How living in Cambodia for 3 years inspired me to build my 100% New Zealand owned and operated organic supplements business

Organics NZ profile image
Megan Catley
Founded: November 2019
No of employees: 2
Location: New Zealand

Located in the sunny surf town of Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, Organics NZ Ltd produces and sells organic supplements directly to customers and wholesalers. Organics NZ is 100% New Zealand owned and operated by Megan Catley, owner and co-founder. Aligning with their brand values, the business has managed to source 100% recyclable packaging.

While Megan faced adversity as a European woman conducting business, she used this as a motivator to succeed. The business is still in its infancy and coupled with the disruption of COVID-19, metrics aren’t quite where Megan wants them to be. However, she has enlisted the help of a social media specialist to assist with product imagery, SEO strategy and also social scheduling and automation. This is making a big difference to the company’s marketing strategy. We’re interested to see what the future holds for Organics NZ Ltd, so we catch up with Megan to find out more.

Who are you and what brand did you start?

I am Megan Catley, the owner and co-founder of Organics NZ Ltd, a 100% NZ owned and operated business producing and selling organic supplements directly to customers via our website and to wholesalers. We are located in the sunny surf town of Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty in NZ.

Due to our range of products, our customers range from men and women in their 20’s through to people in their 70’s. Given our niche, we are really catering to anyone wanting organic supplements as part of their diet. 

An interesting milestone for the business is that we have managed to source 100% recyclable packaging which aligns perfectly with our name, niche and vision for the business.

How did you come up with the idea, brand name and logo for Organics NZ?

For three years we lived in Cambodia, where we designed and built a spirulina farm. It was certainly an interesting and challenging time and with our three young children also, then aged 2, 4 ½ and 7 years.

For me, conducting business as a European woman was definitely met with adversity, however I used this as a motivator to drive me to succeed further. It was during this time in Cambodia that we decided to focus more on the organic market. We had been watching the worldwide trends towards health and wellbeing and realized it was the way forward for us, our family and, in turn, the business.

Knowing that we wanted to become an organic supplement company, we needed a name to reflect this. After throwing around different names, ultimately it became what name was available with the New Zealand companies office. To our good luck, Organics NZ Ltd became ours. We had a designer provide logo options to us based on my brief. We chose the forest green in our logo to provide that organic feel.

Describe the process of launching Organics NZ?

We are still very much in the early stages of this brand and early hurdles include mastering social media, which has proved challenging but obviously very important as the wellbeing and health market is very competitive, and so being noticed is critical.

I am constantly learning the tools and applications required, however in order to speed up the process and ensure the brand progress, I enlisted the help of a social specialist to assist us with product imagery, our SEO strategy and also social scheduling and automation. 

One other early hurdle was discovering that packaging of one of our products was not air tight enough. This caused huge panic for me, and I needed to admit this to our wholesalers straight away to avoid their customers complaining to them, suspend this product on the website, and solve the problem. Fortunately, I was able to rectify the problem and the storm passed. This has proven an important experience and lesson, and will no doubt mean we will avoid issues like this again in the future. 

As a startup company, we didn’t have a huge amount of capital – something we underestimated. We have relied on word of mouth; I contacted local groups to give a talk on our Cambodian experience and products available locally. Instagram, Facebook and face to face contact with wholesalers has also proved helpful for networking. Again, as mentioned, this is an ever evolving and ongoing process as we refine our operation.

Since launch, what has worked best to attract and retain customers?

Attracting new customers is always ongoing as you are building a business. Nurturing your existing customers is super important. For new customers, I always touch base through email a week or 10 days post sale. Checking in to see how they are finding the product, if they have any questions or problems. I do care about my customers and 100% believe in my products. Building a rapport with people, in my view, creates loyalty and a point of difference.

With regards to business growth, how have things changed from a digital, revenue, customer and sales perspective?

