TE WAI, the hydrating facial spray taking on the world
TE WAI is a New Zealand made and inspired indie beauty brand that highlights Aotearoa’s native botanical extracts on the world stage. Having recently been announced as a finalist in the UK’s Pure Beauty Global Awards and joining the FernMark programme, it’s been amazing to watch and support this Kiwi brand take its spot on the global stage. The Founders, Brooke and Carrick Graham tell us their story below.
Tell us about TE WAI and what drove you to launch the business?
TE WAI™ ~ ‘The Water’ is a New Zealand created hydrating, fine-mist facial spray featuring five native extracts Kawakawa, Manuka, Kowhai, Mamaku and Pohutukawa infused in pure New Zealand water.
Kawakawa has anti-microbial and analgesic properties and reduces inflammation. Manuka assists with healing. Kowhai is perfect for cleaning and moisturising. Mamaku has soothing and moisturising properties. Pohutukawa promotes soft youthful skin.
Te Wai delivers an immediate increase in skin moisture and hydration to energise and revive the skin in one quick spritz, helps set makeup, cools hot sweaty skin, nourishes the skin and provides an enhanced, bright and fresh look.
There is no other product in this format on the market offering these botanicals and this New Zealand provenance. So much so TE WAI is determined to take on the big players in the $1.7 billion global facial spray market. While still in its first year of market launch, TE WAI has just been announced as a finalist in this year’s UK’s Pure Beauty Global Awards.
All this came about when TE WAI co- founders Brooke & Carrick Graham returned home from overseas, and wondered how they could best share New Zealand’s irrepressibly wild freshness with the friends they’d left offshore.
A full three years in development, Brooke and Carrick set out to capture the uniqueness and healing properties of New Zealand’s native flora and deliver these via a hydrating fine mist facial spray, all wrapped in the provenance of the country they love.
What was your initial approach to funding?
Like many New Zealand start-ups, they are fully self-funded by the co-founders. As brand and consumer awareness has grown, alongside actively pursuing new overseas market opportunities for TE WAI, the founders remain open to new investment and capital streams.
What were the key decisions the business needed to make to extend offshore?
The focus has always remained on the TE WAI brand particularly when engaging in discussions with overseas parties. There has to be a good brand fit as from day one, we wanted to build an internally recognised New Zealand brand. To achieve this we are passionate about working with people around the world that share the same enthusiasm for TE WAI (and for New Zealand), which has sometimes meant focusing on smaller distributors than expending considerable time and effort on big-name companies where TE WAI could get lost in the mix.
In terms of key decision-making for the business another element important to us was having agreement between the co-founders on market entry initiatives. It sounds self-evident but we wanted this to be a team effort and recognise that we both have strengths and weaknesses, so ensuring we play to those strengths are essential.
Where have you exported to, and what have been the key challenges throughout your export journey across these markets?
Like any bright-eyed entrepreneurs the sheer size and scale of China beckoned brightly. We’ve learnt, despite working with a talented Chinese marketing contact, having Daigou ‘product experience officers’, and TE WAI on Taobao and with New Zealand based Chinese traders, there’s not a lot of love for a brand unless you’re prepared to drop your price and throw a significant amount of money to advertise it in China. These experiences have certainly reinforced the point of working with people who are passionate about the TE WAI brand.
Instead we took the approach of being more strategic in our marketing and building overseas market entry points. This has led to sales in Australia, Singapore and early-stage discussions that would see TE WAI entry into and available across the GCC markets and in India. We’re also specifically targeting a number of other markets to build and support the TE WAI international brand positioning strategy.
Tell us about your experience with Kea Connect since reaching out in 2018?
We were aware of Kea Connect and that it facilitated connections to other New Zealanders around the world. When we reached out to Kea we were amazed at the level of support and enthusiasm offered to us from day one. This support has been fantastic and has allowed us to directly engage with people in-market as we started exploring exporting opportunities.
We utilised Kea Connect as a sounding board for the TE WAI concept, shared our initial MVP with Kea Connections for feedback and market validation. Thanks to these connections and conversations, New Zealand now has a brand that is taking on global cosmetic brands.
How has TE WAI grown since 2018?
Don’t you love this question. Taking an idea and then developing a formula, finding a delivery vehicle (hydrating, fine-mist facial spray), creating a brand story and Trade-Marked brand, identifying sustainable packaging options, then creating a MVP for market testing, manufacturing options has seen the TE WAI journey spread out over three years. When we finally took delivery of finished goods it was four days before New Zealand was moved into Level 4 lockdown thanks to Covid-19. That week, a key consumer market for us – international tourists, all but vanished.
Not deterred, we have subsequently focused on ‘Bringing a bit of New Zealand to the world’. It’s early days, but with initial sales in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, China, and market entry planned for the GCC and India, sales of TE WAI are expected to double over the next six to twelve months.
You were recently announced as a finalist in the UK’s Pure Beauty Global Awards – congratulations! How did this come about?
A motivating factor being the creation of TE WAI was to capture a unique expression of New Zealand and build a brand that supported this great country of ours. As we started creating TE WAI we knew we had something quite special particularly as New Zealand has some of the most amazing botanicals in the world.
As part of the strategy to ‘Bring a bit of New Zealand to the world’ we’re very proud of TE WAI and believe it can compete against the best offerings in the US$1.7 billion global facial spray market, hence entering the UK’s Pure Beauty Global Awards. We’re absolutely thrilled that TE WAI has been announced as a Finalist.
It’s also recognition and a huge vote of confidence in the New Zealand businesses that have helped us on this journey – we wouldn’t be here without their help.
For businesses that are considering whether they are ready to expand, what would be your top piece of advice?
Give it a go as nothing ventured nothing gained.
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