signed an agreement with the Middle East, so in five years' we will be looking to launch our brand into more global stores, like Sephora, we want Syrene to be a famous brand and when people think about New Zealand they think about us.
What keeps you motivated and working towards that goal?
Working with our team is what keeps me motivated all the time. We have a great team of 12 and also to take the brand to the right retailers and consumers keeps us motivated.
How has the business been affected by Covid-19?
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Covid-19 has definitely affected us. We had a lot of PR events and have had to postpone all of our marketing PR as well. For us, staff is most important so we have made sure everyone is safe and to make sure everyone is employed is our focus. Some good things happened during lockdown, we had our UK preview launch online and Mecca actually launched us earlier online.
Our revenue has increased a lot, especially when we launched with big retailers such as Mecca. It has definitely affected our sales on the physical store level but I think New Zealand and Australia is moving very positively and we will be in Mecca stores from August.
What's your focus for the remainder of the year?
For the rest of the year: we're working with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise very closely for our international market expansion, so hopefully Covid-19 will slow down and we can start working with different international markets again.
We export product to lost of Asia already, but we do want to expand to more Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, so hopefully this is a possibility. Natural skincare products are getting really popular in Japan and Korea so we think we'll have a good positioning there. We still think the US is our biggest opportunity, which we have been working on for quite a long time. We were hoping to enter that market this year but progress is moving slower than before, so it is more likely we will launch there next year.
What advice do you give to other people who want to start their own business?
Be yourself and work on what inspires you. A lot of new brands are always looking at what others are doing but it is better to stay focus on what you're doing and your own creation.