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Justin Moran of The Hidden Sea: 5 Things We Must Do To Inspire The Next Generation About…

Justin Moran of The Hidden Sea: 5 Things We Must Do To Inspire The Next Generation About Sustainability And The Environment

An Interview With Penny Bauder

Give before you get. You can’t fight physics, if you want to be warm you need to put wood into the fireplace first.

As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Moran.

Justin Moran is a change-maker. He wants to remove and recycle 1 billion plastic bottles from the ocean by 2030, and he’s selling great-tasting premium wine to make it happen.

Together, with retired Australian Football League star Richie Vandenberg, Justin founded The Hidden Sea to create a brand which empowers its customers to make change happen.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

My interest in business began at a very young age. I started a lawn mowing business when I was just 15 — by the time I left school I was employing 28 full-time staff. After I sold that business at 18, I owned fresh produce store, then take-away food shops before entering the nightclub industry.

In 2000 I launched Couture Communications and Events before I set up the mobile social networking program FunkySexyCool — one of the first ways to meet people using your mobile phone.

From starting out as a school kid through to today, I have always been very goal-orientated. This drive and the years of experience of being an entrepreneur gave me the confidence to tackle issues bigger than myself — like launching The Hidden Sea and tackling plastic pollution in our ocean.

Being goal-orientated is at my core. I always ask myself — what experiences do I want to have in life? Who do I want to wake up with? What type of business partner do I want? What countries do I want to visit? What adventures do I want to have? What type of family life do I want? What charitable ventures do I want to support? What languages do I want to learn? The list goes on, but the point is that goals don’t require much money — however you do need to be specific!

It’s also about pushing yourself to consider how you want to grow. Questioning yourself is critical. Ask yourself how you can learn to be a better father, spouse, business partner, leader, lover. Then think about what skills you need to have the experience you want. By having this mindset, everything feels possible.

A question I think we should all ask ourselves is, how can I give back to the world? I believe that if someone wants to be happy, that they ultimately must make other people happy.

Once someone has all these answers — they just then need to act with discipline and consistency to achieve their goals.

You are currently leading a social impact organisation that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Very simply, The Hidden Sea has a very clear purpose — to remove plastic from the ocean.

For every bottle of The Hidden Sea sold we remove the equivalent of 10 single use plastic bottles from the ocean. We have already removed and recycled over 9 million plastic bottles — so we are on target to meet our extremely bold goal to remove 1 billion plastic bottles from our ocean by 2030.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

Our mission feeds into the heritage where our vineyards are in South Australia. The area was one a vast ocean and home to a thriving marine ecosystem. Ancient, mineralised relics including an extraordinary 26-million-year-old whale fossil and an extensive museum of marine life now lay buried beneath the alluvial soils of this World Heritage wine region. We want to preserve what is here and ensure the ocean is clean and pollution free.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

My aha-moment happened back in early 2019. I went for a swim in Phu Quoc, Vietnam, and I was swimming in plastic waste. Initially I thought it was marine life grabbing my legs, but I quickly realised that it was plastic waste brushing past me. There was way more plastic than marine life in the water. I knew then I had to do something to change things.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

Regardless of whatever you set out to do in life the question and principles are the same. I believe in a trifecta of key questions any brand should be asking themselves to make real impact for the smallest viable audience.

The Idea Phase.

  1. What change are you seeking to make?
  2. Who is it for?
  3. What is the promise you are making?

The Culture, Team, Vehicle and Goal Phase.

  1. Develop your non-negotiable values.
  2. Find the best people to share in your vision and the change you’re seeking to make.
  3. Get them in the right positions in your organisation.
  4. Develop your purpose together and define your “why”.
  5. Then set a big scary goal. And get after it.

The Attitude Phase.

  1. Always show up with the right attitude, it will trump everything.
  2. Give before you get. You can’t fight physics, if you want to be warm you need to put wood into the fireplace first.
  3. Be prepared to put in the work, with discipline and consistency.
  4. Never ever give up!
  5. Do the right thing.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I think the most interesting story is around our ambassador programme.

Richie and I were often told, especially at the very beginning of The Hidden Sea, that we needed to pay ambassadors and influencers on social media.

