Tell us a little bit about your business
Mungo Murphy's Seaweed Co. is a producer of all things seaweed. We produce very simple, natural seaweed bath, seaweed soap, and seaweed face mask products using sustainably hand-harvested seaweed from the Connemara region of Co. Galway. In addition to the seaweed skincare products, we also sell fresh and dry edible seaweed and seaweed-fed abalone. In 2015, I was awarded a Eurotoque award for the Mungo Murphy range of fresh hand-harvested seaweed in recognition for reviving what was once a traditional food source, particularly in Irish coastal life - it is strange to think that seaweed was at one time associated with poverty and today is seen on fine dining restaurant menus and in fancy spa treatments. It is a bit unusual for a brand to bridge both skincare and food categories, but I made the decision to do so as in each category we are dealing with seaweed in its purest, least processed form. As a business owner, I wanted to be able to offer all of the natural benefits of seaweed in its simplest form, for people to use in whichever way is of most interest/relevance to them in their lives.
Could you describe your studio/place of work to us? What is your favourite thing about the space and how do you get into the mindset of working?
I wish I could call my workspace a studio! In reality I don't have one exclusive workspace as it changes day to day, depending on what tasks need to be carried out. Generally speaking my workspace is at the aquaculture farm in Rossaveel, Co. Galway. My time there is divided between the farm kitchen/packing area; the greenhouse tunnel which is where the abalone live in land based seawater filled tanks and which is where I store the fresh seaweeds and air dry the seaweed for the bath on elevated nets; my third and favourite place of work is down on the shore behind the farm which is where we hand harvest some of the smaller and more delicate seaweeds for the restaurant market and some of the brown seaweeds for the seaweed baths. It is down by the shore that I tend to check and respond to emails and texts in the morning which helps me to get into the mindset of working at the start of the day... because it doesn't really feel like work in such a pleasant open environment! The other motivating factor that gets me in the mindset of working is the pressure of making sure orders get out in time. Due to the farm's rural location, courier pick up times can be a bit constraining, but it does discipline me to get things packed up and ready to go early in the day which then frees me up in the afternoon to deal with paperwork.
What is a typical working day for you?
A typical working day by necessity starts with a black americano in a travel mug which is slowly finished on my commute along the coast road to the farm in Rossaveel. Once at the farm, I check what orders need to go out that day and start getting those orders ready to go. Over the summer months, we have a number of aquaculture students working on the farm getting ready for the abalone spawning season and working on their own research projects. Depending on the day and what the weather is like, I would give them some direction on what tasks need to be carried out that day. Once orders are packed up and couriers booked I am then freed up to do a stock take and check what might need to be ordered in - whether that be packaging, labels, fresh or dried seaweed from some of our local suppliers etc. and proceed to order whatever I can see is going to be needed. If we are running low on some of the smaller seaweeds that we harvest ourselves, I would check the tide tables to see when the next low tide will be and make an appointment for myself to go down to the shore at the next feasible low tide. Throughout the day I am inevitably dealing with various phone calls and emails. As a small relative newcomer business, I do spend most days of the week dealing with new customers. That can include initial product specification and pricelist requests, filling out paperwork to get listed, figuring out logistical shipping arrangements and pricing and of course follow-up communications post shipment. As I also do seaweed foraging and abalone tasting tours on the farm, I am typically communicating with potential, forthcoming and past visitors (who like to keep in touch) and either preparing for an upcoming tour or giving a tour. I love the mornings or afternoons that I have a tour, as I find that anyone who takes the time to come and visit our farm in the depths of Connemara to look at and taste seaweed and abalone are my kind of people and I find that the tours always come with really stimulating conversation!
Can you describe the making process and inspiration behind your beauty range?
To describe the process and inspiration behind the beauty range is best summed up by the phrases 'less is more' and 'keep it simple'. The light-bulb moment story is kind of long, but the short answer is that I was inspired to create the sea-bag first of all after living in Amsterdam for a year and feeling totally landlocked even though there were beaches nearby. In that year I discovered that I was missing proper seaweed - which I admit is a strange thing to miss - but as I grew up collecting fresh seaweed to feed to the abalone on my mother's aquaculture farm, my post-seaweed harvesting treat was always a bag of fresh seaweed for the bath. Because the beaches near Amsterdam were sandy beaches on the North Sea and not the rocky, seaweed covered coastline along the so-called 'Wild Atlantic Way' (it is has been so hot and calm out here these days!), I found myself really missing my DIY seaweed baths. As a consumer, I also felt that businesses could do more to create natural, clean and environmentally friendly skincare and food products and I figured if I couldn't find what I was looking for on the market, then I should create it. When it came to designing what packaging to use, I was very conscious of plastic pollution on land and particularly in the sea and wanted to limit my contribution to that as much as possible. It was thinking along those lines that led me to develop the seaweed face mask as I became more aware of the amount of skincare products that use micro-plastics to create exfoliating beads. I found that the milled seaweed powder had this effect naturally and makes use of an ingredient that I could also eat if I really wanted to.
What led you to choosing this unusual profession? What do you love most about it?
Becoming the founder of a seaweed brand happened totally by accident. I had completed my studies in Law at University College Dublin and at the University of Amsterdam which I really enjoyed. There were a few things that stuck with me from that time; one, that it is pretty simple to create a company; and two, that the system in which companies/corporations operate in and have influence in, is so fixated on creating shareholder value that very often (if not always) the interests and concerns of employees, the community, and the environment get overlooked. It isn't a ground-breaking realisation, but once that idea clicked with me and settled in my mind, I caught the entrepreneurial bug and perhaps naively, set out to join the small pool of businesses and companies that operate sustainably with social and environmental concerns in mind. Also, creating the Mungo Murphy brand filled the creative gap in my life as I always wanted to be an artist of some description but never had the necessary talent, so entrepreneurship was the next best thing! The thing I most love about being an entrepreneur in general is the creativity involved in developing and building a business. And the thing I most love about being an entrepreneur working with seaweed specifically is the environment that I get to work in, being right up close to the Atlantic and all of its proper seaweed!
We stock a selection of the Mungo Murphy skincare products, including seaweed soap and face mask which you can check out here