Business inspiration

New Zealand-made brand in fine health

5 min read

In 2008 Greg Driscoll, Kurt Renner and Lisa South got their heads together and hatched a business plan.

That year, of course, was the eve of the global recession. And the sector the trio planned to target – natural health supplements – was well established, and already home to many household-name brands.

So it may seem an unlikely beginning from which to create heady company growth and success – but that’s exactly what they did.

International expansion plans

Since its launch in 2008, the trio’s GO Healthy brand of natural health supplements has garnered consumer converts like wildfire. By 2013 it was the number-one selling premium supplement brand in New Zealand pharmacies and health stores – a position it’s retained ever since.

In 2014 they founded their New Zealand based manufacturing arm – New Zealand Health Manufacturing – which now produces all of GO Healthy’s products as well as contract manufactures for others. And with an offshore investment deal completed last year, the New Zealand health group is fast tracking international expansion plans.

So what has propelled the firm’s stratospheric growth?

GO Healthy co-founder and now chairman Greg Driscoll points to myriad factors, but says the foundations of the company’s success are built on the trio’s understanding of their customers and industry, and careful planning and execution of strategy.

Integrity a key factor

Originally getting together through a mix of personal and professional connections, Driscoll, South and Renner found they had deep and complementary skills and experience. Driscoll – with a track record in banking and successfully growing businesses – had the commercial experience; South – who had worked in sales and marketing for a global pharma company – had the pharmaceutical industry background; and Renner – with a career spent in the natural health space – was the highly knowledgeable industry guy.

The product opportunity they spied was two-fold. They saw that many New Zealand supplement brands had gone into overseas ownership and taken manufacturing offshore, creating an opportunity for a truly New Zealand-made brand. They also saw a consumer need for higher-strength, ‘therapeutic’ products, which could give consumers greater efficacy and compliance, leading to repeat purchase.

“A key factor is integrity,” says Driscoll. “That comes partly from being New Zealand-made but also from doing everything you can with each product to ensure the consumer has the best chance to get the result they want.”

When founding the company, they thought global from day one, studying the international health supplements marketplace and collating information on globally successful products and brands. They saw a significant opportunity if they could get a strong foothold in the domestic market, with the potential to leverage that position to expand offshore.

Goal focused

“We took some time to piece together a rigorous five-year plan, including a full set of financials,” explains Driscoll. “And I think we ended up achieving that plan in about three years.”

BNZ Partner Richard Blamey has been GO Healthy’s relationship manager at the bank since 2013 and emphasises the clarity of the founders’ vision.

“They’ve been very goal focused, stuck to the task and just kept going,” says Blamey. “They're also very people focused. They're awesome people to work for and the culture of their organisation is fantastic; people enjoy working for them and believe in the product.”

Initially BNZ was able to support GO Healthy’s rapid growth with a unique working capital funding solution. The bank has also since offered funding assistance through some key milestones in the company’s evolution: establishing its manufacturing arm, and a recent acquisition.

Partnering up

In 2012, having established itself as a significant New Zealand market player, the company began looking at opportunities to expand further afield.

Driscoll says the company made the call to develop its manufacturing capability after discussions with potential offshore distributors and customers, and believed it would provide a competitive advantage.

“At the time we learnt a lot of the other major brands don’t manufacture their own products and it was something that appealed to us in terms of the authenticity and integrity around our product offering and brand.”

It also became clear that to make the most of identified offshore opportunities and to speed up international growth, the company could use a partner with capital and international connections, particularly in the rapidly growing China market.

After assessing 26 potential suitors, late last year GO Healthy entered into a partnership with Singapore-based international investment firm CDH Investments. Since completing the transaction, with an undertaking to continue and grow their New Zealand-based manufacturing, GO Healthy has added a further 50 staff, opened offices in Melbourne, Singapore and Shanghai, and aquired Taranaki-based Egmont Honey.

Continued growth

That growth story was reflected in the GO Healthy Group’s inclusion in both this year’s Deloitte Masters of Growth (at number 11), and the Deloitte Fast50 index of the country’s fastest-growing companies (at number 23 with 314 percent revenue growth). Driscoll says being involved in the Fast50 programme has been “inspiring” – helping the company not only benchmark its growth, but stretch its goals.

And the story looks set to continue.

“These things gain momentum,” explains Driscoll. “If you’re true to what you set out to do and if you’re authentic, that attracts people who want to be part of what you’re doing – whether that’s staff, customers or partners. People see and feel that momentum and they want to go on the journey with you.”

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