Jayne Lawton trained with the Royal Horticultural Society and is a qualified horticultural lecturer who has extensive experience teaching all ages and backgrounds with differing special needs and abilities.
Through her time lecturing partially sighted students, Jayne identified a gap in the marketplace for a designer growing box product with a collection of hand picked scented plants. All people have to do is sink the ready prepared grobox into the soil, water, then sit back and appreciate the perfume of the flowers as they grow.
Jayne is committed to innovation and with her patent on biodegradable packaging, has a mission to save the environment.
GroBox is a British Invention and the company is a market leader in designing and creating intelligent packaging solutions which are carbon neutral, sustainable and ethical.
Jayne has been awarded:
British Female Innovator of the year 2006,
Packard Bell Independent Working Mum of the year 2006,
Orange Business Innovation of the Year 2006 Highly Commended.
Grazia / O2 Finalist 2007 Female entrepreneur of the year.
National Packing Award for Design.
Jayne is also a key figure within the North West Enterprise Forum.
I spoke with Jayne earlier this month.
You are clearly entrepreneurial. How and when did that start?
When I was a child we lived in some really rural areas with some really deprived communities, my Mum who has always been very socially aware was aware that the price of quality food (fruit & Veg) was out of a lot of families reach, so she would contact all the local farmers in the area and buy their produce in bulk bags, then knock on all the doors in the council estates talking to the local women, inviting them to buy all the fruit and veg at cost price.
I would stand in the garage weighing vegetables, fruits packing them in brown bags and working out the prices. My Mum never made a profit and the prices were always half the prices of the shops. So my first introduction to entrepreneurship was through a social enterprise, although back then we called it community spirit!
GroBox is hugely innovative and exciting. Have you started/run other businesses?
No GroBox Gardens is my first business, to be honest it has been a real learning experience, I always feel that sometimes it’s like running uphill, exhausting and you leave each day questioning what progress has been made. I am real planner and list maker so I can visibly see that I am ticking things off the list, achieving goals, meeting deadlines, getting new customers
Then you find that you need to keep a close eye on cash flow, payments, late payers and suppliers which all become time consuming if you do not have a Plan B.
My business, to be honest, is purely an extension of myself, my values and how to make the world an environmentally better place. GroBox itself is an invention and I hold the patent on biodegradable planting containers, that is GroBox.
GroBox is exactly what is says, it allows you to grow your own plants smarter.
I hate waste, so a product which is manufactured with intelligent packaging that you can plant, is a real win, win.
I also believe businesses should give back, so ours give to charity.
I believe products should also be manufactured in the UK to keep jobs here, so ours are.
I also want people to become more self sufficient so growing your own veg, is a way to achieve this.
We also have the brand GroMat, which are roll out gardens of wildflower or lawn.
Why did you decide that the venture self-funded rather than seeking venture capital or other funding sources?
I decided to grow sustainably. In the first year we secured very large orders from major retailers and we were pressured to take out loans and other sources of finance to grow the business. However, I just had a bad feeling that things were happening too quickly too fast and it was all getting a little out of control so I backed down from finance and decided to fund growth through cash flow.
A few months later my biggest customer, a £30 million business, went into receivership taking us for all our sales, stock and a large amount of money. At that point I decided to pull out of the big retailers. As well as the risk to us as a small business I felt the margins were to small, so I concentrated on my good customers, secure markets (catalogue, internet, gift, charity) and rebuilt the cash flow.
We are still growing the business and have a number of really big customers in differing markets, so as one market shrinks another grows.
What next for the business? What next for you?
To export globally is my big one for this year, with the launch of the children’s garden ranges.
And for me personally, I aim to run the London Marathon under 3 hours
Finally, what are your top 5 tips for budding entrepreneurs?
1. Always know your product
2. Always know your market / competition
3. Always know where you want to go and plan how to get there
4. Always know yourself
5. Always have a Plan B, C, D, E and be happy every day!