The country’s 300-year history of seaweed harvesting has informed a new business with a growing export market: KIRA WALTON, co-founder of VOYA Organic Beauty Products, explains the enterprise…
Describe your role?
I am co-founder, with Mark Walton, my husband, of VOYA, our brand of organic, hand-harvested, wild seaweed-based products for the spa and retail sector. I work on product development and the visual aspect, making the product look the way we want: natural, organic, luxurious.
Your career path?
After training at the College of Marketing and Design, I started as a freelance illustrator then took a job with a start-up known at the time as Lifetime Learning, later to become Riverdeep where I was a graphic designer, then project manager, leaving to embark on a Start Your Own Business course with FÁS. The idea for Voya originated with Mark’s experience helping run his family’s seaweed baths in Strandhill, Co Sligo.
Your business in numbers?
This year we celebrate ten years in business since our first product, a seaweed bath formula, was created. Seaweed is 85 per cent mineral content and the basis of the Voya brand which was launched in 2006. We now have over 100 products sold across Europe, the Middle East, the US and the Far East, employing 13 at our production facility in Co Sligo as well as out-sourcing various functions nationwide, including manufacture of our candles which contain seaweed extract. We harvest 200 tons of certified organic seaweed every year, most of it in summer. We are nominated, among eight other businesses for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur in the “emerging” category.
Tell us one way technology has helped you fulfill your role?
We work with customers worldwide so good communications is key: I use my smartphone and laptop when travelling and I also work closely with printers and designers so I use design software.
A typical day?
I walk my dog on the beach, then go back to the house to get ready for work. Hop into the car, picking up a coffee en route to headquarters in Finisklin for 9am. I share an office with Mark, which is good for bouncing ideas back and forth, and it means we are each up to speed with all aspects of our respective roles. Work will involve launching new retail products, design sign-offs and print samples (packaging is biodegradable and recyclable where possible), writing design briefs and liaising with our online marketing company. We often break for lunch in a little place on the seafront in Strandhill. Back to the office for the afternoon.
How do you deal with work stress?
I draw and paint. I also do beach yoga, a fabulous way to de-stress, listening to the breeze and the surf. Because Mark and I are partners in life and work, we try not to talk work when we get home or check our work mail on our phones after hours. Resisting checking our mail never works, to be honest, but we never talk work.
Spending time in Strandhill with friends and Mark, having a glass of prosecco while Marks cooks and watching the sun go down.
Paper diary or electronic?
Both. I do love the feel of paper and I like to record occasions like birthdays or anniversaries.
Has the economic climate affected how you do business in a positive way?
We have become much more flexible and adaptive to customers’ needs – we have prospered because of this. Business thought for the day? I have two: Surround yourself with great people; fail, fail and fail better, in the words of Beckett.
Role models, inspiring figures or people you admire in business?
My dad. He created a subsidiary airline for Aer Lingus in Majorca, called Futura, in the mid-1990s. Before that he worked all around the world as a financial advisor to airlines.
Tell us what is on your desk?
Spa trade magazines. Glossy magazines. Minutes from manufacturing meetings. Financials. Samples for the facial and body range.
What kind of clothes do you like to wear to work?
As our office is in the manufacturing plant area, casual is most appropriate with a day dress and jacket for meetings.
What designers/label/shops do you like?
Reiss is my favorite store and I also wear Michael Kors. I find Penneys brilliant.
I love my Rolex watch and a gorgeous jade necklace I bought in Croatia during a spa conference. I alternate wearing bracelets from Links and Pandora.
What do you wear to post-work events? While travelling on business?
It depends on the location. We were in Santa Fe this year for the Green Spa Network, so it was jeans and cowboy boots and a nice top. During the day I wore a cream suit. When you’re on the east coast of the USA it’s smart businesswear or a cocktail dress. I am in Bangkok at the moment and it’s hard to work out what to put on it’s so hot and sticky but a sleeveless dress with a sarong is smart and easy to wear.
From the October 2012 issue of THE GLOSS Magazine.