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Safety first for this business
Jamie Boyles’ dream to produce a sprinkler that protects against embers during a bushfire became a reality with his new business, Platypus Fire Pty Ltd. He now hopes to take the next step with help from the Small Business Mentoring Service.
Jamie developed the Platypus Sprinkler after identifying the need for a design that could protect against embers and be incorporated into bushfire plans for homes and public buildings.
Platypus Fire started in 2013 and has one employee.
The sprinkler uses high quality materials and is based around efficient water usage, emitting a spray pattern that ensures its water droplets are less wind-affected and spray downwards.
Jamie has worked with pumps and water supply plumbing since 1984, so he was well placed to develop the product. Clients include home owners, builders, local government, wholesalers, retailers and the public. Sales are local and interstate, with plans to expand into the USA.
While the Platypus Sprinkler is unique and has great potential, Jamie wanted to ensure that he was well placed to ensure that the business succeeded.
Jamie read about SBMS through business development emails from Baw Baw Shire Council and thought it could help establish order and focus in his marketing. He was matched with mentor Helen Ward.
Helen is a freelance writer, editor and desktop publisher marketing consultant who is also experienced as a local councillor, business operator and volunteer. Her focus includes marketing, sales, governance and business planning.
SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
Jamie initially had a free 45-minute mentoring session as part of a Baw Baw Shire workshop kit. He then had four sessions with Helen under the core SBMS program and mentoring is likely to continuing.
Their meetings established priorities and developed marketing strategies. Jamie was juggling many aspects of the business and wanted to consolidate and ensure he had his priorities right.
Among other things they discussed:
- The Platypus Sprinkler website, in particular how it should function.
- Social media platforms and how they could be used to promote the business.
- Using the existing client data base for direct marketing purposes.
- Holding a launch event.
- Producing a media/launch kit and on-site visit program.
- Time management and prioritisation.
- Clear communication with suppliers, contractors and others.
“I helped Jamie to recognise the value and benefits of clear and concise communication with all whom he deals with, in particular service providers such as his web designer,” Helen says.
“Jamie has a great product and was progressing well down the path of finalising packaging, pricing and distribution. We have also worked on finessing Jamie’s selling and marketing messages.”
Helen says Jamie is now much more confident about his communication style, more focussed and better able to prioritise. His website is also much improved.
“Jamie has invested a significant amount of time, energy and money into this project and he has been very mindful of ensuring all steps are in place before official launch of the product,” Helen says.
“Working with Jamie on this very exciting journey has been an honour and I am so glad that I have had the opportunity to play a small part in what is sure to be a great success story.”
While it is too early to talk sales or profits, Jamie has found the sessions professional and helpful. He says his business has become stronger as he and Helen have systematically work through each issue.
“The mentoring sessions have helped to take away the feeling that things are out of control,” he says. “It has given perspective and order each time we have met. Helen has helped to better identify markets and put together a plan on how to approach them, all in order and with purpose.
“I feel much better placed to deliver a concise message when talking with advertisers/web designers and people I’m talking with about the product.”
With such a unique product, Jamie is now well placed to run a successful business and will help to protect many properties at risk during the fire season.
The Platypus sprinkler uses water efficiently when supply is limited, with a spray pattern much flatter than other systems to help keep the water dispersing in a downward pattern.
It is typically mounted so that water is sprayed onto the roof, keeping the gutters wet while also wetting the ground adjoining the building. A line of sprays can also be installed in other positions, including above or near solar panels and deck areas where embers collect.
Jamie feels the business is progressing well. It is early days, but he now knows what he needs to do to meet demand for his product when it increases. “I have always received positive comments about its design and unique appearance,” he says. “That interest will soon become sales.”
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