A West Midlands firm gained thousands of new customers for Slugless, its organic slug-deterrent, and EasyMulch, an organic soil treatment, while garden centres were forced to close under COVID 19 restrictions.
GreenFence had previously developed its business strategy and online offer with help from Enterprise Europe Network through the Innovate2succeed programme, funded by Innovate UK.
Founder director David Thompson is now also benefiting from additional EEN support designed to help 6,000 innovative businesses to ‘survive, stabilise and grow’ during and following the pandemic.
GreenFence, whose products are made from moulded straw pellets, is one of the few companies to benefit from the lockdown. David saw sales of EasyMulch and Slugless rise dramatically over a two-month period as locked down gardeners ordered via Amazon and other online horticultural sites.
While it was clear that the sudden spike in sales was bound to ease once the garden centres reopened, David has seen the huge benefit of having a stronger online presence and is now keen to develop that further.
Natural garden protection products
Working with Martin Ellis, his EEN adviser, they are now looking at ways to use the larger customer base and enhanced market profile as a platform for continued, sustainable growth.
After early forays into the biofuel and horse bedding markets, David chose to diversify into the horticultural market by developing natural garden protection products, based on straw pellets. A committed environmentalist, he employs two full-time staff operating out of rural premises near Alcester, Warwickshire.
He noticed that his first product, EasyMulch, deterred slugs because of its rough, absorbent texture while being harmless to hedgehogs, birds and other animals, including dogs and cats.
David picked up on this fact and after many months of product development and testing he produced Slugless a highly effective organic, wildlife and pet-safe slug deterrent.
Focus on boosting online presence
Many alternative slug deterrent products sold through garden centres are mainly chemical-based and poisonous to animals.
David asked for help from EEN through the Innovate2succeed programme, with emphasis on branding, marketing and developing sales channels.
He said: “The main benefit of the i2s programme has been having an EEN adviser guiding me through all the stages of developing the product through to launch.”
Getting garden centres to sell new products is far from easy so the focus now is on boosting the online presence both through Amazon and other online markets as well as on GreenFence’s own website as branding awareness builds.
Martin said: “Our aim is to target the growing community of organically minded gardeners, people with pets and those who are concerned about protecting wildlife. The organic gardening community numbers half a million on Facebook so advertising there forms part of a new digital marketing strategy.”