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Turning an idea into a classic Kiwi business story

Tuesday 04 July 2017, 4:53PM
Turning an idea into a classic Kiwi business story

The best business ideas often develop from a simple thought. Nothing too dramatic, no bolt of lightning or moment of enlightenment, just an observation that something we see around us could be improved.  

In the case of Miri Skincare, it was seeing that a well-known Australian balm contained petrochemicals, which shocked Miri founder and director Paul Jarvis.  

Mr Jarvis' wife and female friends all carried a little tube of the Aussie balm and, after noticing the petrochemicals, he thought "why can't we make something similar out of natural New Zealand ­products?" 

 He took a two-pronged approach of looking at natural New Zealand ingredients, settling on two icons of the natural world: kiwifruit and manuka honey. He also began extensive research on producing a balm with these two at its heart. In May this year, the company launched its first product, Miri Skincare balm. 

It was a big step in a new direction for Mr Jarvis, who previously had a career spanning 40 years in textiles before setting up Miri Skincare. He admits the move to a skin product was a surprise. 

"I thought we could make a product that was as good, but without petrochemicals and with natural products. 

"I set up a sequence and I thought what has New Zealand got that is good? Kiwifruit and manuka honey were top of the list. I then spent months researching the two products and found Kiwifruit seed oil was very good, and it hadn't really been exploited. 

"I thought, righto, we will see if we can get that and manuka honey, which has lots of research behind it, and see if we can make something out of it. 

He then found a biochemist who was enthusiastic about the project and together they made it happen. 

There seems to be a boom in New Zealand for homegrown skincare products at the moment. This is the third story we have had inPharmacy Todayin as many months about a skincare company that was established to use New Zealand products to fill a perceived gap in the market. The country's clean, green image, along with an abundance of natural products, makes it an ideal place to launch skincare products, which, as Mr Jarvis says, are "free of any nasties and only contain naturally powerful ingredients." 

Miri is a classic Kiwi business story in this mould, but it has taken some work to get it where it is.  

Mr Jarvis says everything starts with an idea, and you can wonder if it would work. "I was determined to give it a go and, so far, it has gone well. 

"You need more than an idea though, we had to get the formula right, the balm right, the packaging right, the price right. It was months and months of getting it right, with cash going out and no cash coming in," he says. 

Certain pharmacists will already be familiar with the balm, which is distributed by USL Consumer and is only sold in pharmacy. 

 "We want to keep it in pharmacy and not in supermarkets. I think there is so much currently going on in grocery that we want to establish it in pharmacy. 

"We have done a lot of work with pharmacy to make sure the staff are educated and familiar with the product," Mr Jarvis says. "We have had really positive feedback so far." 

Miri is a family business with Mr Jarvis' son Michael and his daughter-in-law Rachel also involved. 

Seeing her father-in-law immersed in a skincare product piqued Rachel Morriss-Jarvis' curiosity. She said to Michael they should find out what he was up to. When they did, they liked what they saw   and asked if they could buy into the fledgling business. They own 20% of the company and, with Michael's advertising background and Rachel's marketing background, they take care of the design and marketing, leaving Mr Jarvis to get on with what he is best at, research and selling. 

As with many Kiwi businesses, one eye is on the overseas market, particularly South East Asia, where demand for genuine New Zealand skin and healthcare products is high. Mr Jarvis has experienced the South East Asia market in his textile days and is under no illusions how tough it is to crack.  

"Our aim is to get a reliable distributor," he says. "I have done a lot of business in China over the past years, I know a bit about how to do business there. 

"Having a reliable person in China is a huge boost; if you treat them right they become like family. There are pitfalls though." 

They also have new products in the pipeline that are undergoing research and development, and will be launched in due course, including a lip balm. 

It's still early days for the company, but Mr Jarvis is excited about the future. 

"We are making a product that is as good, if not better, than the competition and is made from natural New Zealand products," he says. 

What could be better than that?              ML


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