Eco busi­ness has big dreams

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

Find some­thing you be­lieve in, work hard and don’t give up.

That’s the ad­vice Eco­s­tore founder Mal­colm Rands would give to those peo­ple who dare to dream big.

The green-minded busi­ness­man is cel­e­brat­ing 20 years since he and his wife Me­lanie started what would be­come their mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar com­pany Eco­s­tore, now lead­ing in New Zealand in the man­u­fac­tur­ing and re­tail­ing of sus­tain­able house­hold and per­sonal care prod­ucts.

It’s a long way from its hum­ble be­gin­nings as a mail-or­der busi­ness op­er­at­ing out of a dug-out base­ment in their North­land home.

‘‘Peo­ple of­ten say to me did you imag­ine it would get this big and I say ‘yep’,’’ Mr Rands says.

‘‘In fact I still con­sider Eco­s­tore to be a start-up, we’ve got am­bi­tions to take on the world.’’

An in­ter­est in green ac­tivism and a de­sire for sus­tain­able liv­ing led him and friends to es­tab­lish an ecov­il­lage in the mid-1980s.

They were us­ing or­ganic gar­den­ing prac­tices on the prop­erty for many years be­fore re­al­is­ing they were still be­ing ex­posed to un­savoury chem­i­cals through their clean­ing and body care prod­ucts.

‘‘That was a real turn­ing point for us. In our vil­lage all our wa­ter comes from a De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion re­serve, it is as pure as any other wa­ter on the planet.

‘‘We thought we’d chal­lenge our­selves to see if the wa­ter leav­ing our prop­erty was just as pure as when it en­tered it.’’

Af­ter three years of build­ing the busi­ness from North- land the cou­ple re­alised it wasn’t very green to have all of their prod­ucts shipped to and fro to Auck­land so they upped sticks and moved to the big smoke with their two young daugh­ters.

They set­tled on an old wooden boathouse in Free­mans Bay which would serve tem­po­rar­ily as both home and ware­house and is now home to their re­tail store.

In their orig­i­nal plans Auck­land was to be home for lit­tle more than a year but they still have a house in St Marys Bay some 16 years later.

Eco­s­tore is now on the shelves of thou­sands of stores in the United States, Aus­tralia, Hong Kong, Sin­ga­pore and other Asian coun­tries.

They were ahead of the pack when tack­ling the eco mar­ket decades ago, Mr Rands says.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple have found it re­ally hard do­ing the right thing, our phi­los­o­phy is we want to make it easy and plea­sur­able for you to make a dif­fer­ence,’’ he says.

There have been times he thought about pack­ing it all in, he says.

‘‘Make sure what­ever you’re do­ing is your pas­sion be­cause you’re go­ing to go through hard times.’’

New Zealan­ders have a bad idea of fail­ure, he says.

‘‘If you go to the States and you talk to en­trepreneurs, they’re proud of their first five busi­nesses they set up that have crashed.

‘‘It just what you’ve got to do.

‘‘Ev­ery time you fail you learn so much,’’ Mr Rands says.

Photo: JESS LEE

Green dream: Eco­s­tore founder Mal­colm Rands is shar­ing how he turned a dream in a North­land garage into a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar busi­ness.

Hum­ble be­gin­nings: An old wooden boathouse in Free­mans Bay is now home to the Eco­s­tore ware­house and re­tail store.

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