Daneen Morgan, founder of supplements company Oceangreen Organics talks harvesting seaweed from New Zealand, the Covid bump and forecasts for the year ahead.
What does your business do?
Oceangreen Organics produces a range of seaweed-based products specialising in seaweed supplements and culinary flakes. We're preparing to release a seaweed-based skincare product range and New Zealand marine collagen supplements, which launches in two weeks' time. We use NZ marine-based ingredients in all our products and we started in mid-to-late 2017. We are based in Christchurch.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I had met a passionate seaweed harvester and learning a lot about the world of seaweed, and I was able to take the concept of the raw material of seaweed and commercialise it. I was passionate about what we produce here in New Zealand.
How big is the team?
The team is me, I work fulltime, and then I have a woman based in Dunedin who does all of my graphic design and website development and various promotional materials. I hope I'll be in a position to be able to expand the team soon.
How has Covid-19 affected your business?
At the start, it affected us greatly because all of the stores that sell my product weren't open and weren't ordering. For about three months, sales in the domestic market came to a halt, but I was fortunate enough to be listed on Amazon so the business was able to tick along quite nicely. A lot of retail stores are still operating on a quiet basis. They are not ordering a lot of stock as they are a little apprehensive about what is happening. It is slowly picking up, but just not where it used to be. We're through the worst of it and I think because more people are becoming aware of seaweed, the business is going from strength to strength.
What's been the biggest challenge you've faced running the business?
Co-ordinating the harvest with manufacturing and making sure it all works seamlessly. The biggest challenge is making sure our harvest is harvested on time and gets to manufacturing on time. Sometimes co-ordinating the two can be quite a challenge.
If we miss a harvest we often miss our manufacturing slot and we have to go back to the drawing board again. The other key challenge is trying to educate people on the health benefits of seaweed - people often associate it with what washes up on the beach.
What's been the biggest lesson you've learnt through the Covid and lockdown period?
There were lessons on many levels – the biggest was not to give up. To be more creative and innovative on the best way our seaweed range of products could be marketed and promoted, and most importantly educate consumers on the extraordinary nutritional properties of seaweed. It was a time to pause and review the business – looking at what complementary new products could be developed and launched. As a small business, you can spend too much time "in the business" and not have the chance to step back and see opportunities from a fresh perspective. Being in lockdown gave me the time and space to focus and be creative.
What are you focused on for the rest of the year?
We're working on redesigning our website to incorporate new products coming in. We've redesigned our logo and look to complement the introduction of our new products that are coming online. My focus is on growing the awareness of seaweed, the launch of our New Zealand collagen products and our seaweed skincare range, and looking at new product development as well.
I've just been approached by a big company in Hong Kong to take on my product range, which is really exciting, and I've also had huge interest from a supplier in Britain, so that is really promising. Sales on the Amazon platform and contacts in North America are growing month-on-month so we expect next year to be our best year yet.
What's your advice for others who want to start their own business?
Don't give up when it gets too hard or you lose sight. Hang in there and persevere.