Tauranga-based Kristy Hunter and Stine Smith are the dynamic duo behind rising sustainable cleaning products brand Good Change. They’ve already set up a B2C distribution agreement in Australia.
When best friends Kristy Hunter and Stine Smith told me they were happy to drive two-and-half hours from Tauranga to Auckland to get their story across in person, and drive back the same day, I knew I’d be meeting a totally enthusiastic and dedicated pair of entrepreneurs.
After that meeting and learning about their start-up journey, my instincts were proved correct.
The dynamic duo’s sustainable cleaning products business was launched in August 2019. But it all began earlier when Danish-born Stine was visiting family in Denmark and stumbled across an attractive Swedish-made compostible cloth wrapped in single use plastic.
She was annoyed by the plastic wrapping, which she felt totally let the product down. But the two thought the cloth itself was impressive – it not only looked good; it was zero waste.
They got in touch with the Swedish manufacturer after specifying their own printed design and packaging. Then, with just a single sample pack they went on a “road trip” around the country to gain feedback from potential customers.
They were encouraged enough by the reaction, and subsequently took delivery of their first shipment (a half-container) of cloths.
Kristy and Stine had set up the business to sell direct to supermarkets and the B2B sector, with their main goal being to rid supermarket shelves of petroleum-based synthetic cleaning rolls and microfibre cloths.
“The whole microplastics conversation has been really big in Europe for some time, and it’s definitely coming to these shores as well,” explains Stine.
Little did they know when they set out that there would be a global pandemic about to hit these shores. And when the initial lockdown hit New Zealand (unfortunately while their first container was still at sea) they had to quickly ensure they had a robust online offering targeting home users to fall back on. Stine made use of Shopify and had the site live in just two weeks.
Luck was with them it seems – they had caught the crest of a popularity wave for home cleaning, sparked by the growing numbers of home-based workers.
Despite all the covid disruption, the milestones were soon being achieved with regular frequency. Their first supermarket sales came after a Foodstuffs board member took a sample to a board meeting (one of just three samples they had at the time!).
With a supermarket in the Wellington suburb of Thorndon helping them out, and product on the move, Kristy and Stine embarked on some supermarket door-knocking.
“We just showed up unannounced to all these buyers with our boot-full of products,” recalls Kristy. “We’d take a photo of the category shelves and see where there was a gap for our products, then knock on his or her door.
“It was brave. It was toe-curling. And 90 percent of the time we got the product on the shelf, on the spot.”
But that was 2019, she reminds me. “You couldn’t get away with it now.”
There have been other milestones with their supermarket sales too, with Good Change quickly becoming the eco-cleaning cloth of choice. In-store demos have helped generate sales, and Kristy remembers how they would cheekily ask shoppers if they could replace the cleaning cloths in their trollies with a Good Change eco-cloth. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
But through all this, website sales have remained very important, with online sales still generating 50 percent of all revenue today.
Time for a Good Change
Kristy and Stine’s war on microplastics goes far beyond the humble cleaning cloth. It’s more about becoming a role model in a market that’s still subjected to a large amount of greenwashing. “Our goal is to help people be better than they were yesterday in their broader cleaning habits,” explains Kristy.
“Our products are a vehicle for communicating that message.”
The business has been ramping up fast in 2022. Based on customer feedback they’ve been adding other products to their lineup, and stock now arrives in full-size 40-foot containers.
Kristy and Stine are also fortunate to have husbands who also run businesses and understand the slog that every business owner goes through.
“We share all the numbers with them, and it’s so important to have their full buy-in because we have been spending a lot of time away from our families,” says Stine.
They’ve not been afraid to approach the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce, as well as other successful entrepreneurs, to gain more insights and feedback that will help them grow the business.
“I rang both Geoff Ross [42 Below] and Brianne West at Ethique for advice,” recalls Kristy. “Because their brands are experiencing huge success overseas.”
Both Geoff and Brianne were very generous in sharing their advice, she says. “It helps that Kiwi entrepreneurs are always so ready to have their brains picked,” adds Stine, who admits that Kristy is more “out there” when it comes to starting conversations with other people. “Kristy’s happy to break every rule,” she laughs. “She definitely always thinks outside the box.”
It’s about attitude
While growing Good Change is serious business, Kristy and Stine believe their success so far has been helped by having an attitude of not taking life too seriously.
“So when we come up against roadblocks, we have the innate ability to laugh it off and navigate around or over them,” says Kristy.
“We’re both positive people,” agrees Stine, “and that’s one of our key strengths.
“We’re also super-practical. From day one we hired an admin assistant. We wrote down a mind map of all our processes within the business and posted them on our intranet for her to oversee. This allows any new person who comes on board to quickly pick things up, and it removes Kristy and I from the processing, to allow us to focus on building the business.”
Both Kristy and Stine describe themselves as generalists. They have complementary skills, but if they find a gap in their skillset, then they’ll find an expert who’ll fill that gap.
That’s why they’ve hired their own permanent digital marketing manager, and a “young and savvy” content creator.
“We know the digital space is where we can get our message out best, especially as we move into Australia,” explains Stine. “If we’re not strong there then we can’t really compete in the market.
“Kristy and I are such a big part of the brand and we want to show our passion to people and why we’re doing it – because Good Change resonates with a lot of people in similar situations to us.”
Stine explains that digital marketing platforms such as TikTok are generally pitched to a younger age group. And while she has “danced around the kitchen” to showcase their products for TikTok, they both believe it’s better to employ somebody who understands social media far better than they do.
“You’ve also got to get down and get your hands dirty in this job,” says Kristy. “We’ve had the whole family, including the mother-in-law and the kids, packing boxes at times.”
2022 has been a year of major milestones for the two Good Change founders, capped off with building of their own off-the-grid warehouse and office. It’s a move that will help them accelerate the building of their brand culture all under the one roof.
Early on in the business, Kristy and Stine took a walk to the top of Mount Maunganui and set some major goals. The first scary one was to establish the brand and make sales in Australia. Their BHAG is to be a $100 million business within ten years and, “the Unilever of eco-cleaning”.
“We never set up Good Change to be a small business,” explains Stine, “but it does mean we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and spend a lot of time away from our children.
“It also puts stress on our families, both time-wise and financially. But it does all come down to our passion for eliminating plastics and chemicals.”
“Most companies measure their KPIs in terms of monetary value, but we measure ours in terms of how much plastic we can remove,” adds Kristy. “So, we’ve turned the whole business model on its head. Good Change is out there to do good, and as a result of this the money will come in and we can then pump it back into good projects.”
At the end of the day, the overarching goal of Kristy and Stine is to deliver products that become the product of choice in any household. “That’s what drives us on all that we do,” says Stine.
They’ve already set up a B2C distribution agreement in Australia; they have also set their long-term sights on the US West Coast market.
But every three months they “rejig” their vision, to ensure they’re both still on the same page and use it as a constant reminder of where they want their brand to be.
Story by NZBusiness editor Glenn Baker.