Seaweed provides diver with an all natural business idea

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Developing a unique technique to infuse seaweed with coconut oil has helped a scallop diver launch an all-natural cosmetic line that is now being stocked by VisitScotland. 

Ben Oakes launched the Isle of Skye Seaweed Company six months ago after gaining advice from Business Gateway Highland.

Since then, the 26-year-old has secured 16 stockists for his Wild Seaweed & Peppermint lip balm and Wild Seaweed & Mango butter hand and body balm, with VisitScotland’s Portree iCentre coming onboard earlier this year.  An e-commerce website is due to be launched before the summer with two further products - a Wild Seaweed & Lavender bath bomb and a Wild Seaweed Beard Oil - also due to hit the market over the coming months.

Early talks are also underway with potential distributors for the range in America.  Ben said: “Hand diving for scallops is very seasonal so during the quieter winter months I spent my time thinking up business ideas. Originally, I wanted to sustainably harvest seaweed to sell to the food and catering industry but the start-up costs were too prohibitive, I then read about using seaweed in cosmetics.

“It took me two years to figure out how to infuse local seaweed with coconut oil so that the oil turns green and carries the salty scent of the sea; that process makes my products totally unique. Men and women of all ages love the range, as it is all natural and there are no harmful parabens or harsh chemicals used. “Before starting I turned to Business Gateway Highland for help with my business plan and to identify the best funding scheme to get things off the ground. With my adviser’s help I successfully applied for a loan from the Highland Council Loan Fund and that allowed me to buy the production equipment I needed and sort out my branding. My adviser really gave me the extra kick and boost needed to get things off the ground.”

Emma Lawson, Business Gateway Highland, said: “Ben has big plans for his business, initially launching a cosmetics range but with an eye to one day expanding to provide sustainably harvested seaweed to the food industry. But getting a business off the ground with limited finance is hard, so using our advice and knowledge he was able to successfully secure the money he needed to launch and put a plan in place that will help guide him as he grows his enterprise.”

Although Ben’s family operate a sustainable scallop ranch on Skye, Sconser Scallops, his father refused to teach him how to dive until he’d completed his education. Returning to Skye with his degree in Sustainable Environmental Management from the University of Edinburgh in 2012, Ben then undertook an apprenticeship with the family firm to learn the traditional skills needed to dive for scallops by hand. 

Now, the seaweed Ben sustainably harvests by hand for his cosmetics line grows in the same waters as the scallops sold by Sconser Scallops. Ben said: “Studying for my degree made me really appreciate the important job my dad was doing with his ranch, and being away from home made me realise just how much I wanted to move back to Skye while I was still young rather than work on the mainland and retire to the island. “My degree has already been a massive help, particularly when I was applying for my licence to harvest seaweed in a sustainable way. It also highlighted that if you are careful you can get a lot out the natural environment without harming it.”

Find out how Business Gateway Highland can help your business by visiting their local page or calling 01463 898 466.

Outwith this area? Find your local Business Gateway office or call 0300 013 4753.

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