After a long and successful career in health and skincare, it was easy for Michael Kerr to turn his hand to launching wellness brand Me Today in late 2019. But starting this brand wasn’t your average run-of-the-mill business decision...
In 2018, Michael’s wife Nikki was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. The inability to buy skincare and supplements from one brand from NZ that he believed in, is what drove him to develop a range that he felt he and his family could trust.
Michael’s personal endeavour is now a growth business with $4.5 million in public capital raised recently, and nine new Me Today products set to launch between now and October. Remix Editor Amber Baker caught up with Michael to discuss the demand for natural wellness solutions and the future of good health.
Given the recent global and local events, are more people buying health and wellness products?
Yes I think so. We’ve been doing well. People are more aware and trying to keep themselves healthy, whether it be trying to protect themselves from Covid or even just from colds and flus.
That’s why you started Me Today in the first place, right? In response to illness within your family?
Yes, in 2018 Nikki my wife was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, she was 36 years old and we’ve got two young girls. Nikki's a healthy young lady, so it was a massive shock for us. So the immediate reaction was to stop and stay at home and look after her. But she wanted me to stay healthy, mentally and physically, so I could look after our family.
So I started taking a natural sleeping product, I continued to eat well, and do some exercise here and there. I continued to go to work and maintain my mental health so I could be there for her and the girls, which is ultimately behind the concept of Me Today, looking after me so I can be here for others. That concept came about because of what we went through… The idea that there’s people out there like I was in 2018, where I just needed a solution that I could trust across categories.
A lot of the ingredients are used both in the supplements and in the skincare. Is it hard to develop a range that can do that full circle offering?
Yes it is. We wanted to link the two, so we took nine essential ingredients from the Women’s Daily product and put that into our vegan face range of skincare products. It’s everything you need in a daily skin regime. There’s a bunch of ingredients in the supplements like vitamin C, B3, B5, B10, COQ10 as well as cranberry and grape seed and they’re all good for your skin, so we thought, why not put them into the skincare?
How do the high personal stakes impact product development at Me Today?
Nikki’s cancer experience certainly plays on my mind when we are developing products at Me Today. We now know that certain types of cancers are caused by things we either eat or put on our body, so what we’ve tried to do is create a range of highly natural products that are free of nasties and use the highest forms of ingredients.
We wouldn’t just use, say, the cheapest form of Magnesium or vitamin C, we choose the ones that we believe work best and are the most absorbable. All of the Me Today range is from New Zealand too which is important to me and the brand.
Where would you like to see the health and wellbeing industry head in the future?
I would like to see the natural health industry grow. I don’t think natural products should replace medicine at all, but I think we should all have the knowledge of natural support to make certain choices. Nikki went through chemotherapy and radiation, and at no point did anyone provide advice on natural products that might actually support her. For example, she found magnesium and vitamin C were extremely beneficial.
You’ve talked about making greener and cleaner products, is it hard to do that? Did you find there were many compromises or did you manage to defy the odds and create a product that didn't have to compromise?
The product itself is not the problem, it’s the packaging - you’re defined by your packaging in a lot of ways. We use glass as we believe it's the right thing to do, and we use cardboard that’s sustainable. When you dig into all these things, no matter how green you want to be, there’s always going to be a compromise.
The biggest compromise was the format, we would have loved to put out a moisturiser in a 100ml plastic tube because it’s convenient, women can put it in their bag or take it to the beach, but we can’t because it’s not what we do. That’s just the limiting factor we have as a business in order to stick to our values.
You have a huge range of products, but what is your personal favourite that you rely on the most?
Well, my go-to at the moment is Vitamin C. It’s a high dose vitamin C which I take everyday. I also still take our Goodnight product - I get a really nice deep sleep from that. In terms of daily skincare I use our Women's daily moisturiser which I love, and at home we use the Protect Hand Wash - we all love that product. Washing and moisturising your hands at the moment is really important!
You mentioned you’ll be extending the range... how do you continue finding new ways and where does the inspiration come from?
Yes I would love to. We’re actually discussing an opportunity with a third-party right now that may allow us to offer solutions in the natural space, where the efficacy can be stepped up again from what we have already. It might be an alternative delivery method or different format, so we’re working through it. In terms of the existing range we have got a long way to go.
We have just launched seven new supplements and we have two more coming up in the next month! In terms of skincare we are developing an amazing range of serums and oils. They’re all developed to target certain needs, e.g. if you’ve got blemishes or dark spots, we’re trying to develop a range of serums that cater to those types of challenges for people.
I’ve got the worst pigmentation... Please tell me you’re working on something for that?
Yes we are! We’ve got a great product innovation person, and we’re lucky that we can work with what we believe to be the best manufacturers in New Zealand. They’ve got great resources in terms of chemists and externally we can also go to naturopaths. Because we’ve done this before we’ve got some amazing friends and contacts, it really makes a difference.
Me Today is clearly a success, but given the current climate are there any challenges that you are facing at all?
We are a startup so we are a small brand compared to our competitors. But you know what? We are going very well! Because of Covid there's a cost of goods increases coming through so that’s a global impact across every industry - not just ours. We’ve got freight increases, and I think we need to be conscious that consumers are probably being a little bit more careful with their money. I am also conscious that people are going to be stressed and I want to make sure we can help with that, whether that be more sleep-based or calming products, whatever the consumer might need.
I’ve been taking the Becalm supplement which helps me relax after an anxious day... I love it! Tell me, what is your end goal for Me Today?
We have financial goals and personal goals. My personal goal for Me Today is to be able to travel anywhere in the world and see people picking up and buying our amazing products - this is the biggest form of trust in my mind. Say one day I’m in the UK, to see someone pick up our Me Today Goodnight supplement, that’ll be pretty amazing!