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Second year Bachelor of Entrepreneurship tauira and Dunedin locals Alex Livingstone and Abby Green are set to scale up the company they launched while still students at Bayfield High School.

“We’re ready for the next phase of growth for our company. We want to grow our customer base in New Zealand, and we’re now working with Startup Dunedin to achieve that,” Livingstone says.

Personal experiences with the challenges that acne can bring led them to establish Abalro in 2020, under the Young Enterprise Scheme.

“One of the main motivations behind the business is to help improve people’s mental health, by increasing their self-confidence – which can really take a dive when someone is suffering through acne,” says Green.

Abalro imports barberries from Iran into Auckland where they are freeze dried to create a supplement powder which is sent to Dunedin for packaging and then distributed nationally.

Livingstone says he was inspired to bring barberries to New Zealand by a University of Michigan double blind study which showed that taking two teaspoons of these berries a day could reduce acne by 43% in a month.

In 2022, Livingstone and Green entered their company into the Audacious programme at Startup Dunedin run by the Dunedin City Council, Otago University and Otago Polytechnic/Te Pukenga.

At the end of the intensive eight-week programme alongside a cohort of 111 other students who hailed from 28 majors and minors and all levels of study, Abalro won the Polson Higgs Premiere Award. Green also won the Best Entrepreneur Award.

These awards build on a string of successes for Abalro that include being named the Young Enterprise Scheme’s company of the year and New Zealand Ambassadors for Youth Business at the World Expo in Dubai in 2021.

Success at the Audacious programme has delivered the duo to their next step - a coveted place in Startup Dunedin’s Distiller Incubator programme.

“We’re excited to be starting this programme, where we’ll have access to ongoing one-on-one mentoring and support,” says Livingstone.

The young entrepreneurs were also recently awarded $15,000 in funding for marketing to support business expansion from He Kākano, a $2 million seed fund for young entrepreneurs aged 17 to 30 years, and is a partnership between Prince’s Trust Aotearoa New Zealand and the Ministry of Youth Development.

“The Prince’s Trust want to come and present to Bachelor of Entrepreneurship students and are keen to connect and help build networks through a collective approach,” says Livingstone.

Before launching Abalro and catching the entrepreneurial bug, Green had planned to study law and finance and Livingstone was intent on engineering, but Otago Business School’s Bachelor of Entrepreneurship was the right fit for the direction Green and Livingstone were heading.

“The degree has given us a lot of confidence in operating the business,” says Green.

“The second-year papers are a bit more practical, especially the marketing paper.”

“I can look back at what we’ve done so far in the business and recognise that a lot of our actions and decisions are aligned with the terms and concepts we’re studying now,” adds Livingstone.

As for the future, Green says, “once we’ve finished our degrees, we’ll both be focusing on Abalro, then heading wherever our passions take us”.

Read more about Abalro

Kōrero by Sally Knox, Communications Adviser, Otago Business School

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