We didn’t feel that it was authentic to have people posting and talking about our product just because we paid them. Also, and probably more importantly, if we had to pay people to talk about our product, it probably wasn’t worth talking about. It’s why a strong purpose and consumer promise is critical.

In July 2020, we set out to engage with people and to share our purpose with them in the hope that they would engage meaningfully with The Hidden Sea. Since then, we have established an ambassador program and built a passionate crew across the world.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

I think the funniest mistake was back in February 2013 at the very start of launching The Hidden Sea — huddled in the lunchroom with our small team of people sharing Richie’s and my grand vision.

In my excitement in explaining our vision I referred to the consumer and how this should be our sole focus in making change happen. I boldly declared that people are not interested in which tree our grapes come from, as they care more about what we do!

One of our senior winemakers cautiously and gracefully interrupted me to let me know if I had this grand vision to build this no-nonsense premium wine brands with a higher purpose, then I should at least understand that grapes don’t grow on trees, they grow on vines.

The lesson here? Yes, she was right. Grapes do grow on vines and cultivating quality fruit is very important to making premium wine. However, the fact remains people buy into why you do what you do, and if you have a strong enough purpose and promise they will support you, care about you and share your brand and in some cases as if it was their very own.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

My absolute supporters are my mother and father. They have been my mentors and cheerleaders along the way which give me the ability and opportunity to become successful.

I’ve been lucky enough to accumulate a handful of close friends and like-minded people who have had my back along my journey, including my Beautiful wife Linda. And of course, that person also includes my great mate, mentor and co-founder of The Hidden Sea Richie Vandenberg.

I’m also lucky to have two young daughters. Their influence at their vulnerable stage of life fuels my desire to make a real quantifiable change on our environment.

My grandfather was also a huge influence. His words stick with me to this day. He explained to me at a very young age life’s physics, and that there’s no way to avoid it. If you want to be warm in life, you first must put the wood into the fireplace. That requires work in preparing the wood, starting with a small flame and kindling, while having the patience to slowly build a roaring fire, that’ll eventually heat a room, and then and then an entire home. The message? Give first. You can have everything you desire in life if you just help other people get what they need.

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I hate it when organisations and governments push the problem back on society. Right now, recycling is not the answer. Fun fact — only 9 percent of all the plastic produced since the 1950s has been recycled. For recycling to be the solution governments need to put a tax on virgin plastic producing organisations. That would immediately drive the demand for industry to recycle, as it will become a cost-effective alternative to virgin plastic.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

I’m not sure that profitability should be the motivation. The Hidden Sea is proving that making a profit as a business and helping the planet can co-exist. Then the question becomes, what else can we at The Hidden Sea do to be more sustainable that can be of example for the industry and show that you can become profitable while being sustainable?

The Hidden Sea is a commercial business, and we need to make a profit. But that profit comes from work that benefits humanity.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”.

  1. Always show up with the right attitude, it will trump everything.
  2. Give before you get. You can’t fight physics, if you want to be warm you need to put wood into the fireplace first.
  3. Be prepared to put in the work with discipline and consistency.
  4. Never ever give up!
  5. Do the right thing.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Well, we’re all citizens of the world. And there’s only the one ocean. We are all made from the same material and revert to the same material. We all have an important role to play as we are all interconnected via the ocean. And if you can make a positive impact, you certainly have the responsibility.

Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t inspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference” — this is the reason The Hidden Sea exists.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to sit down and have a lunch, not breakfast as we could then enjoy a nice glass of The Hidden Sea, with Sir David Attenborough.

I think he’s the one person on the planet that has experienced and seen first-hand the devastating impact we are having on our home, our planet. I’ll leave you with this quote from the great man!

“We are at a unique stage in our history. Never have we had such an awareness of what we are doing to the planet, and never have we had the power to do something about that. Surely, we all have a responsibility to care for our Blue Planet. The future of humanity and indeed, all life on earth, now depends on us”.

How can our readers follow you online?

#thehiddensea or https://thehiddensea.com or on Instagram @thehiddenseawine

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Justin Moran of The Hidden Sea: 5 Things We Must Do To Inspire The Next Generation About… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.