Dafne Romero, Founder and CEO of North Pacific Kelp Wild Foods, believes we can learn more from failure than we can from success, and she isn’t afraid of making mistakes.
“You have to accept the struggles that go along with building a company and brand,” explains Dafne. “It’s only then that you can go forward.”
Born in Mexico, though raised in Lebanon and Russia as a young child, Dafne moved to Canada 28 years ago. Her business, located in Haida Gwaii in British Columbia, makes a range of kelp products with seaweed harvested from the pristine waters of Haida Gwaii.
“The seaweed absorbs minerals and nutrients from its ecosystem, making this plant a healthy and unique specialty item in many kitchens.”
Dafne’s company uses ‘Giant Kelp’ (Macrocystis Integrifolia) to produce kelp flakes, powders, and lasagna. She explains that Giant Kelp is not only the world’s largest species of seaweed, it’s also the fastest-growing kelp on the planet.
“It’s a marine forest, a forest that lives in the ocean and is cohabiting with other types of species. What’s really important is that it’s connected with the terrestrial forest, and both are the lungs of the global Earth.”
Despite the pandemic’s impact on many small businesses, Dafne says lots of opportunities still abound.
“I don’t see it as a negative situation—it kind of humbles the humans. We have been so human-centric for so long that we don’t really see the consequences of our actions, and now we’re seeing it. So, I think it’s wonderful to be in this kind of position as I see this time now as an opportunity to change and transform and adapt further ahead.”
Dafne says working for herself means she has the freedom to take chances, but it doesn’t mean any of this comes easy.
“I have to troubleshoot constantly. If you really want your business to grow and you really believe in what you’re doing, you need to do assessments on all aspects of your business.”
This ongoing assessment includes, explains Dafne, assessing whether you are a good manager as the business owner.
“You have to assess if you’re a good communicator with your team. I like to create a family feeling among my team, so they feel validated for what they are doing to have them respect what they do and feel connected to what they do. You have to look at all the aspects of your business and assess it constantly.”
Dafne isn’t afraid of challenges, though, and in fact, she welcomes them. “If I don’t have a challenge, I’m not going to grow.” She also challenges the assumption that someone can only find innovation or efficiency through new software or technology.
“For me, innovation is not about that. I don’t think I’m going to expand my company by harvesting 100 instead of three tons. No, my expansion will continue harvesting three tons, and instead, I’m going to expand my concept. So, if I can make soaps, kelp soaps, and I’m going to use one gram, then I’m expanding the concept of my company, but I’m actually harvesting the same amount. So, it’s a value-added. It’s not about volume; it’s about the concept. Expansion doesn’t mean more. It means making better use of what you already have.”
What Dafne is most proud of, however, is her integrity and commitment to helping make the planet as healthy as possible. “I connect not only to money and profit or no profit, but I also connect to the planet and living creatures. It’s not only the business of making a business and creating wealth, but it’s also how you create that wealth. That’s what I’m proudest of.”
In addition to having integrity and respect for the planet, Dafne’s advice for anyone starting a business in this sector is to have faith in what they’re doing.
“You have to believe in what you’re doing because if you don’t, well, then it’s not going to happen. If you’re doing it just for money, then you’re going to hate it because other aspects are going to be very difficult.”
Dafne says there are many risks involved in believing in yourself, but if you have faith, you’re going to get there sooner or later.
“Maybe it’s not the way you want to get there, but the journey and those learning curves along the way are how you learn. The goal is to get there at some point, but the journey is going to be full of surprises, and that’s wonderful.”