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The One Big Funding Lesson From the 2017 Agripreneur of the Year

Claire Reid on how she overcame the challenges of funding her agribusiness


Claire Reid, founder of Reel Gardening

Image provided

Claire Reid is an entrepreneur who is helping to change what it means to be an African agripreneur and what can be achieved if they receive the necessary funding.

Throughout her entrepreneurship career she has also managed to amass a large collection of awards, including the South African Breweries Social Innovation Award and Seed Awards. Last week Reid added 'Agripreneur of the Year' to her list of accomplishments when she won the 2017 Future Agro Competition (FAC) for her business, Reel Gardening, a business she launched in 2010.

Reel Gardening manufactures biodegradable seed tape, a unique seed system that can be used to grow a vegetable or herb garden in nearly any climate, and takes less than 5 minutes to plant, using 80% less water. The product is available on their website, Yuppiechef, Takealot.com as well as selected Food Lover's Market stores. In 2016 they launched the Reel Gardening app, a supportive resource that helps users with the planting and growing of their gardens. 

To win the ultimate prize, Reid faced off against Carolina Medina from Columbia who is CEO and co-founder of Agruppa, a fruit and vegetable distributor to mom-and-pop shops, and Ugandan Gabriel Okello who is operations director of Green Heat, a heat solutions business. 

More than a great idea

Like many entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector, Reid initially struggled to secure funding to launch her venture. 

Picture supplied

Front row: The 2017 Agripreneur of the Year
Championship finalists, Carolina Medina (l),
Claire Reid (middle) and Gabriel Okello.

As a 17-year-old, Reid says she pitched the idea of Reel Gardening to multiple investors, and while many said they loved her idea, no one was willing to put down money, she says.

That experience taught her an important lesson, she adds. 

"Ideas are not what gets investors excited, it's the person. I had a great idea, but as a 17-year-old school girl I was still very wet behind the ears. I was so frustrated in the beginning when all I wanted was someone to put money into the idea, and all anyone wanted to do was help me with money to study. I thought, I don't need money to study I need money to set up a business," Reid says.

Reid was only able to launch her business when she was eventually funded by Anglo Zimele, a small business and startup fund. 

"They were the first ones who took a leap of faith and provided me with a loan," Reid says.

The loan laid a foundation for the business. With the money, Reid was able to buy computers, pay for rent, package her product and to finally get it ready for the market.

In 2014 when she was looking to scale the business further she managed to secure funding from Securing Water for Food (SWFF), a development initiative that supports farmers around the world who are finding ways to grow food using less water.

​See more: Funding for rural women in agriculture


"This is where SWFF was pivotal, coming in at a time when we were going to completely stagnate as an organisation. They came in with access to mentors, support finance, international markets, thought leaders and conferences around the world. It has completely transformed the way our small business looks at the future," Reid says.

Future opportunities 

One of the many benefits of working with SWFF, says Reid, is the opportunity to expand. First up is the US market where they will be working with the Girl Scouts of the USA. Reid is hoping to start exporting their products by the end of April, but they are still looking for partners to make this happen. 

"Our biggest issue at the moment is finding the correct export parts, shipping parts, customs clearance, merchandising distribution and warehousing on the U.S. side."

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