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Interview with Lucas Smith, founder of WoolAid

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

We sat down with founder of WoolAid, Lucas Smith to discuss all things WoolAid, who he'd love to see WoolAid on, and his favourite property on the monopoly board!

Lucas Smith at home in Lake Tekapo

Why did you start WoolAid?

I suppose the idea in a nutshell came in part from how I was raised, and my childhood. Growing up in the outdoors we were wrapped in wool clothing as kids so I was always familiar with the fibre. After high school, I worked at a sheep station, and it gave me an appreciation for the production of wool which was the next step of knowledge. This experience also highlighted the need for something new in the wool industry that wasn’t traditional channels like carpets.

In 2014 I became a mountain guide on the Routeburn and Milford Sound tracks. These trips were often very sentimental and customers had spent a lot of time and money to get there, what I found was that the biggest disruptor of these trips was getting a blister. It would literally ruin the whole experience. The thing that worked the most was tufts of wool, normal plasters just didn’t hold up, and it got me questioning why as a customer I can buy woollen clothing, but I can't buy anything better for bandages. People are using wool for blisters anyway so why hasn’t that been made into something that is consumer friendly? So that was the inception of the idea, and I started WoolAid in 2016.

What is your dream for WoolAid?

Replacing everything plastic with wool!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you ever think you’d be a founder?

As a kid I always knew I wanted to look after the land to some degree, first as a farmer, then as a conservation worker. I had a lot of freedom growing up, my mum is an artist, so I didn’t have that pressure to go into a traditional career.

And I never really intended to be a “founder” it just kind of happened, it’s how I learn, by doing. In order to pass economics in high school I designed hoodies and sold them. And the same with WoolAid, I learnt while just doing.

What is your favourite property in Monopoly, and why?

Old Kent Road, the first one! I’m terrible at board games and notorious for rolling ones and twos, I like to get on the board early and build up.

What’s your biggest dream in life?

To have a little house on a big block, I want to plant trees, grow vegetables, and have room for my little dog to run around, a low-carbon future.

Top 3 people you’d love to see a WoolAid on?

I know it's super cliché but probably Elon musk. In some of the chapters of WoolAid it has been hard to keep that big-scale thinking alive, especially in New Zealand with our tall poppy syndrome, so reading his books over the years has been a source of inspiration.

King Charles, he’s a big fan of wool, and WoolAid was featured in a documentary he produced, so it would be cool to see him with a WoolAid on.

And finally David Attenborough!

What is one piece of advice you would share with other start-up founders?

Bare minimum it’s going to take 30% longer than you expect, and if you can innovate quietly and keep to your knitting it’ll all come right in the end.

What is one problem you’d like to solve in the world?

My biggest pet peeve is plastic, but I’m doing something about that with WoolAid. So I think the other one is the continual burning of petrol and fossil fuels and I want people to look after our landscapes.

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