ALGAS OR­GAN­ICS: THE WIN­NING FOR­MULA

The Star (St. Lucia) - Business Week - - MAKING MOVES - BY KAYRA WILLIAMS

First reg­is­tered in 2014, the first prod­uct from Algas Or­gan­ics, Algas To­tal Plant Tonic – a Sar­gas­sum sea­weed-based plant tonic, hit the mar­ket in Au­gust 2015. Two years later, Jo­hanan Du­jon, the com­pany’s Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor and Founder walked away with the Young En­tre­pre­neur of the Year ti­tle at the Cham­ber of Com­merce-hosted Saint Lu­cia Busi­ness Awards, an ac­co­lade that was tied to Algas’ in­no­va­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­scious­ness. Since then, Algas’ team of six, who are “mostly fam­ily”, ac­cord­ing to Du­jon, have fo­cused on keep­ing the wheels in mo­tion and find­ing ways to tap into larger mar­kets. This week, the com­pany’s MD shared the se­crets to Algas’ suc­cess.

WHAT DO YOU THINK CONTRIBUTED TO YOU WIN­NING THE YOUNG EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR OF THE YEAR AWARD THIS YEAR?

JO­HANAN: A very good team and sup­port from a number of or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Saint Lu­cia Fisher Folk Co-op­er­a­tive So­ci­ety, the Global En­vi­ron­ment Fa­cil­ity’s (GEF) Small Grants Pro­gramme, United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Project (UNDP) and our part­ner­ship with the In­ter-Amer­i­can In­sti­tute for Co­op­er­a­tion on Agri­cul­ture (IICA).

WHAT IN­SPIRED YOU TO START THIS BUSI­NESS?

JO­HANAN: I strongly be­lieve that ev­ery chal­lenge or prob­lem which con­fronts us is merely an op­por­tu­nity, if we take ac­tion. This is what in­spired me to take the step to start the busi­ness. I had no idea how far it would go.

WHAT MAKES YOUR COM­PANY DIF­FER­ENT?

JO­HANAN: Our story. We are the Caribbean’s first biotech­nol­ogy com­pany so when you think of Mon­santo and Syn­genta and these big agri­cul­tural brands, we are right up there, and that’s what makes us dif­fer­ent.

When I say our story, it ex­tends even be­yond that. We part­nered with the Saint Lu­cia Fisher Folk Co-op­er­a­tive So­ci­ety to re­move Sar­gas­sum sea­weed which plagues the beaches of Saint Lu­cia and the wider Caribbean, and con­vert it to fer­til­izer. We were able to cre­ate a bio-fer­til­izer, which is in­ter­na­tion­ally tested and even bet­ter than some of the im­ported chem­i­cals. We’re not just a sea­weed com­pany, or a com­pany that makes fer­til­izer; we work with fish­er­men in the com­mu­nity who are af­fected. Farm­ers get em­ploy­ment, and get to re­sume some form of nor­malcy in their liveli­hood.

WHERE IS THIS SEA­WEED COM­ING FROM?

JO­HANAN: Sar­gas­sum sea­weed nor­mally orig­i­nates from the Sar­gasso Sea in the North At­lantic Ocean. Due to in­creas­ing ocean acid­ity and tem­per­a­tures, this sea­weed breaks up into rafts and is car­ried by cur­rents through the Caribbean and Mex­ico. How­ever, more re­cently, the Sar­gas­sum which we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing has been com­ing from the North Equa­to­rial Re­cir­cu­la­tion Re­gion (NERR) North of Brazil and not di­rectly from the Sar­gasso sea.

WHAT CAP­I­TAL IN­VEST­MENT OR FUND­ING EN­ABLED YOU TO START YOUR COM­PANY?

JO­HANAN: Thanks to fund­ing from the Global En­vi­ron­ment Fa­cil­ity’s (GEF) Small Grants Pro­gramme, United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Project (UNDP) and our part­ner­ship with the Saint Lu­cia Fisher Folk Co-op­er­a­tive So­ci­ety, our prod­uct is made from the world’s first Sar­gas­sum sea­weed pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity, lo­cated at La Caye, Den­nery.

WHERE ARE YOU EX­PORT­ING TO NOW?

JO­HANAN: Presently we are ce­ment­ing dis­trib­u­tor­ship agree­ments in three Caribbean ter­ri­to­ries.

WHICH MAR­KETS WILL YOU TAR­GET NEXT?

JO­HANAN: Our goal is to pen­e­trate the North Amer­i­can and African Mar­kets within the next three years.

ARE YOU CUR­RENTLY LOOK­ING FOR IN­VESTORS?

JO­HANAN: To be frank, yes. The right in­vestors. As we scale and we start to ex­port and pen­e­trate larger mar­kets, that would be im­por­tant.

HOW DID THE HUR­RI­CANES IM­PACT YOUR BUSI­NESS?

JO­HANAN: Thank­fully we were not af­fected by the hur­ri­canes. My heart goes out to Do­minica and the other af­fected ter­ri­to­ries. We are work­ing on for­ward­ing aid to Do­minica through our Caribbean En­tre­pre­neur Group as early as next week.

WHAT LESSONS CAN CARIBBEAN START-UPS AND AS­PIR­ING BUSI­NESS PEO­PLE LEARN FROM YOUR EX­PE­RI­ENCE?

JO­HANAN: Pull up your boot­straps as much as you can. If you can avoid tak­ing on loads of high up-front ex­penses, then avoid that. Make pro­to­types of small batches of what­ever you’re do­ing or, if you’re of­fer­ing a ser­vice op­tion to a small quar­ter of per­sons, do so at a dis­counted price, or for free. You re­ally want to get your­self out there without costs be­ing sky-high. Banks are not nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to come to your res­cue ei­ther.

We are the Caribbean’s first biotech­nol­ogy com­pany, so when you think of Mon­santo and Syn­genta and these big agri­cul­tural brands, we are right up there, and that’s what makes us dif­fer­ent.

YOUR RECIPE FOR SUC­CESS?

JO­HANAN: Plan­ning, teamwork, and hard work. My team is amaz­ing. I am just the face of a very, very good team.

YOUR PLANS FOR THE IM­ME­DI­ATE FU­TURE?

JO­HANAN: We do con­tin­u­ous re­search and de­vel­op­ment so you can look out for a bio-pes­ti­cide, all nat­u­ral pes­ti­cide, com­ing out soon.

Our plans are for ex­port; the Saint Lu­cia mar­ket is small, and this is our goal, ex­port­ing within the next few months or so.

WHERE CAN WE PUR­CHASE YOUR PROD­UCTS AND HOW DO WE MAKE CON­TACT?

JO­HANAN: The Algas To­tal Plant Tonic can be pur­chased is­land-wide from Ren­wick & Co (Cas­tries and Vieux Fort), Massy Mega (Choc), M&C Home De­pot, Sun­bilt, Groo Farm Sup­plies (Den­nery), Belle Vue Farm­ers Co-op­er­a­tive (Soufriere) and Farm De­pot (Vieux Fort). We can be reached at 1-758-461-5019 or al­ga­sor­gan­ics@gmail.com. Feel free to check out our web­site also, at www.al­ga­sor­gan­ics.com.

Jo­hanan Du­jon, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor and Founder of Algas Or­gan­ics ac­cept­ing the Youth En­tre­pre­neur of the Year award at this year’s Saint Lu­cia Busi­ness Awards.

Algas To­tal Plant Tonic is now avail­able is­land-wide.

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