Kabloom's Butterflybom Seedbom
Great things grow from little seeds. Darren Wilson, director of Kabloom, explains how export funding helped his company blossom.
Glasgow-born and grown, Kabloom are an eco-design product company producing innovative, eco-friendly gardening products.
Their main product is the ingenious 'Seedbom'. Designed to beautify the urban environment around us, it's the brainchild of Darren Wilson, a green thinker who developed the idea whilst an undergraduate design student in Aberdeen
"Essentially, it's a friendly bomb - a recycled paper grenade that's filled with wildflower seeds" he explains. "You pull the pin, throw it away and see what grows."
There are currently ten different Seedboms in the range.
"The philosophy behind the whole thing is the idea of interaction with nature. That's the concept - it's about being able to interact with the urban environment."
Designing for change
The idea had been with Darren for a while, who dreamt it up as a side project whilst still at university.
"I didn’t know what I wanted to do, didn’t know where I wanted to go," he recalls.
"That’s what you do when you’re at university. You experiment."
Reading about eco-design and sustainability, Darren decided that, morally, he wouldn't be able to design something that ended up on landfill.
"I decided to establish a set of values and design products in line with them. I designed a range of products with recycled paper, pulping paper and wild seeds. Designed for destruction, essentially. Designed for change.
"Those core values are behind everything that we create. Locally-sourced, made in the UK with recycled material – we aim for all those things, where possible."
You can see things lining up already. It's almost unbelievable when I walk into the warehouse and see people making my stock every day. It's crazy. Sometimes, I can't believe that it's happening.
Darren Wilson, director, Kabloom
"An organic process"
When he started the business in 2009, Darren tried hard to get all the help that he could.
"I knew I had something that could work, but I wasn't sure what to do with it. It's been a very slow, organic process.
"I had the opportunity to make it bigger, change things and sell off my idea. But I wanted to see it through from start to finish.
"The funny thing is, the Seedbom was actually a sideline project at university, just a fun idea that I came up with."
Growing into new markets
Our Make it to Market grant which support companies to develop products or services for international market helped Darren make the leap to becoming a bigger business.
"I read up on Make it to Market online, actually. It came at a time when I was having to make some big changes, thinking about expanding production and meeting the market head on. A supplier I was talking to said, “Why don’t you try this?
"They sent me the link one day and I thought 'What a good idea'. This ties in perfectly with what we were doing at the time."
Things had reached a tipping point.
With mounting international interest, Darren was beginning to wonder if he would be able to cope.
"For a lot of small companies like myself, you get to that point where it comes to a head. We used to make the product in our workshop by hand, essentially. We got to a limit where we couldn’t make any more," he remembers.
"A big client came along and we needed to meet that level of demand and international interest. So that's where Make it to Market came in."
If you have an idea of where you want to go and you're thinking about exporting - then absolutely, try Make it to Market. It's hard to do these things on your own...it can really help you get that boost to push you forward
Darren Wilson, director, Kabloom
The grant tied in perfectly with what they needed to do at the time.
Working with a distributor in the US, they found it both difficult and expensive to get the 'seeds' past strict US customs regulations.
But having already established a customer base and product, they were keen to move things forward and expand into this market.
"We needed to work out how to tick that box, and we needed to upscale production," he remembers.
Using the grant funding for research and redevelopment, Kabloom began to develop prototyping and tooling for a new design.
"We basically redesigned our product to meet that market. Before, seeds were embedded in the walls of the Seedbom. We now have a hollow vessel that can be filled with seeds in the US."
Re-branding and redeveloping
He credits the grant for reinvigorating his company.
"It's been a massive help and made a huge difference. Basically, we've redesigned and re-branded the entire product. And we've gone from doing everything in one space to outsourcing it."
"If you have an idea of where you want to go and you're thinking about exporting – then absolutely, try Make it to Market. It's hard to do these things on your own. It can really help you get that boost to push you forward.
"For me, it was about developing and tooling. That kind of practical thing... the grant really helped move that along.
We're now making double what we were making last year, and turning over more. You can really start to see the difference."
Staying true to their roots
Kabloom haven't strayed far from their hometown roots.
"All of the materials come from Glasgow. All the packaging. It's a very Glasgow product," maintains Darren.
"I source all of the materials and get them all into the warehouse. I also go in every couple of days and pack the stock into the boxes, just to see what's happening. I haven't just handed over everything and said 'here you go, see you later.'
"Before, I could just go into my workshop and decide what I needed. You can see things lining up already. It's almost unbelievable when I walk into a warehouse and see up to six people making my stock everyday. It's crazy. Sometimes, I can't believe that it's happening."
A flourishing future
Taking advantage of their new production model, Kabloom are looking to the future with optimism.
"We're always finding new clients and businesses to work with. And I'm finding my feet in terms of running a bigger business," says Darren.
One of the biggest changes resulting from the grant? The increased flexibility and ability to deal with bigger orders.
"I've been able to react quickly to things. When I get an urgent order - I call up my suppliers and ask 'Can we do this?'
"And I'm delighted to say, more times than not, they say 'yes, we can.'"
Could our funding help your company bloom?
Why not chat to someone about growing your business and learn about the support we can offer – get in touch with one of our export advisers. They will help you create an export plan and tell you more about which grants your could be elibible for.
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Learn more about our Make it to Market grant