Venture Taranaki’s PowerUp Ideas Competition Winner Sol+Sea takes home $10,000

Glen Stephens and his startup Sol+Sea have taken out the top spot in the 2021 PowerUp Ideas Competition Finals Night, against some very strong competition, winning $10,000 to help take his idea to the next level.

Sol+Sea, is an environmentally conscious lifestyle brand, focused on natural performance skincare for adventurers and ocean enthusiasts. Their mission is to create natural, safe, performance skincare that works in the elements, and helps restore those elements.

"My aim is to take natural skincare to new depths. With our products we’re making a conscious effort to protect, repair and restore the health of our oceans and surrounds, with reef and marine safe ingredients, eco-friendly packaging and production, and environmental initiatives."

Glen has been working on his idea for over three years, and it’s currently being trialled by focus groups and his brand ambassadors New Zealand pro surfers Paige Hareb and Ricardo Christie with great responses.

"I’m absolutely stoked about winning the competition. The PowerUp Ideas Competition has been a real journey and enabled us to refine and validate key aspects of the business and have laser-focus on our purpose and keeping us on our trajectory" says Glen.

Glen was also involved in the first stage of the PowerUp Ideas Competition with the Co.starters series throughout February to March this year, along with 49 other budding Taranaki entrepreneurs attending eight capability building workshops.

"I found out about PowerUp Ideas Competition opportunity as I was already talking with a Venture Taranaki Enterprise Adviser who suggested the programme to me. I also stay engaged with Venture Taranaki’s opportunities, watching out for emails and social media posts, making the most of the great resources they have available," continues Glen.

"The whole process has been amazing. The startup world can feel lonely so the mentorship and expert advice we had access to through PowerUp has been invaluable. We also doubled our timeframe to research, develop, validate, and execute the core fundamentals of the business and through PowerUp we got extra help to achieve our deliverables and goals prior to launching. We now have a solid foundation to launch a successful and long-lasting Taranaki-based business, thanks to PowerUp."

From April to June the programme was narrowed down to five finalists who received tailored support to help them move forward with their idea. Supported by Soda Inc., Venture Taranaki’s support of the finalists included $3,000 seed funding, one-on-one mentorship, and two months of co-working space access.

Like the other finalists, Glen has invested a lot of time in his business idea over the last two months and the PowerUp Ideas Competition is just the start for Sol+Sea.

"In the future, as a purpose driven business, I look forward to Sol+Sea contributing to ocean conservation and awareness through our partnerships, being a household brand name in New Zealand by protecting people’s skin when they are out having fun, and to help improve the plastics industry for the betterment of the environment," says Glen.

The Finals Night, held in front of a live audience, saw five finalists pitch their ideas to a judging panel. The judges commended the strength of the ideas pitched and noted their decision was a difficult one.

"The PowerUp Ideas Competition is an extension from the former Idea Summit which we ran in 2018 and 2019. Through this we’ve seen innovative thinking and impressive ideas with significant potential from the region" says Justine Gilliland, Chief Executive of Venture Taranaki and one of the judges on the night.

"The calibre of entries we’ve seen come through this year continues to be notably strong, "adds Justine.

Glen from Sol+Sea wasn’t the only winner on the night Lauren Oehme and Leon Power from Nanobubble Agritech took out the WITT People’s Choice Award winning $2,000 to use towards their idea. The WITT People’s Choice Award was decided by the live audience voting on the night.

"The finals night was an opportunity to celebrate the strong entrepreneurial spirit of the region. We have countless examples of dynamic businesses and entrepreneurs making waves locally, nationally and globally with their innovative thinking and the ideas we heard tonight make me extremely excited for what’s to come," continues Justine.

"I would like to commend all finalists and the other participants in the Power programme for their courage and effort they have all put in. I now encourage them to build on the momentum they’ve already created through the PowerUp Idea Competition process."

The other four PowerUp Ideas Competition finalists are:

- Karen Danenhauer, MamaGaia - a product made from recycled products

- Lauren Oehme and Leon Power, Nanobubble Agritech - agricultural technology

- Remy Zynfogel, Calypso Science - technology focused on ocean tides and currents

- Jenni Matheson, Mrinali Kumar and team, Kinda Ice Cream - plant-based food product