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Although Covid-19 placed a temporary dampener on exports, Ron Park is optimistic about growing his Green-Lipped Mussel supplement business. Kōrure is a passion rooted in his South Korean heritage and his desire to shake up the health-supplement industry.


He’s young, gifted, has that entrepreneurial gene, and he’s on a mission to change New Zealand’s health-supplement industry.

Kōrure CEO and founder Ron Park moved to Christchurch with his parents from South Korea when he was just nine years old, and subsequently stayed on to study accounting and finance at the University of Canterbury (UC).

It was his Korean heritage that instilled his passion for health supplements – Koreans are extremely health conscious and as a child growing up in Christchurch Ron regularly took health supplements. “I still remember that bowlful of tablets my mother gave me every morning.”

His “lightbulb moment and unofficial first business” happened at university when he realised the size of the health supplement opportunity and began buying products at supermarkets to ship to relatives in South Korea. His success led to him being invited to various local manufacturing facilities where, to his surprise and dismay, he discovered many were simply importing cheap ingredients from China, packaging them here and exporting them as a New Zealand product.

Ron was horrified to learn he had unwittingly been misleading his Korean customers.

This lack of integrity by the supplements industry meant that it was time to shut that first business venture and launch his own company specialising in joint support supplements, with New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussels as the main ingredient.

“I realised the mussels are native to this country, you can’t fake it, and they have outstanding properties for joint health,” says Ron.

With help from UC professors he dived into the science behind the mussels – soaking up knowledge to the extent that he ended up lecturing on the subject overseas.

Launching Kōrure (it means ‘to change’) and growing the business was a daunting prospect for Ron. “If I’d known back then how hard it was going to be, I wouldn’t have even started,” he jokes. “My lack of business knowledge and my naivety have got me this far because I didn’t know better. Every aspect has been a challenge – hiring and managing staff, sourcing ingredients, manufacturing and exporting regulations, research, and meeting clients,” he says.

Now aged 25, Ron has already been steering Kōrure for three years – after spending the first 12 months setting it up, and more than doubling revenue every year.

The customer base has been growing steadily, largely through word of mouth, and Ron is proud about the fact that customers regularly call him with feedback.


Covid comes calling

In 2020 Covid-19 delivered a ‘sucker punch’ to Ron’s fledgling export business. “Initially I was stressing over how I would pay my employees and continue in business,” he recalls. “Our supply chain and our buyers all collapsed in Korea and revenue was down 70 percent.”

But there is almost always a bright side to every situation and, for Ron, it was the realisation that they needed to do things differently.

It was time to focus their energies on New Zealand’s online market and really get to know their local customers.

Ron began communicating with customers individually and setting up partnerships with the big Kiwi-owned pharmacies. Supporting ‘local’ has always been his true passion.

There was the opportunity to build Kōrure’s Australian and US customer base too, while the Korea and China markets, yet to fully recover, are kept ticking over.

Ron has also launched Korure Pets – a range of pet supplements – and was overwhelmed by the support from existing customers. “As a result, we sold out on three out of four products within a month”.

“I’m proud to be working with other Kiwi companies at a tough time like this,” he says, “but I also believe that if you become big in New Zealand, you’ll eventually do well overseas.

“My theory has always been: if you’re not popular in your own backyard, how can you expect to be big overseas?”

China and Korea are still firmly on his radar, but one at a time, and only when he has a base to build on.

Meantime, the plan is to expand more in Australia and the US – and establish an office and distribution partner in both countries.


Less about profit, more about sustainability

One thing you have to admire about Ron’s approach to business is his motivation for going into business in the first place. Much larger companies than his are largely profit-driven he believes. “You can see that in the packaging and ingredients they use and their customer service.”

Kōrure, on the other hand, keeps in regular contact with customers and invests heavily in developing new products – some made with New Zealand organic fruit.

It has produced sustainable packaging for its supplements – offering either a refillable glass bottle or compostable pouch.

“We helped develop mycelium packaging made from mushroom roots, which breaks down within 30 days,” explains Ron. “We also provide soil and seeds so customers can grow their own microgreens using our mycelium packaging.”

He admits to drawing inspiration from other entrepreneurs who’re in business to make a difference, not for the money – such as Tesla’s Elon Musk. He greatly admires Ethique’s Brianne West, who was in the same entrepreneurship course as his at university and has built an enviable export business.

Ron also draws inspiration from his older sister Sam who was made redundant from the tourism industry by Covid-19 and now helps Ron in the business. “Sam has supported me both financially and emotionally. I wouldn’t be here without her,” he says.


Advice and goals

Success in business is a direct result of looking after your people, believes Ron. “It’s about finding people who are genuinely passionate about what you do, because at the end of the day we’re all rowing the same waka (boat).”

He likes to borrow Nike’s well-known slogan to sum up his attitude towards growing his business. “Just do it. Dithering over decisions is wasting time. Sometimes it’s better to just do it and find out [if it will work].”

As for goals, Ron’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to buy his own mussel farm and develop a new type of mussel.

“I’m proud of what Kōrure has achieved thus far, and we’re very excited to see what the future holds. We are already launching five more new products and soon Kōrure will be known as ‘the supplement company proudly representing Aotearoa’


Written by Glenn Baker. This story was first published in the May 2021 Quarterly edition of NZBusiness magazine.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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