While children know how to wash their hands, they often don't, and this is how the idea of Lunch-Box Buddy was developed. This 2ml waterless antibacterial hand sanitiser sachet can be placed in children's lunch-boxes as an immediate visual reminder and ready access to a waterless and effortless solution.
The product is the brainchild of entrepreneur Dawn Petersen and her husband Barry, whose dedication to instiling good hygiene habits into their son has resulted in a thriving small business in three short years.
“We’d ask our son to return his lunch-box with an empty sachet to show he’d used it. Before long, the overall health of the entire household improved. We soon realised that our solution would work for entire households and not only children,” says Petersen.
Equipped with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, Dawn Petersen quit her full-time job to pursue the opportunity and the family-owned business, Green Logik SA, was established in 2014. After a few months of trial and error, they launched their first-hand version of Lunch-Box Buddy at the Cape Argus Expo in 2015.
The products were initially sold exclusively at expos and markets, before filtering into several schools. “To overcome the challenges of logistics, administration and seasonality, we realised we needed to reach a wider target market. With no retail experience, it was at this point that I was introduced via the Department of Economic Development to Pick n Pay’s Enterprise & Supplier Development (ESD) Programme in August 2016,” says Petersen.
Mishinga Kombo, ESD Manager at Pick n Pay, says that through the Programme – which assists innovative businesses to enter the retail market by providing support, business development advice and access to Pick n Pay’s shelves – Petersen was introduced to the buyer for Pick n Pay Pharmacies who provided the right guidance and mentorship of what is needed to be successful in retail.
Large-scale retail lessons
In December 2016, Green Logik SA listed Lunch-Box Buddy with 26 Pick n Pay Pharmacies nationwide. But Petersen soon realised that large-scale retail wasn’t quite what she expected.
“Pick n Pay provided merchandising at a reduced fee given our business was categorised in the incubator phase of the Programme, which was a huge advantage and saving to our small business. But we quickly realised that building a brand is extremely rewarding, but hard work and that you can’t just expect sales to happen. You need to continuously improve your approach, build relationships with the stores, reps and merchandisers, be innovative in your approach with customers, and do in-store promotions, which I did personally in the first few months to save costs.”
Constant innovation since launching the product has seen the business update their packaging three times to stand-out on shelf and appeal to their audience more. Petersen says that they learnt children can be product picky and that they needed to develop a more child appealing scent other than their base lavender scent. This led to the launch of a bubble-gum scented gel in May 2017.
Exposure is key
By October 2017, the company's products were listed in 157 corporate stores and soon after, 23 family stores. “This expansion opportunity put us in a good financial position to apply for funding as up until that point, we were self-funded. With approved funding from Sefa, we were able to invest in marketing our brand and reach the revenue potentials of a successful business.”
Sales are now up dramatically and since December 2017, they have increased about 1,300% with steady sales in-store. Peterson says that while the water crisis in Cape Town has had a positive impact on sales, she has had to put a great deal of effort into marketing. “Exposure is key for every business and fortunately being part of the ESD Programme, we were given many opportunities. Leveraging on being listed with Pick n Pay, we have also had the opportunity to be associated with the City of Cape Town’s #ThinkWater campaigns and events.”
From employing just herself, her husband and one employee, the business now has 10 women working permanently. Petersen says that for every 100 stores listing their products, an additional three people can be employed.
Petersen is focused firmly on business development. “While our short-term goal is to grow the brand and to be recognized as the preferred solution for proper hand hygiene for children, we believe there is also an opportunity to add value to catering services within airlines, hospitals and restaurants. In the future, we will also explore the feasibility of exporting or manufacturing in other countries.”
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This seems like an amazing idea but I wonder what the implications are for the environment. One-use sachets are great for convenience but surely add up to the total amount of waste created at the end of the day. It's sad that we can't find a better compromise...
Great business ventures do not necessarily need to immediately hit the big stores but they can actually just start from humble beginnings. From personal usage to expanding their idea to a whole new market simply shows that anyone can tap into a market where there is going to be actual demand. The idea does not necessarily need to be extravagant but something that someone would ultimately see a need for.