‘Every entrepreneur needs a support team’ – Claire Reid
Name of company: Reel Gardening (PTY) ltd
Years in existence: 5 years
Position: Founding director
Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?
I have received my Masters in Architecture from the University of Pretoria and I am a Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship alumni member and ambassador.
Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do?
Reel Gardening (PTY) ltd manufactures a patented biodegradable seed strip which I invented. It enables people with little knowledge or resources to plant vegetables and herbs correctly. The product is packaged for either retail, school and community garden implementations or custom printed corporate branded applications.
How did your journey begin and what have you achieved success so far?
In 2002, at the age of 16, I knew I wanted to grow vegetables to sell to my parents for extra pocket money however I soon became frustrated by the wastage of seed and fertiliser, and my inability to get the seed to stay in the soil at the correct depth and distance apart.
It was at this point that I decided that I needed to create a way to both plant and keep the seeds and nutrients in the soil at the correct depth and distance apart, a form of planting that needed no mathematical or English education to understand. A form of planting that was simple, effective and easy to do in a short period of time. Reel Gardening was this solution.
I began making seed strips with newspaper and encased the seed using a paste made from flour and liquid fertiliser. This craft type project was entered into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists in 2002 to gain me some extra marks for Grade 10 Science.
The public response to the simple idea was overwhelming and Ronnie Kasrils, the then Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, requested information on the water saving abilities of this new form of planting. I conducted tests with the help of the University of Pretoria and was able to conclude that Reel Gardening was able to save up to 80% of the water consumed during the germination phase.
Reel Gardening initially entered the retail sphere with a range of 27 products, the custom branded and corporate products followed.
What were some of the obstacles you face and how did you overcome them?
I struggled at school and did not have many friends, I always felt like I was a bit weird. I did really badly at science in school but because I won the Women in Water award for scientific research below the age of 35 when I was only 17 – children and school quickly dubbed me ‘science geek’ and the irony made everyone at school laugh their heads off.
However when I got into architecture school, (after some pleading with the dean because I was originally rejected) I met lots of other kids who thought like me and I felt welcome and worthy. I loved architecture school as it taught me how to apply my brain properly and problem solve through creative thinking. I still use a lot of the lessons I learnt in architecture to run my business.
How many people does your company employ? Nine.
“Don’t make decisions based on monetary gain”
What is your overall vision for your business?
To re-ignite a culture of growing in the next generation.
What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?
Passion, energy, determination and strength but most of all, to not take no for an answer. I am where I am today because I have a family and a husband who believes in me, every entrepreneur needs a support team.
How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?
I secured a start up loan through Anglo Zimele – it was relatively easy because I had Nick Van Rensburg who passionately believed in me and saw my potential. Anglo Zimele is who it is today because of Nick. He was my first true angel ‘investor’. I paid back the money with interest to Zimele over 36 months.
What are the three things you attribute your business success to?
Passion; I truly want to make a positive impact; I am very creative in my approach
When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?
At the age of 7 when I started my first greeting card ‘business’
How would you describe your leadership style?
Easy going, I trust my employees and let them find their own approach to tasks. I am always here to help and guide – however if needed I can be pretty stern.
What are some of your favourite motivational books and motivational gurus that have inspired you in growing your business?
Love anything Daniel Pink writes. I’m currently reading David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. I have liked listening to Peter Sage.
What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?
Get started – if you have the guts and it’s not about the money then working for yourself is the best decision you can ever make.
– Listen to your gut, it’s not about how much business knowledge you have in your brain that counts, it’s about listening to your intuition.
-Don’t make decisions based on monetary gain
What’s the worst and best business advice you’ve ever received?
Best : Do good, have fun, and the money will come – Richard Branson ( he actually did say this to me)
Worst : You need to hire a full time in-house accountant/book keeper.
And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both?
Both – I believe I am an alchemist. However I prefer to say that people need to be opportunistic, not lucky.