“Your work is never really done so enjoy the small wins along the way and live your life.” — 60 seconds with Dr. Helena McMahon of Seabody

60 Seconds With, Interviews | Tue 24 May | Author – Business & Finance
Pictured: Helena McMahon, Co-Founder, Seabody

Dr. Helena McMahon is the co-founder of Seabody. Seabody was founded in 2017 by a group of biotechnologists and ICT entrepreneurs with a shared passion for the marine environment and natural products, in particular the elusive and high value bioactive molecules in algae which are responsible for their global recognition as superfoods.

What was your first job? 

My very first job was working on the shop floor in Penny’s when I was in secondary school which I kept going into College. I just loved the independence of it. 

Out  of  college I managed to get an 18 month US visa to work in the Genetics Institute  Boston on monoclonal antibody production.  This was an amazing experience, I really felt the potential of research and development to make a genuine contribution to human health and wellness. 

What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?

In Seabody I have the real privilege of working in a space that intersects molecular medicine, natural product science and sustainability. The pushing factor for me has always been curiosity, I have always followed my interests, whatever has given me that sense and feeling of flow.

You can see these themes are threaded through Seabody. We place sustainability and impact at the core of all we do, along our supply chain from Sea to Self. We have spent years developing zero waste clean technologies to identify and extract the high efficacy natural molecules from algae and validate their health benefits using pre-clinical and clinical studies. 

Each  Seabody formulation is  bio-designed taking cues from nature and human biology to create skin care and supplement formulations that deliver tangible and visible health and wellness benefits. 

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

Seabody was the first brand developed in the Nutramara Brand Lab. 

In creating Seabody we set the goal of creating a Circular Marine Health and Beauty Company  to sustainably harness the health, beauty and regenerative powers of the ocean in high efficacy products with benefits from Sea to Self. 

The products that we have created are high efficacy, natural, sustainable, inclusive and the most amazing user experience, the ultimate in luxury. 

It has been an immense undertaking, 4 years of innovation to develop and scale the clean zero waste processing technologies, validate the marine molecules, biodesign each formulae, test, refine manufacture, develop the brand visual and story not to mention the regulatory hurdles to be overcome in bringing proprietary molecules to market.  

I truly believe we are delivering on our goal, this isn’t to say we are done, but we have stayed true to the original intention and will continue to innovate and push boundaries. 

Career wise, would you do anything differently?

On reflection, no, I never had a set plan or end goal in mind, in fact the one thing I said I would not do is a PhD and we know how that turned out! I have been so lucky that I have had the freedom to follow what excited and interested me. Very often researchers stay in the area of their PhD for their careers and go really deep into a specific area. 

My journey has been different, as I have delved into new areas, going from genetic engineering and STEM cell therapeutics, into natural products and on to immersing in sustainability, in particular the circular bioeconomy. It hasn’t been all plain sailing, there has been lots of hard work, late nights and moments of doubt thrown in. Who knows where I will be in 5 years. 

In one sentence, how would you define success?

Waking up inspired, achieving flow and staying true to your personal values. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Getting to your goal will likely take twice as long as you expect (and cost 3x more). Your work is never really done so enjoy the small wins along the way and live your life. 

How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

I am quite a determined person, once I set on and commit to something the goal itself will drive me on.  However, I do need to have that sense of enjoyment and purpose which I find  is most potent when embedded within a team, with a shared vision and goal, working together, supporting each other, providing space, respect and absolutely above all – the joy of laughter. 

How do you handle adversity? 

I think grit is something that we all need in life, you just have to accept the situation you are in, acknowledge that it is temporary (usually & hopefully) that there is always a solution which is usually best reached by consultation, time and reflection. 

How do you relax?

I’m not a great person for sitting still, for me being with family and friends, heading off an adventure, good food, outdoors and laughter, that’s my happy place. 

What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

Seabody is a heritage brand in development, we aim to be one of the most recognised Irish luxury brands globally,  synonymous with high efficacy, natural, sustainable beauty and wellness products. 

There is history in the DNA of the brand which is the culture of Seaweed use for health and beauty benefits. Its differentiation is the layering of innovation, proprietary technologies developed in-house to sustainably isolate, characterise and validate ultra-concentrates of the marine molecules, including Fucoidan, Polyphenols and beta-glucan which are the reason that seaweed is a superfood, beauty and wellness elixir. 

Seabody is the first brand in Europe to isolate, manufacture and develop a beauty and wellness brand containing these novel functional molecules.  We will continue to scale our innovation and diversify our product portfolio to position Seabody and Ireland as a global leader in the blue economy. Looking at local success, we often say what we aim to be the Kerry of the Marine Ingredients world, with our sister HQ in Tralee.