What goes into creating a Border in a Box product?

Border in a Box garden design worcestershire

What goes into creating a Border in a Box product?

Ever wondered what goes into making a product and how it gets to market? It’s something that never crossed my mind until I started my business a couple of years ago. It has been a steep learning curve and the amount of thought, energy and money that goes into all the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff was a bit of a shock, so let me share the journey and process with you…

Turning the idea into reality

I had a problem with the garden when I moved into my new-build property – I had no clue where to start! I didn’t know what plants would grow well, I didn’t know what plants would look good together and to make matters worse, I had next to no money.

So when I came up with the idea of a kit with a ready-made planting plan that detailed what plant goes where and a shopping list of what to buy, it was a simple idea that I thought would be easy to create and help everyone else in the same boat as me.

However, the initial designs took over six months and thousands of pounds of money to create and here’s why:

  1. Market assessment – had the product been created by another organisation? If so, was I reinventing the wheel or was it a new idea?
  2. Creating the contents – I had to come up with a list of plants for each design then draw all the plans. Everything had to be designed for someone with zero plant knowledge, skill or desire to research. It had to be a simple to follow plan that could be implemented in a day without a huge price tag.
  3. Sourcing suitable packaging that looked appealing and eco-friendly but also budget friendly – this turned out to be my biggest issue.

Once I had this information, I needed to turn my ‘scribbles’ of ideas into a product. This was beyond my skillset, which meant finding someone to work with who had the talent and expertise to help me.

Brand identity

I needed to find an amazing brand ambassador who could take my ideas and create a gardening gift – I wanted something that the recipient would love to receive and feel excited about creating their own garden.

This involved the creation of a logo, icons, fonts, colours and designing the packaging. I had no idea how much time, effort and money would go into this part of the process.

It was imperative to get this right as it would lead onto the creation of the website and product itself, so it’s a key part of the process and needed time to create. I also had to be mindful that more time spent with other designers, the costs increase. So as a sole trader, you have to be careful with your investments as it’s easy to get carried away and run out of cash in the early stages.

I also invested in protecting my intellectual property by trademarking my logo and joining ACID, which is an organisation who helps protect businesses like mine – they have some amazing lawyers who advise how to protect a brand and product. There are plenty of stories how David has taken on Goliath and won. So it’s worth the membership fees.

Cottage garden border in a Box Border in a Box cottage garden

Original packaging on the left replaced with new eco-style packaging on the right

Packaging

Coming from an IT background I had no idea where to start with sourcing my packaging – I relied on internet searches and also my network who recommended various suppliers.

I expected to find ‘off the shelf’ suppliers for all my products to keep costs low, but nothing was suitable, so all the packaging has been designed and created to my standards. This all took a vast amount of time and increased the cost of the products due to being bespoke.

Everything I do, has to be good quality and beautiful. I currently create everything from my kitchen  table, so nothing is mass produced.  All of my suppliers are based in the UK and it’s all printed on FSC card and paper.

I also have to pay for everything up-front so juggling stock and sales is tricky – creating a new product means there is no sales history, so you have to guess how much stock you need to purchase. It’s also likely that it will cost more when buying small quantities.

Another area I hadn’t considered was how to post the gift to ensure the product arrives safely. This is one of my largest costs – at first the boxes were deep and cost £3.45 just in Royal Mail postage, which was without packing material costs or the time and expense it took going to the post office. I learned that it helps to create letterbox friendly product as it can reduce costs.

Marketing and PR

When I first started I went down the traditional route of advertising in magazines and I spent hundreds of pounds per advert but received zero orders. This had to change – I had to find a cost effective way to raise awareness.

Eventually I met a PR guru who provided (paid for) advice on how to get my brand out there. It was worth every penny and it enabled my meagre/non-existent budget to go further. Border in a Box has been featured in many glossy magazines, trade journals, national and local papers.

Border in a Box Country Homes and interiors magazine

Border in a Box featured in Country Homes & Interiors magazine

I write a lot – I never expected that I would write articles, blogs or website content, but it’s a large amount of my day-to-day work. It can be time consuming too – for example the regular newsletter I create will take at least a day or two per month. Choosing photographs and getting them re-sized to fit takes enormous amount of time, but I love doing it. It is something I could outsource, but it keeps me in touch with my clients and potential clients, which is important to me. I also write a monthly gardening article for the Pershore Times.

