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:
- Market assessment – had the product been created by another organisation? If so, was I reinventing the wheel or was it a new idea?
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Original packaging on the left replaced with new eco-style packaging on the right
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 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!
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 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.
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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