As we are still in the infancy of the brand, our growth metrics are not where we want them to be yet. Also, the impacts of Covid have added their own challenges and we are right now building our numbers back up to post-Covid times. That said, employing a social media manager is helping expedite our bounce back and the future's looking bright !

With regards to managing change through crises, such as Covid19, can you talk us through your experience as a business owner and what you’ve learnt?

I managed to remain open as an essential business during our lockdown period, level 4. Sales started off strong as the uncertainty of what lay ahead made people nervous and they wanted to ensure they had sufficient supplies of supplients like ours.

Since then, sales have certainly dropped off as the lockdown continues and people reassess their spending capacity.

In addition to customer purchasing behaviours being impacted, we have also found sourcing some products difficult. As an example, we have found sourcing Camu Camu (natural vitamin C) directly from Peru problematic given the impacts of import and exports Covid has created. Peru closed their borders and we are still unsure of when they can export again. Fortunately though, I had new supplies of all of my other products pre-Covid, so our stock levels were high. Obviously, outlying money in stock is a balancing act, as it ties up a lot of capital, yet in a crisis without stock you have no income! 

As a counter to the impacts of Covid, we have focused on promoting products which are beneficial to immunity and general health, like Tumeric, as this is understandable a big focus for people atm.

How is the business doing today and what does the future look like?

It is an exciting time in my business at the moment. Wholesalers and customers are starting to open up again, as for a long period new procurement was put on hold. 

There have been some companies which haven’t made it through and that is the sad truth. I decided to focus on our existing products for the time being and expand into a range of different areas to gain brand awareness.

I am forever the optimist and look forward to getting our products in front of different and varying consumers going forward. The more people taking our organic supplements means a healthier outlook on a day to day level for many. I am definitely focused on growth for now and the immediate future

What’s been the biggest learning experience since starting your own brand?

Starting a business is a huge step! It takes courage, confidence and grit. 

It is great if you can surround yourself with 1 or 2 mentors to provide guidance. If not, then best to join Facebook groups with like minded people in business. Your hard questions are often experienced by another business and so having a community around you to bounce ideas off is key. 

Finally, don’t be shy or embarrassed to ask questions, it can save you a lot of time and frustration!

What are your top 3 tips on how to setup an Ecom store for success?

1) Dream big. Choosing the right web platform and woo commerce store is an important step and can save you a lot of time down the track, even if you don’t think or believe you’ll need it.

2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to pay someone who has the professional knowledge. Yes, it will cost money that you probably don’t have a lot of, but it will be worth it.

3) Believe in yourself and why you started this business in the first place.

What are some of your favorite online business tools you use to run Organics NZ?

There are a lot of online forums. Knowing what works for you is the hard part. In the beginning, you’ll need forums that speak your language – basic and practical. Facebook groups tailored to your niche market or general small business.

TypeTool Name
Email MarketingMailchimp
ReviewsTestimonial Rotator
AnalyticsWoocommerce analytics
ShippingGo Sweet Spot
Social Media ToolsHootsuite

See what business tools other founders are using.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts or other educational resources?

Years ago, I read the Robert Kiyosaki book – Rich Dad Poor Dad, and went and heard him speak. It started the financial interest for me and that anything was possible.

Nowadays, I listen to podcasts while out running or on road trips by myself. Plan to Profit by Carol Lange is great for young businesses. But I also listen to Lisa Tamati, a now-retired ultra marathon runner.

Getting the balance and fundamentals and applying them to your business is key.

Who have been the most influential people for you during this business journey?

My husband Grant is number one. Without his support and belief in me, I wouldn’t be here. My two mentors; Susanne, whom I acquired one of my products from. She brings wisdom, age and the truth. The other mentor is Coka; her graphic design has helped me hugely. It is super important to have a balance in your support network.

Any other advice you’d like to share with other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Do your research and believe in yourself. What have you seriously got to lose? What’s the worst that can happen?

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now or open to new investors?

Not hiring or open to new investors at the moment.

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