#WIB – With Claire Blanckenberg CEO of Reel Gardening

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1. Can you please tell us more about your business?

Reel Gardening is a company that produces patented seed tape and sachets to use to grow your vegetable garden. The seed tape is made from organically fertilised biodegradable paper that breaks down and provides nutrients to the soil once planted. It is a solution to making gardening easier because the tape is placed at the correct distance and has an indicator to plant at the correct depth and saves you up to 80% water use when gardening.

2. When, how, and why did you start your business?

I invented the seed tape around the age of sixteen. I have always had an entrepreneurial and creative spirit; one of the reasons why I invented this was because my parents had promised to buy the produce from me. This quickly made me realise that growing vegetables was trickier than I thought it would be. I decided to create a simple solution that works for me, only to realise there is a lot of opportunity to develop this idea into something sustainable and beneficial, not only for me but for my parents, their friends, and eventually the world. There was, and still is, a market for this.

3. What is your role in the business?

I am the Founder and CEO of Reel Gardening.

4. Where did you study and what did you study?

I studied at the University of Pretoria, where I obtained my Master’s in Architecture. While studying architecture, I designed housing that required a simple food security solution. This eventually led me to develop Garden in a Box, a patented concept designed to feed a family of 4. By encasing seeds and essential nutrients within the colour-coded paper tape, positioned at the precise depth beneath the soil, the process of planting and nurturing food was simplified and made financially accessible for the masses.

5. How did you finance your business?

My very first employer believed in the Reel Gardening concept so much that they gave me a small business loan to get the concept developed.

6. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.

There is no such thing as an average workday in my life. I alternate between meetings, appearances, planning with my team, and conducting site visits when time allows.

7. How do you balance your home life and your work life?

Is there ever really a true balance? I understand I have quite several responsibilities. However, I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t ask for help. I have a great support system in my personal and work life so I try my best to find balance by trusting my loved ones and my team to take on what I can’t and everything works out as it should.

8. What drives you and inspires you?

Creating businesses that empower underprivileged South Africans to sustainably improve their lives. I’m driven to use whatever is at my disposal to improve the lives of others by empowering women within the workplace. I am inspired by the need to create sustainable change through simple solutions.

9. Where and when do you have your best ideas?

There is no limit to where I have and cultivate new and great ideas. I could be at home with my family and someone says something to spark a thought, I could be in the grocery store looking for an item and begin thinking of how to make the packaging more biodegradable. Long story short, my brain is always switched on. Ideas come whenever, wherever.

10. Where and how do you market/advertise your business for sales leads?

Reel Gardening and its sister company, Reel Life, an NPO serving as an extension of Reel Gardening have been in the industry for quite some time now. We market through an agent but we get quite a bit of business through word-of-mouth. We attend conferences where we speak and educate people on the concept, the non-profit aspect, and our brand values. We also collaborate with various organisations that support households through our NPO Reel Life by donating seeds or trees to communities and schools in need.

11. What is next for your business?

To expand our reach globally… A memorable moment for me in recent years was winning the 2023 Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award. It was a watershed moment for both myself and my business. The award has allowed me to forge new connections and partnerships, opening doors to previously unexplored opportunities. With this newly established global network, our goal of expanding globally now appears within reach. There is a high level of food insecurity around the world, not just in South Africa, and we want to be involved in alleviating that and encouraging people to reconnect with nature for sustenance. We are already active in Nigeria and Singapore and are looking into expanding even further.

12. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?

It may seem cliché but just start. I always say this. I truly believe that many great ideas are never realised because people are too afraid to start. There will always be challenges but there will always be life-changing moments too so just start and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Founder of Reel Gardening & Bold Woman Award 2023 winner

As the Bold Woman Award 2023 winner and Founder of Reel Gardening, Claire is an innovative thinker and social entrepreneur at heart. At the age of 16, Claire attempted to grow vegetables as a means to earn pocket money and, during this period of challenge and self-discovery, she had an epiphany – she felt compelled to find a solution for the need for simple and cost-effective sustainable vegetable cultivation.

While studying architecture, Claire designed housing that required a simple food security solution. Enter Garden in a Box, is a patented concept designed to feed a family of 4. By encasing seeds and essential nutrients within the colour-coded paper tape, positioned at the precise depth beneath the soil, the process of planting and nurturing food was simplified and made financially accessible for the masses.

By employing and supporting previously unemployed mothers, Reel Gardening has a profound social impact. Not only does the product itself enable individuals to nourish themselves, but its creation catalyses transformative change. Reel Gardening is a Social Enterprise and has enabled the establishment of household food gardens in impoverished areas across South Africa. In the past 20 months, it has assisted 48,100 households to become food secure.

Claire is a regular speaker on social entrepreneurship at both the Wits Business School and the Gordon Institute of Business Science. She wishes there were more female business owners that she could have connected with when she was starting her business journey. Naturally, her goal is to become one of those women she needs, and hopes that she can inspire young women who are embarking on their entrepreneurial journeys.

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