This week we chat to Hayden Brass, co-founder alongside his mother, Michelle, of Zea Relief. Although Hayden is now based in Melbourne and Michelle on the Gold Coast, it was working in the markets of the family’s original home in of Tasmania that the pair learnt about the medicinal properties of the local kunzea plant, on which their venture is founded.
ISB: What makes kunzea oil different from other natural oils to the extent that you saw its commercial potential?
NM: Firstly, Kunzea is 100 per cent natural and Australian grown. Our research indicates there’s a growing preference for natural, Australian-made products that really work! Secondly, kunzea has a safer organic composition than most active ingredients (i.e., peppermint, menthol), meaning that even people with sensitive skin can often use our products without having an adverse reaction. And finally, the high content of several important sesquiterpene compounds give Kunzea its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
ISB: Please tell us briefly how you transitioned Zea Relief from a “family project” into a scalable business.
NM: After several years of testing, learning and promoting kunzea oil as a family project, it was clear we had stumbled upon a great opportunity that help could people a lot of people. So, in 2016, at the age of 23, I started a new company, Australian Kunzea Pty Ltd, and set our sights on unearthing one of Tasmania’s best-kept natural secrets. Starting a new company narrowed our focus and was a demonstration of our commitment to the cause. Now 28, my personal mission is to have a positive impact on 1 million people globally before my 30th birthday.
ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise off the ground?
NM: The biggest challenge was funding the development and promotion of a physical product in Australia with therapeutic properties. The regulatory requirements for therapeutic products in Australia are some of the most stringent (and most expensive) in the world, so it makes it very difficult for self-funded start-ups to enter the market. However, in 2017 we finally got there, and our Kunzea Cream was listed in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
ISB: What do you see as the advantages, and the challenges,
NM: One of the top benefits of working with family, and specifically your parents, is that you trust them 100 per cent They are your family for life, you can’t break up with them if you have a disagreement. You are with each other through thick and thin, and you always want the best for them. You will go the extra mile to support them and then make it work because you love each other. One of the biggest challenges we have noticed in recent years, as a family business, is that it is important that our goals and vision for the business are aligned. It can be challenging in taking the business to the next level if these expectations are different, which is certainly a challenge we have had to overcome.
ISB: I understand you recently received a grant from the Ignite Ideas Fund – how will this help you develop the business in the next couple of years?
NM: This was a huge kudos for us, as this is a very competitive grant that requires a lot of detail, planning, forethought and proven success just to get through the initial application process. It acknowledges Zea Relief as a real competitor in the Australian and global markets, with our unique product range. The funding will assist in commercialisation to scale the Zea products in the Australian market, develop a hiring process for building a team and conduct research for future global expansion.
ISB: Finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on your journey you’d share with others looking to start their own business?
NM: The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is the importance of a great team. The people in your business and the contractors you work with will play such a significant role in growing your business, as you have to put so much trust into them and what they do. As we have grown, we have been fortunate that each new hire we have brought into the business to date has been incredible, and really added tremendous value to the business and will continue to help us grow and achieve amazing results.