THE BEAUTY OF BE­ING NICHE

CATHER­INE BEARD MEETS ANTIPODES FOUNDER EL­IZ­A­BETH BARBALICH AND LEARNS THE FOR­MULA FOR BUILD­ING A GLOBAL NAT­U­RAL BRAND.

NZ Business - - THE EXPORTER PAGES - BY CATHER­INE BEARD CATHER­INE BEARD IS EX­EC­U­TIVE DI­REC­TOR OF EX­PORTNZ, WHICH AS­SISTS EX­PORTERS THROUGH­OUT NEW ZEALAND. WWW. EX­PORTNZ.ORG. NZ.

Iwas lucky enough to chat with Antipodes founder El­iz­a­beth Barbalich re­cently, and gleaned some in­valu­able nuggets of wis­dom from her ex­pe­ri­ence build­ing a global nat­u­ral brand. One thing that stood out to me is the plan­ning in­volved. Be­fore El­iz­a­beth launched the busi­ness 12 years ago she first un­der­took two years of re­search, plan­ning and strat­egy around what brands were on the mar­ket; how hers could be dif­fer­ent and stand out in a very com­pet­i­tive mar­ket­place.

El­iz­a­beth’s aim was to launch a niche, or­ganic life­style beauty brand with a point of dif­fer­ence that was about lift­ing the lid and es­cap­ing to na­ture in New Zealand.

With a science back­ground, and hav­ing worked for ten-plus years for the Amer­i­can com­pany that in­tro­duced la­paro­scopic (key­hole) surgery, El­iz­a­beth had learnt a lot about best prac­tice and mak­ing sure you’re best in class. Her hus­band is also a self-made man, who un­der­stands the ‘ups and downs’ of en­trepreneur­ship and how to keep go­ing through the chal­lenges.

How­ever, El­iz­a­beth says it has still been much harder than she ever could have imag­ined and there have been some big lessons along the way.

“I was adamant from day one that I would ex­port straight away, al­most by­pass­ing the New Zealand mar­ket. But that proved to be a bad strat­egy,” she says.

“So in­stead we spent the first two to three years con­cen­trat­ing on build­ing brand loy­alty one per­son at a time. I was the face of the brand, and I still am. Get­ting peo­ple to un­der­stand the brand and get­ting the do­mes­tic mar­ket right first was crit­i­cal for ex­port­ing. That meant fail­ing fast with any­thing that didn’t work, get­ting all the nec­es­sary feed­back and build­ing con­fi­dence.

“It would be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to ex­port straight off the bat with­out a do­mes­tic mar­ket and a loyal base­line of fol­low­ers,” says El­iz­a­beth.

Aus­tralia was cho­sen as the first ex­port mar­ket. “That was like be­ing on a dif­fer­ent planet!” she re­calls. “Even though it’s close to New Zealand, they do busi­ness very dif­fer­ently. You need to be re­ally clear on your brand mes­sag­ing and point of dif­fer­ence.”

Fol­low­ing Aus­tralia, Antipodes has con­quered the UK, Paris, and South­east Asia, de­vel­oped China through e-com­merce, and is now in more than 20 coun­tries.

But it’s not been easy, es­pe­cially with two distrib­u­tors go­ing un­der through the GFC.

Look­ing for­ward, El­iz­a­beth says they are aim­ing to be in the top 10 nat­u­ral brands glob­ally within the next five years. I’ve no doubt they will suc­ceed.

EL­IZ­A­BETH’S TOP TIPS:

• Trade shows – we’ve picked up distrib­u­tors at key trade shows, but you have to then meet up with them two or three times be­fore sign­ing. You need to make this in­vest­ment as mar­ket en­try is so hard. You can’t sell di­rectly to re­tail­ers from New Zealand.

• Te­nac­ity – be in­cred­i­bly tena­cious. In­ter­na­tional dis­tributers and re­tail­ers don’t care that a prod­uct’s from New Zealand – that’s just a value-add. They want prod­ucts that are bet­ter qual­ity and de­liver more to the con­sumer than any other brand. For Antipodes the main sell­ing point was one of our trade­marks: “Sci­en­tif­i­cally val­i­dated or­ganic beauty”. We in­vest a cou­ple of mil­lion a year into in-vitro and third party prod­uct test­ing. This val­i­da­tion is unique for a nat­u­ral or­ganic prod­uct – a key dif­fer­en­tia­tor.

• Take time – you’ve got to plan and strate­gise. Things don’t al­ways go how you want. Kiwis are fast and ag­ile, and in­ter­na­tional buy­ers don’t al­ways work at that speed!

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