Q&A with ishga Co-founder and Director, Malcolm Macrae


ishga Co-founder Malcolm Macrae

This month we caught up with one of the Co-founders and Directors of ishga, Malcolm Macrae. Learn about how his science background, marriage and friendships led to the creation of the luxury skincare brand we know today. 

What motivated you to start ishga? 

“After Martin (friend and co-founder) and I started the Hebridean Seaweed company in 2005, we soon realised the huge potential of seaweed and its many benefits. The idea to start ishga snowballed from there and soon took off.” 

Who were the first employees of ishga? 

“Anne Campbell was the first employee (and still works at ishga). I had worked with her in a previous company, I already knew her really well and she is also a fellow scientist. Anne came with me when I started the first initial prototypes for ishga. We were working from a small portacabin in Arnish, I built the laboratory myself! I never in a million years would have thought of going down the skincare route, had I not been married to Joanna, who worked as a Beauty Therapist. If you had said to me 20 years ago that I would be doing what I am doing now, I would not have believed you!” 

Seaweed collecting on Lewis

When did you first realise that you had a great product and ishga had the potential to be successful? 

“When we made the first products and sent them to Blythswood Square Hotel & Spa in Glasgow (where Leon, another of ishga’s Co-Founders and Directors, was working as Spa Manager). Although feedback was positive, the products still had a long way to go in terms of development. The first product we made, our Anti-oxidant Marine Cream, had a very strong seaweed odour and was also a caramac brown colour, so it was not the most aesthetically pleasing! Through trial and error, we were able to remove the strong scent from the seaweed extract and improve the final colour whilst maintaining the incredible benefits of its natural anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.” 

What is your favourite part of your role as Co-founder and Director at ishga? 

“Definitely the creation and development of the products and being involved with every process from start to finish. There is a huge sense of achievement once you get to see a product you have been working on finally get launched.” 

If you could go back to 2013 when you first started ishga, what is the one piece of advice you would give yourself? 

“That’s quite a hard question to answer! There isn’t really anything I would have done differently; I am glad I made the choices that I did. We built the company at a good steady pace and I am thankful we didn’t make any rash decisions!” 

What goals do you have for the company for 2022? 

“To build on last year’s successes and continue to grow. We have been in this building for a year now, but it's not really working to its maximum potential in terms of layout and workflow, so this year I would like to make some improvements to the building  which will allow us to expand and continue supporting our local and wider economy.” 

What are your interests outside of work? 

“I like playing golf, I play badly if I’m honest! I love going fishing, I don’t manage to get out to do it as much as I would like. I enjoy loch fishing as opposed to sea fishing, it’s a bit more challenging.” 

What has surprised you most about starting/running your own company? 

“I suppose the most surprising thing is that I didn't expect it to grow to what it has grown to. I had faith in our products, that was important as you can’t expect people to have faith in what you do, if you don’t yourself! Having passion about what you are doing is so important. It's amazing to be in such a niche market with such a great story and island heritage to go with it.” 

We thoroughly enjoyed catching up with Malcolm and hearing about what it was like to start ishga and grow to who we are today. We have exciting plans and product launches lined up for 2022 and beyond, and we hope you’ll continue to join us on this incredible journey to share the magic of the Hebrides with the world.