Lake Tekapo’s WoolAid starts hike to success

A former Milford Track hiking guide is putting in the hard yards building his innovative merino wool plaster business into a global brand.

Lucas Smith suspected antimicrobial, hypoallergenic and moisture-wicking merino was special, and in-field testing of his wool plasters proved this was the case. 

The results proved superior to incumbent plastic plasters, and paved the way to Lucas producing the world’s first merino wool adhesive bandage. 

His company WoolAid was founded in July, as an evolution from his six-year-old business Walk On. 

Demand for the product has been overwhelming since its first production run hit South Island stockists in August. “We went from zero percent to sold out almost overnight,” says Lucas. 

The young entrepreneur has his sights on international expansion, and admits he is running full pace. 

“It’s progressing a little faster than I’d like it to. We’ve had a lot of interest from the United States, Europe and Australia. It’s exciting but the demand is a little daunting.”

As with any young business, there are challenges to growth. Potholes in the road include having to guide medical manufacturers to work with a luxury material instead of single-use plastic, and needing to pioneer scientific data on why wool is superior as a medical textile.
WoolAid’s been supported by Chamber partner Callaghan Innovation, which has provided advice and a grant that Lucas spent “flying to China to supervise my life savings in merino wool fabric being processed by bandage manufacturers for the first time in human history”.

The company is in the process of becoming a Chamber member, and for now Lucas enjoys getting tips from Chamber business advisor Rob Lawrence over turmeric lattes.

While Lucas has a global vision, he is running the business from Lake Tekapo – a location he sees as a benefit rather than a drawback.

“Us young people are constantly bombarded online with news of climate change, the rapid eco apocalypse and all kinds of news articles that makes one feel hopeless.

“When I’m feeling like I can’t make a difference, I put my phone down and walk past a paddock of merino sheep quietly grazing, eating grass that is sequestering carbon from our atmosphere.

“It gives me comfort knowing that, in my own small way, I’m creating a product that’s swapping out single-use plastic with merino wool – a fibre that’s born from an age-old carbon cycling process working before my very eyes in the mountains where I live.”