Malcolm Rands EcoStore


established 1993; thirty employees; $8 million turnover

> з


Malcolm Rands IS not(л

your typical entrepre-f


neur. For one thing, he is

a businessman who insists on giving away ten per cent of his profits.

For another, he has lived in an environmentally friendly ecovillage. 'It's a community we set up in rural New Zealand with the ethic of trying to work with nature, not fight against it. We wanted to create a

permaculture—essentially an agricultural system that copies nature in that it can be left unattended and still be productive. There are jungles in the wild that feed whole communities but are not farmed. I still call it home,' he says.

His other home is in Auckland, from where he oversees the spectacular growth of his company EcoStore, maker of environmentally friendly cleaning products. 'I had to move back to the city to start my international empire,' he jokes. EcoStore products are now on sale in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the US and the UK, including the Woolworths supermarket chain.

Rands's journey has been a colourful one.

He looks back with mixed emotions at his stu-dent days, when he was the keyboard player for the Auckland-based band Beaver Shot. He dropped out of university at nineteen to become a full-time musician. He left the band when he concluded that the music business was fickle and he might not have the talent to make it, and set out to travel the world—first stop, Sydney. 'I trained as a radiographer and worked at St Vincent's Hospital for a while before moving on to the US. Travelling was fantastic. It opened my eyes. In California, I fell in with this crowd of rich young kids and we ended up living in a huge house in Orange County, rent free.

'I was living the American dream with people who had more money than sense.

Whatever they wanted they could buy. Most people spend their lives trying to get to that state, but I realised then that if you can have everything, your life becomes empty. These people weren't happy. They were trying to fill a gap in their lives with material things. Even then I realised that there's more to life than money, that you have to believe in something.'

So when Rands returned to New Zealand after four years overseas, he turned away from the world of business and profit and tried to follow his passions. He started fund-raising for not-for- profit organisations, then took a job organising community arts festivals in the small town of Whangarei, on the tip of the North Island. 'I had a two-year contract and ended up staying fifteen years,' he recalls. 'I became an expert in business management, fund-raising and events organising. The problem was that you'd spend eleven months slogging it out raising money and only one month doing what you actually loved.'

He and a group of like-minded artists set up the ecovillage in 1987. And it was while living there that he had the brainwave that gave birth to EcoStore. 'We had a nearby water source that produced some of the purest water on the planet.

We thought, Wouldn't it be great if we could make it as clean after we'd used it as it was when it came to us? So we started looking at the way we lived and realised that all the cleaning products we were using in our houses contained the most horrific ingredients, yet we were using that same stuff to water our food gardens.Who knows what that did to the food. This was before there was any requirement to label products or test the ingredients. I thought there must be other people who would want cleaning products that didn't contain such terrible chemicals.'

Rands has always been a realist, and he knew people would not live a green lifestyle if it was too difficult. 'People always think, What difference can I make? I'm just one person, and all that. So I knew I had to make it as easy as possible to go green.

That's why cleaning products are such a great area to tackle. It doesn't take any effort at all to buy green cleaning products, yet that kind of everyday action can make a huge difference to the environment.'

The revelation made Rands a capitalist. 'I got a small loan from my brother and started the business in 1993 as a mail-order company, delivering the products to retailers and individuals.'

Four years later, EcoStore had grown into an Auckland-based factory, with its own outlet store, products and research department. 'Fortunately, a supermarket decided to set up next door to us, so all of a sudden we had foot traffic, which made a huge difference to our sales,' says Rands.

The business has continued to boom. Wool- worths has expanded its range of EcoStore products from just three to twenty-one. Each product's packet promotes another product in the range, a cost-free promotional technique that helped the company achieve a 40 per cent growth in turnover.

Rands says the downturn has focused consumers' minds on the value of his products. 'We've found that people have ditched more frivolous purchases to continue buying products that are aligned with their personal values. We have also grown in the lower-income demographic. When people analyse how many washes they get from a traditional powder compared to how many they get from ours, they see that our product really does deliver on value.'

Sales have also been boosted by a massive sampling campaign in which the product was given away in supermarkets. 'That really worked wonders. We have to get over the prejudice people have about eco-friendly products: that they're more expensive and not as good. The sampling really helped with that.'

Like other astute businessmen, Rands has seen the downturn as an opportunity to ramp up his marketing, taking advantage of lower costs. He is also trying to squeeze greater economies of scale from his supply chain—but as a matter of good business practice rather than a forced belt-tightening.

From the outset he saw the business as a way of fund-raising for the green cause, and when he found a like-minded partner to invest in the business it was on the understanding that 10 per cent of profits would go to the Fairground Foundation, which supports initiatives to help protect and restore the environment.

It was in selling this stake to his sleeping partner that he made his first million. 'I wanted

to realise some of Sometimes greenies the company's worth

areperceived as having so my family could

a problem with making . , , r

enjoy the benefits money. I don't have any J J

issue with getting rich at now rather than later,' all, but I do want to raise he says. 'But it was funds at the same time. just as important that

I found a partner with similar principles, and I was very lucky in that.

'Sometimes greenies are perceived as having a problem with making money,' he adds. 'I don't have any issue with getting rich at all, but I do want to raise funds at the same time.

'The idea for the Fairground Foundation is ultimately to build an urban eco-community that is profitable and sustainable so that others want to copy it. It's easy. You need to make it at least three storeys with a roof garden on the top so everybody has their own outdoor space. Grass is the best roofing material for all sorts of reasons. Then you'd have a tarmac play area and a swimming pool. All these things become cheap to do when you're building a number of apartments.

'For it to work, it would have to have an overriding ethic. It might be that you look after your own grey (waste) water, in which case you could have a wetlands site. If you have a social centre or cinema within the block it enhances the community feeling. This idea has to work with minimal effort from those who live there. If it is hard, or people have to make sacrifices, it won't work.'

Rands says his first urban eco-development will be in Australia or New Zealand. If it's in Sydney, he might end up solving the city's rental shortage as well as cleaning up the world.

Nick Gardner

golden rules

Make your profession your passion.

Be specific about what you want to achieve.

Know your strengths and what you are capable of doing well.

Stick to your business principles.

Eco-ventures have to produce profits to be sustainable. 1.

<< | >>
Источник: Nick Gardner. How. I made-.my first million. 26 self-made millionaires reveal the secrets to their success. 2010

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