There are many markets and shows to attend – which can cost anything from £600 upwards and that’s before any thought has gone into the design of the stand, stock and promotion – plus travel and accommodation. That is a lot of sales before breaking even!

Nikki Hollier, Border in a Box, Theo Paphitis, #SBS, Autumn Fair, Nancy Poller

Winning exhibition space at the Autumn Fair, NEC, Birmingham thanks to Theo Paphitis

Selling via marketplaces such as Amazon is a great idea, and depending on which one(s) can cost around 25-30% in commission, plus a joining fee and/or monthly fee.  I must admit, I thought it would be simple to do – but trying to stand out in a crowd is difficult. Anyone can pay to get onto the front page but depending on what page, what day, time etc it can burn a hole in your budget within hours, so it’s imperative to do your homework beforehand.

When working with a market place they all want a particular style of photography to fit with their brand and ethos. This means professional product photography as you need to make the products look fabulous – as the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression! A half day with a photographer can cost anything from £3-400 upwards. It’s worth the investment but it’s another cost to budget for.

product photography Terry Livesey

Product photography with Terry Livesey

Winning awards is great PR and also a morale boost. Within a few months of launching Border in a Box I won ‘Garden Product of the Year’ with Country Homes & Interiors magazine. Closely followed by #SBS Winner by Theo Paphitis. Then launching on Not On The High Street. A few months later I won the WINN award for innovation with the prize money funding my show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live where I won Platinum and Best Border (and featured on the TV show). I turned this garden into the Wellbeing Border to enable people to recreate a sensory garden at home.

Website

I created my own website at first – I thought it was pretty good considering it was a ‘cheap and cheerful DIY’ company to host my website and I simply added my own text and photos to the template. However, I couldn’t use my font and colours from the branding project, which felt like a waste of money and investment, so I started working with a specific website building company.  It was a huge investment for me, and one I wished I had waited a bit longer for, but I felt it would increase sales but it didn’t. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it all turned out OK in the end. It ended up costing £thousands which created another hole in my budget.

So when you add-up all of these investments, it is eye-wateringly expensive.  You only have to watch TV programs like Dragons’ Den to see how much money the entrepreneurs invest into their dreams to realise it’s not for the feint-hearted!

So if you have an idea for a product or service, do your homework but follow your heart as you never know where the journey will lead!

 

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white fence with pink roses, alchemilla mollis and salvia caradonna

Helleborus – the Christmas Rose

Helleborus

During the winter months, Helleborus which are commonly known as the Christmas Rose, are a useful and striking addition to any border due to their evergreen leaves and pretty flowers.  They are perennials and are simple to grow.  They flower from December to spring, so are ideal for adding to Christmas containers with some seasonal bulbs and evergreen shrubs such as Pittosporum.

Flowers are predominantly white or cream but they also come in shades of pink, green and dark red, so will fit in with most gardens and are ideal for a woodland setting in dappled shade.  They grow to around 30-50cm, so make excellent front of border plants.

Hellebores pink

If you want a plant that requires little maintenance, then Helleborus are ideal as they really can be left to their own devices and will self-seed too. As they grow, they will create lovely clumps over time. At this point you can divide the clump and create lots of free plants.

Hellebores are fairly tough plants and should survive being divided at all times except when the weather is bad over the winter and/or when they are in full bloom. This means most Hellebores can all be divided in mid to late spring, and if you are not sure what type of Hellebore you have, divide it after flowering later in the spring.

Some people remove the leaves to show off the flowers and new foliage – it’s a personal choice as there is no wrong or right way. However, they can be prone to black spot, so by removing the leaves, it can help the health of the plant. Obviously don’t remove all the leaves, as they are required for photosynthesis.

When choosing a Helleborus I recommend a single flower variety as bees love them (they are an excellent winter food source) and are unable to access the double flowering type.

Problems with Hellebores – Black Leaf Spot

Hellebores are fairly trouble free but they can suffer from leaf blotch which is a common fungal problem. This means the leaves get marked with grey or brown/black marks. The simple solution is to cut off the leaf, or as many leaves as are infected. If the infection is severe cut off all the leaves, the plant should survive.  The plant does not seem to suffer from having many leaves removed and they’re replaced by new ones in the spring. Do not put the leaves in the compost bin as this could spread the fungal infection.

