Fast 50 contender: Calocurb

Calocurb is a company creating plant-based weight management supplements, based in Auckland. Started by Lifestream CEO, Sarah Kennedy, it’s seen formidable growth in a short space of time, and won a Rising Star ‘One to Watch’ award at the Fast 50 regional celebration in Auckland.

In order to qualify for the Rising Star award, businesses have to have been registered for at least one year and to have expanded quickly. That’s certainly been the case for Calocurb, as Sarah Kennedy explained for BiteSize News. Her secret? Harnessing the power of digital…

Tell us about how Calocurb began.

I was approached by Plant and Food Research, our largest Crown Research Institute, because they had spent the last six years researching an extract. This was on the basis of a hypothesis that they could find a natural extract that would activate what they call the 'bitter break', an evolutionary mechanism that reduces appetite when we eat something bitter. That’s because as humans evolved, a bitter taste was often associated with toxic plants.

So, Plant and Food Research wanted to find a natural product that would help activate this hormone, and they received a government grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to do so. Over the next six years, they found a specific extract and tested it in clinical trials before approaching me.

I've worked in natural health for some time now, and developed a business plan to commercialise the extract as a supplement. It then took six months and 2,500 hours of validating that plan before it was officially launched in New Zealand.

What was your approach for expanding the brand quickly?

It's quite a different business model to my other work, focused around going direct to consumer. We drove it through PR, then through influencers, and then digital. After starting in New Zealand, we did a soft launch in the US in June this year, because we wanted to test the messaging first. Now we're there and it's just after their summer break, we're going out with all our PR in the next few weeks.

Why did you enter the Fast 50?

I entered the Fast 50 because in all honesty, Deloitte is a great global brand, and if I get anywhere with it, it's an incredible endorsement behind the product and the brand. 

What was it that made you passionate about your product?

I knew I had a 100% natural product based on science. It's also a patented formula in a patented capsule - it's very hard to protect a supplement or a natural product, so I had to make sure that I was prepared for that. 

Are there any lessons that you’ve learnt since starting the brand?

It's been fascinating expanding to the United States and trying to get our messaging right. It was so successful so quickly in New Zealand that we thought it was going to be the same, but it shows how country by country, you have to adapt your message. We know our customer and our demographics here but interestingly, I just had a team do a 12-week study in Japan with the brand, and our consumer is different in Japan than it is in America or New Zealand.

What has been the most important element of your brand?

It has to be going digital. We did quite a bit of work on our brand and look beforehand, but the wonderful thing about prioritising a digital presence is that it's real time. This way we can test ideas and know immediately what is resonating. It really excited me that we had a new channel that we were able to use to talk straight to our customers. After talking to them, you start to know how you can reel them in, the methods of communication that work and then how you surprise them with the final product.

What are your goals for Calocurb?

My goal is to take Calocurb global. So often in New Zealand we have sold our technology overseas and allowed someone else to use it, and I think in the brave new world of digital, we can use our skills and capability without passing them on. People ask me why I haven't employed people in America despite the brand being out there and in all honesty, I don't need to at this point. I've got agencies supporting me, but with the States five hours and a day behind, we can use digital instead to follow progress in real time. On my screen, I can look up and see where in America, and what region and state is going onto my website, just sitting anywhere here in New Zealand

27 September, 2018 by Jen Scouler, Q & A

Jen Scouler

Jen Scouler

Jen Scouler works in the Deloitte clients & marketing team across digital content and social media. She also works closely with Deloitte Private.

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