The leap from managing international financial risk to making insect repellent in Motueka is less of a stretch than you might think. Meet Paul Blackham: husband of Sarah, father to two boys, financial trader, black belt, blogger, search and rescue team member and…insect repellent inventor.
Paul and Sarah hail from the United Kingdom where Paul worked in investment banking and Sarah in law. When the couple met on a blind date in 1990, Paul was the youngest ever appointed director of Britain’s then largest investment bank SG Warburg & Co.
“I handled financial risk and trading equities for the Netherlands, Spain and several other EU countries,” says Paul. After Paul resigned in 1998, the couple decided to start a family, but weren’t keen on raising children in the United Kingdom. “Friends and relatives had recommended the top of the South Island and after a ‘recce’ in 2001 we emigrated in 2003.”
Paul consciously created a flexible working life so that he could spend time as a hands-on dad. “Having children certainly makes you grow up!” says Paul. “Trying to be a good dad has been a huge challenge, the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I know I’m a better person for it.”
For Paul, contributing to community is an important cornerstone of his family values. “I remember leaving the family holiday at Totaranui to go to Christchurch after the quake to serve with my Civil Defence team, and seeing how much people pulled together in times of need.” He is also a trustee of The Shortbread Trust, which helps raise money to support charities such as Shelterbox and Restless Developments. “We live in a local and global community and I think it is important for my kids to know life isn’t just about their needs and wants, but about how we connect with others.”
Sarah and Paul’s sons Zak (11) and Harry (10) were the catalysts for the creation of the natural, long-lasting insect repellent called ‘2B’ that now keeps the couple busy.
“When you have kids you start to become concerned about what you eat and what’s in your environment – it’s not just about you anymore. Having a child with food intolerances and allergies meant that we became avid label readers. We tried to avoid strong chemicals in all areas of our lives.”
“We live in a local and global community and I think it is important for my kids to know life isn’t just about their needs and wants, but about how we connect with others.”
– Paul Blackham –
As a family with a love of the outdoors who really didn’t want to use DEET-based products, the hunt was on for a natural repellent.
“We became increasingly frustrated buying natural repellents that didn’t last for long, so I started to research alternatives to synthetic, chemical-based repellents.” Paul then ended up inventing his own formula. “It’s the typical example of the adage ‘if you can’t find it, make it yourself’.”
Initially the repellent was produced for family and friends but increased demand led the couple to launch the product at the Nelson Market. The repellent is now called 2B and went on sale under that name in July.
“Sometimes the best business ideas come from closest to home. If it helps our family then there are bound to be a lot of other parents out there looking for the same thing.”
Words: Sandrine Marrassé
Photo: Tim Cuff