Brianne West has selected two Mount startups to sponsor.
Sexual lubricant made from organic hemp seeds and a fair trade brand of instant coffee are two startup companies set to benefit from a new multimillion-dollar initiative to support entrepreneurs.
Two Bay of Plenty startups – Come Clean that wants to remove the stigma of lubrication, and fair-trade coffee company Critical Supply – were selected from among more than 500 companies from across Aotearoa in a competition where entrepreneurs had to show how their businesses could solve a social or environmental issue. .
The competition was moderated by Brian West, Founder of Zero Waste Beauty Products, Ethique, who earlier this year launched a $20 million fund to help other local entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
West initiated the contest during the fund’s first phase of launching to help raise awareness of the challenges faced by social enterprises – which have a 95% failure rate within their first decade of operation.
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The winners share a $140,000 cash and mentorship prize pool, but West is calling for more support for purpose-driven businesses in the Bay of Plenty region — with notes from startups saying specialized expertise is more valuable than cash injections.
“The level of entries from the Bay of Plenty has been very high, but it is clear from the large number of entries that there is a chronic lack of supportive local infrastructure for startups looking to solve environmental problems.”
Tom Lear, co-founder of Critical Supply, which imports fair-trade instant coffee from Tanzania, says that while sustainable business goals gain momentum, expertise is needed to guide and support growth.
“There is greater acceptance that a company can do good, while still making a profit.
“The idea that you don’t have to be a non-profit in order to make a difference is a really essential message for startups to understand today, and one we want others to hear in our situation,” he said.
Daisy Hylton, founder of Come Clean, said that while products that use sustainably sourced ingredients have reduced the environmental impact of consumer goods, it has been difficult to get the business off the ground.
Reading the ingredients on a big-brand sexual lubricant, Hilton realized that a natural product that uses local ingredients and contains no chemicals would be welcome, but that it would rival the “big” ones.
“We compete with well-resourced mainstream incumbents. Having access to mentors who understand what it means to be a sustainably driven company in an unsustainable world helps provide the motivation to keep us focused on growth.”
Hylton identified Sexual Wellness as a niche product and wanted to remove the taboo or any idea of ”filth” or embarrassment in purchasing lubricants.
“Our clients range from young millennials to people in their 60s – and we wanted to create conversations about why and how to use lubricants, so that it’s more natural for people to talk about it.”
West said the entries showed that there are a large number of New Zealand startups that can have a significant impact on key societal issues.
Social enterprises operate using a model that is distinctly different from traditional ‘profit first’ business.
By sponsoring these two companies in the Bay of Plenty, West aims to show others in the region how these business models can be adopted.
“We now know that there are many startups in the region that can also achieve similar successes in tackling the systemic societal issues we face as a nation, and they require dedicated support to grow to fruition,” she said.
The third winning company was Auckland-based Daisy Lab, which produces a yogurt and cheese alternative that produces up to 97% fewer emissions than using cow’s milk.
Tauranga-based Enterprise Angels is another startup fund in the region and has so far invested $58 million in 100 companies, mostly in Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Wellington.
CEO Nina Le Livre says that while financial inputs are very important, other, less obvious inputs are just as important.
“Active owners have supported these companies in a number of ways by leveraging their expertise, skills, and connections.”
Le Livre is excited about what the future holds in terms of new startups she sees as “solving some of the world’s thorniest problems”.