Calm Pipe aiding transition to Smokefree NZ
By: Catherine Beard
Smoking has wreaked havoc on the health of New Zealanders for centuries.
Fortunately, through concerted efforts, New Zealand is closer than it’s ever been in reaching its Smokefree ambitions.
Stricter legislation like standardised packaging is reducing the appeal of smoking and the ability of the tobacco industry to market their products, according to Smokefree Aotearoa.
While smoking companies have repositioned to alternatives like vaping, they still deliver the addictive substance nicotine.
Christchurch-based Calm Pipe is going a step further for those quitting smoking by providing a nicotine-free way of replacing the ‘hand to mouth’ habit of a cigarette with a nicotine-free pipe.
Founded by husband and wife team Heather and Scott Pearson, the idea was sparked when the duo were spending time in Colorado.
“We found ourselves on the edge of the Hayman Forest fires and to help save nearby homes, we were clearing scrub and vegetation. Unfortunately we got a lot of dust and smoke in our lungs and thought ‘is this what smokers and the people around them face every day’?”
They decided to come up with a tool that could mimic the hand to mouth habit but didn’t have all of the other harmful ingredients that goes along with smoking and vaping.
“Many rituals are enjoyable but addictive and carry negative health effects. We’re flipping addiction on its head and creating conscious health tech solutions,” Heather says.
The entrepreneurs say the most difficult aspect of running Calm Pipe has been having to make quick decisions.
“During the development phase you come across so many cross roads and have to make decisions on the next direction. There comes a point when you need to share it with customers and see what they think of the product.”
The pair had to shut down a trial they started just before COVID-19 hit.
“[Covid] has also made it a little harder to think outside of New Zealand in regards to our market size as we’re not sure when we’ll be expanding overseas.”
In the past year they have focused on product validation.
“We’ve come a long way with what our product will look like when it comes time to do large manufacturing runs.
“We’ve listened to what our early customers think and because we’re still in the early stages of manufacturing, we can make quick changes based on customer feedback. We’ve also had some early successes with raising capital.”
The duo say people in the start-up space are generous with sharing experiences and advice. Their advisory board has also been supportive when needing to bounce ideas around and sharing experiences.
“You can never do too much market validation to test your own assumptions and biases,” Heather says.
“If you’re creating something really new it can be really tough to operate successfully with potential barriers to market.
“There also comes a time when you have to fly out of the research and development nest and face customers with your product. The only way you’ll know is if you get out there with a minimum viable product and see if your assumptions are correct.”
The duo says there is “definitely” a benefit to being a Kiwi company.
“It’s usually associated with higher quality products and the value that brings to the customer. The New Zealand market is also supportive of Kiwi products, and buying local.”