Entrepreneur Graeme Clegg has a healthy outlook on life.
Pure and simple: ‘I still believe life is simple. People complicate it too much. Use common sense. Work on the laws of nature because they are all-powerful”, managing director of The New Image Group Graeme Clegg says.
In the 1970s Graeme Clegg was breeding Southdown sheep on his stud farm near Masterton. Today he is Chairman of New Image Group, a multi-million dollar dairy nutritional supplements business that exports internationally and is growing at a steady rate.
In 2013 the company won the Cawthron Award for Innovation in Science & Technology. Turnover for the whole Group was $120 million in 2012.
The group consists of three divisions – a direct selling division, a contract manufacturing division and a division focusing on own-brand activity.
The group employs 120 staff across 4 sites in Auckland and its direct selling operation has an army of more than 100,000 people sell its products in many countries – mainly in Asia.
Farmers are generally noted for being a conservative lot and for Mr Clegg to have been sold on nutritional supplements more than 30 years ago is unusual, but it was personal tragedy that set him on the path to business success.
‘I lost my family – my mother and father and younger brother – to cancer, and it made me realize that I was probably genetically programmed to also be a victim of cancer,” he says.
‘So, I wasn’t going to leave it to chance. I didn’t have all of the answers but while trying to save my brother I traveled the world and met a lot of very famous people – including Dr Linus Pauling, who won two Nobel Prizes.”
‘It became clear to me that there are a lot of things you can do to programme how long you live and how healthy you are,” Mr Clegg says.
‘Over 90 percent of cancer can be prevented. The key is eating well and exercising often.” It was on the farm that Mr Clegg’s ideas about health supplements began to develop.
‘I learned my nutrition from the sheep. We gave the sheep cobalt and selenium and I often thought why don’t I give it to myself or my children? I’ve since learned that selenium-deficiency makes you vulnerable to cancer. These things are well known but they are not taught. It’s getting more and more accepted and people are becoming aware that there are alternatives. Drugs are not the whole answer,” Mr Clegg says.
New Image Group was formed to sell nutritional weight-loss and energy products but in recent years it has focused on colostrum – the pre-milk fluid produced by mammalian mothers during the first few days after giving birth.
Human colostrum is designed to boost the human gastro-immune system but New Image Group uses cows’ colostrum which has 10-20 times more immune factors than the human equivalent.
Mr Clegg had seen how lambs that had almost frozen to death in a storm could be revived with a dose of colostrum. He also knew that cows, bred to produce milk, produced enough colostrum to feed six calves when they gave birth. If they had only one calf the extra colostrum was fed to pigs or thrown away.
Mr Clegg worked with the dairy companies to extract the colostrum, which he mixed with other plant and animal extracts to produce a range of health products.
The market for the Group’s products seems to be unlimited, but Mr Clegg and his key staff have aggressively pursued international distribution opportunities – they have collectively taken 500 international flights in the last three years.
‘My challenge was that New Zealand wasn’t big enough to support the volume of manufacture that was required to be economic, so that meant expanding the market,” he says.
Mr Clegg sold his farm in the mid 1980s to follow his dream and it took a few years for the new business to build up. Along the way to success he learned many lessons that he believes are applicable to anyone wanting to get ahead in business.
‘I’ve worked very hard physically and I’ve learned that it’s mental muscle that helps create wealth, not physical muscle. People are not prepared to invest and take time for the tree of wealth to bear fruit,” Mr Clegg says.
At heart, Mr Clegg still sees himself as a simple farmer.
“I still believe life is simple. People complicate it too much. Use common sense. Work on the laws of nature because they are all-powerful,” he says. “I’ve had a tough life. It hasn’t been easy and I wish I had known about some of the books and met some of the people that have been mentors, sooner, and understood the principles of success a lot earlier. They don’t teach any of that at school. Nature will never change, and the laws of wealth creation will never change. They are the same today as they were 200 years ago.”
“It’s an art form. It’s a skill and a lot of people never really understand what it takes. I don’t know all of the answers yet, but I’ve picked up some of them. ”
New Image Chairman