Insect repellent proves too popular to handle

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Insect repellent proves too popular to handle
Tracy Neal

Tracy Neal Nelson Reporter@TracyJNeal[email protected]

A couple who left behind busy corporate lives in the UK for the good life in Motueka have found themselves reining in a small business that has become more successful than they imagined it might.

Paul Blackham and Sarah Jones' insect repellent company 2B was a finalist in the start-up category at the Nelson Pine Industries Nelson-Tasman business awards.

Paul Blackham and Sarah Jones’ insect repellent company 2B was a finalist in the start-up category at the Nelson Pine Industries Nelson-Tasman business awards. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Insect repellent business 2B was a finalist in the start-up category at the Nelson Pine Industries Nelson-Tasman business awards announced on 4 November.


Former equity trader Paul Blackham and former tax lawyer Sarah Jones are the creators of natural insect repellent 2B, which was invented in the kitchen of their Motueka home.

They tossed away the suits and arrived in New Zealand 13 years ago. They loved taking their children hiking and kayaking on the West Coast but found the insects troublesome.

They were not keen on using the established, chemically laden repellents.

It was their quest to find an insect repellent that was both made of natural ingredients and long-lasting that led them to launch the company.

That was their main point of difference, they said, a repellent that stuck on for hours at a time.

“We made it for ourselves – we made it for friends and family, and then we were making more and it was clearly getting beyond the kitchen bench level of production, so we made a commercial batch. To our great surprise, it all sold so it was clear we had a business,” Ms Jones said.

Mr Blackham said it all came down to four natural ingredients, with the oils sourced from an organic grower in India. Lemon eucalyptus oil was the main repellent, followed by lemongrass, vanilla and coconut oil as a carrier ingredient.

Abel Tasman native bush.

Abel Tasman native bush. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

He said setting up had been reasonably straightforward, and being a kitchen table project meant it was inexpensive. They each agreed working closely with each other had proved the biggest test.

“It’s actually been a remarkably simple process, the major benefit we had, and lots of other small businesses do as well, is having the Nelson Saturday Market. It gives you that chance to dip your toe and see if you’re just blowing smoke or whether there’s some form of a business here,” Paul said.

Last year they sold 4000 of the 60ml bottles, and there were signs this year would be stronger, so they outsourced production to an Auckland laboratory.

The business was now returning them a living and an export market beckoned, but they did not want it to run their lives.

“It’s the problem that probably all small businesses have – you’re it, and the constant temptation and sometimes demand is that you’re working harder and harder to make something work, and it ends up the tail’s wagging the dog – the business is running you, not the other way around,” Paul said.

The winner of the business start up category at the business awards was central Nelson brasserie, the Cod and Lobster, and the supreme winner was Nelson based national tax refund business,

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