From farm to furniture: Wisewool's mission to revitalise the wool trade around the world

From farm to furniture: Wisewool's mission to revitalise the wool trade around the world

Harry Urquhart-Hay has had a very busy week after his family wool manufacturing business, Wisewool, appeared on Country Calender last Sunday night.

Head of sales marketing for the business, which has been in the wool trade for 130 years, Urquhart-Hay told REX hosts Hamish McKay and Rebecca Greaves the business has changed a lot since its inception in 1894.

"Now it's time to really add value to wool via manufacturing here in New Zealand for our local farmers," Urquhart-Hay explained.

"We collect wool from farm gates, after the wool has been graded and scoured it goes to our plant in Te Poi and we make two ingredient products.

"One is rolls of needle-punched woollen blanketing that can replace synthetic tetron and dacron and the second product we make is a loose fill, which we call Wisewool buds, that is a brilliant replacement for feathers and polyester."

The process, which he described as "quite simple" aims to supply ingredients to businesses to replace regular synthetic ingredients in their products with authentic, New Zealand wool.

Convincing big businesses to change from synthetic products to something like wool is a significant challenge Wisewool faces when trying to expand into wider markets not only within Aotearoa but around the world.

Urquhart-Hay told McKay and Greaves particularly businesses overseas are very ingrained in their ways and can be hesitant to embrace change.

"For us, there is a lot of hand-holding when we approach these big businesses with 100% natural wool replacement."

"A lot of hand-holding in terms of showing them and educating them about wool but also just reassuring them of the qualities of wool and that you don't need to be scared about jumping in and using it because it really is a miracle fibre and will do a better job often than what they are already using."

While he expects it will be a long and likely bumpy road to fully break into the US bedding and mattress market, Urquhart-Hay is confident the opportunity is there for the taking.

"We know it's going to take time but if we can do it well and get the education piece sorted from the beginning then there is a good sized prize for our farmers."

The three went on to talk about Urquhart-Hay's feature on Country Calendar, using wool in furniture and the ongoing learning experience of innovating a business.