Bear in mind also that Hellebores are a poisonous plant, (humans and pets) and ingestation of root or leaves can cause stomach upsets and for some people it is also a skin irritant.

If you would like a planting plan to help you create year round colour in your garden, use the Evergreen garden design kit.  If you combine it with the seasonal bulbs from the free list and you will have a beautiful garden with year round interest and colour.

Border in a Box Evergreen garden border

Border in a Box Evergreen

 

Further reading: https://borderinabox.com/create-year-round-colour-garden-bulbs/

 

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pink tulips

Theo Paphitis, #SBS, The Autumn Fair and a rebrand

Theo Paphitis, Nikki Hollier, Nancy Poller, #SBS Autumn Fair

 

I’ve just got back from exhibiting at the Autumn Fair at the NEC in Birmingham. I was incredibly lucky to win a free stand at the event thanks to Theo Paphitis and his brilliant #SBS Team.

What’s #SBS?

Theo created the Small Business Sunday (#SBS) concept in October 2010 on Twitter, inviting small businesses to pitch about their venture.  He then chooses 6 businesses each week and sends a tweet out to his 500k followers about each company which helps raise their profile.  It’s a great boost and twitter goes crazy afterwards – it’s so much fun!

Theo has an annual event for all the #SBS Winners, which is absolutely brilliant – you can read more about my first visit to this event in my blog here https://borderinabox.com/theo-paphitis-shopkeeper-sbs-annual-event-2018/

All the Winners can join the #SBS Facebook group and a couple of months ago we were all invited to apply to win one of 12 exhibition places at the Autumn Fair.  The group went crazy with excitement at the prospect of winning a free space.  There are 2300 winners, so there was a lot of competition and my application had to stand out from the crowd.

I have no idea how they chose the shortlist let alone the final 12 as there are some amazing people and businesses in the group.  However, I was over the moon when I received the call to say I had won.  I was also sworn to secrecy until it was announced, which felt like it took forever.  It was so tricky keeping it from fellow winner Chrissie from the Cuddle Bed Company – we met at the #SBS event in February queuing to meet Theo.  We hit it off and remained in touch ever since and have become good friends.

Thankfully we were both Winners and were able to support each other through the process of getting ready to exhibit.  It was a big deal for both of us and after the initial excitement we both felt the gravitas of the opportunity.

Photo of Chrissie Lowery & Nikki Hollier

Chrissie Lowery, Cuddle Bed Company, Nikki Hollier Border in a Box

What’s the Autumn Fair?

The Autumn Fair is the number one wholesale gift and home trade event and enables retail buyers to connect with new suppliers, especially just before Christmas.

This opportunity was perfectly timed for me as I had started a rebranding and packaging project back in June immediately after creating my Platinum award winning show garden border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live. It has been an intense 6 months to say the least.

The Rebrand

The work that has gone on behind the scenes to get to this point has been busy, creative, stressful and fun.  If I didn’t enjoy what I do, there is no way I could achieve so much.

The rebrand took place due to feedback over the past year and the general consensus was to make the product look more ‘gardeningy’ with a ‘modern rustic’ vibe. I had a long conversation with Nancy from Aligned Design, who I had worked with from the start – we had started our businesses around the same time and met through a networking group called ‘Women 2 Web’ and I love her work.

It made sense to work together on this project – she knew my product and me and we work together really well.

First decision was the font and colours.  I ran a poll on social media for feedback on the product colours – muted or brights. The brights won hands down – so glad I did this as I preferred the muted colours, but after printing the samples, the brights looked amazing.

We then worked our way through every detail of the products.  The box sleeve was a priority, as this was the first thing people see. There is a story behind every decision, and the box sleeve was down to a chance meeting with a guy called Rob Draper, who was presenting at the WINN Make It Happen showcase event. His story is inspirational and I was blown away by it – so if you get chance to meet him, make sure you do as he is so talented www.robdraper.co.uk.  He kindly gave me ideas for the packaging, ripping the current sleeve into shape, scribbling all over it.  I gave all this information to Nancy and we tweaked it and ta-dah a new sleeve!

Here’s the photo of the old version in a tin, and the new version in a kraft box.

Border in a Box shady Border in a Box shady

Now this was sorted, it was time to work on the contents.  Again after taking feedback from people over the past year, all the comments were put in the melting pot and everything was looked at – from new photos & plant choices to seed packets to stickers – EVERYTHING was tweaked! Border in a Box was created to help people who know nothing about gardening but want a gorgeous garden, so everything in the Box got asked the same question “does this make sense to a non gardener”.

As soon as I knew I would be exhibiting at the Autumn Fair – there was a deadline to meet. That deadline wasn’t the start of the show, but several weeks before, as once the product was created by Nancy; it then had to go into production, and then photographed for my website, social media and brochures. Once photographed, I had to update everything. It’s only at this point that you realise how much work is involved and this is on top of the day job of running a business – there were a couple of gardens to design for new clients and writing my monthly article for the local paper.

It’s been intense, but it all came together in time for the Autumn Show.

The Autumn Fair event

Autumn Fair 2018 Border in a Box

The set-up day was overwhelming and I was thankful for my fellow #SBS businesses around me – I was feeling so far out of my comfort zone.  A few things had gone pear shaped, but it was too late to resolve some of them and I just had to ‘deal with it’ – my stand didn’t look how I wanted it to, but as soon as the doors opened on the Sunday, it didn’t matter as the feedback from visitors was positive. The majority of people thought my baby was beautiful.  More importantly, orders came in and relationships started with some fabulous people.

Tuesday arrived – D Day, or should I say ‘Theo Day’ – Theo was the key note speaker and also coming round to meet all 12 Winners. All the things I wanted to talk to him about all disappeared as soon as we met. Arrghhh what a lost opportunity, however, he was so charming and interested in how the event was for me.  We then had our photos taken at which point I then realised how many people were surrounding us.  It was a surreal moment.

Nikki Hollier, Border in a Box, Theo Paphitis, #SBS, Autumn Fair, Nancy Poller

Photo: Nancy Poller, Theo Paphitis, Nikki Hollier

What’s next?

Initially it’s to follow up every single person who I had a conversation with and who gave me their contact details. We will have had time to think about how we can work together.

I’m looking forward to getting back on track with my business, talking to my clients and building relationships with my lovely new retailers. I’m looking forward to announcing them on social media -watch this space!

Exciting times ahead and plenty of hard work too. Fabulous!

If you get the opportunity to join #SBS, do it, as it has created a wonderful network and opportunities for me and my business I never expected.

Here’s a photo of everyone – can’t wait to see you all at the next #SBS event in February!

Theo Paphitis #SBS Autumn Fair

Meet the other Winners:

  1. The Butterfly and Toadstool is a botanical jewellery brand created by Scottish designer Dee Leslie. thebutterflyandtoadstool.co.uk
  2. Cally King London is a new perfume brand, for teens and anyone working out what perfume they like. callyking.com
  3. Letterbox Lab is the kids’ science kit reinvented to be more fun, more colourful, more convenient and more educational. letterboxlab.com
  4. MK Kids Interiors is the only London based children’s Child Wellness Interior Designer that creates personalised, colourful and fun bedrooms and playrooms for children. mkkidsinteriors.com
  5. The Edible Museum creates artefacts, from marine life and fossils to anatomy and historical artefacts out of quality chocolate. ediblemuseum.com
  6. Bad Dog Designs Nixie Clocks are makers of unique and bespoke clocks using original 1950’s Nixie tube technology. bad-dog-designs.co.uk
  7. The Cuddle Bed Company design and create sleep solutions for the whole family. cuddlebed.co.uk
  8. The Dimpled Heart creates an eclectic range of handcrafted homeware inspired by our Scottish roots. dimpledheart.co.uk
  9. Z-O-E produces high quality patterned muslin products, baby grows and toddler t-shirt for you and your little one. z-o-e.co.uk
  10. Perch Upholstery, run by Tara Cork specialises in creating on-trend felted pieces. From original stools, to baskets and rugs. perchupholstery.com
  11. The Room Alive creates timeless wallpaper, soft furnishings and stationery designed and made in the UK. theroomalive.com

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Awards

Border in a Box awards

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