Re-Earthed - Samantha Wan
Hone TEK Program 1
1 Nov 2022
Samantha Wan is a multi-award winning wool industry specialist, having worked in the industry, based in Victoria, for more than a decade. She’s been described as someone who “lives wool 24 hours a day” and although not born into the sheep and wool industry, after getting her start with Elders, Samantha said she has built her life around wool through her support role, advocacy, community work and involvement in industry programs. She is no stranger to innovation, known for her innovative approach and ability to introduce new tools and techniques in her business role to improve commercial outcomes.
During the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020/21, like many Victorians, Samantha embraced home gardening. She has since relocated to a rural location and immersed herself in gardening for food production on a broader scale. During the course of this developing horticultural interest, and through discussion with others, Sam realised there was a significant problem with pest control for damaging slugs and that the use of wool, with its scaley fibre was a potential natural solution. At the same time, Samantha was tussling with the issue of a lack of viable markets for a particular segment of wool fleeces, sometimes sold for often less than $0.10/kg at auction, as well as the challenge of utilising waste wool.
Over the course of the HoneTEK program, Samantha focused on validating her assumptions around the home gardening trend with research data and insights. Samantha put considerable effort into her customer research interviews and was able to discern that for her customer segment, being ‘time poor’ was a much higher challenge than initially anticipated. This has led to a shift in thinking around packaging styles and volumes and well as business models such as a subscription based service. Samantha was also able to identify other problems which her product can solve around watering management and soil nutrition. These were far broader than the original problem of slug pest management.
Samantha was also able to understand the value proposition for her product being linked the circular economy principles and has made connections across various primary production commodities now in order to access biomass binder inputs for her product. This further solves a problem for industry with the re-purposing of waste biomass through value adding.
Key learnings from the program were centred around the skills and knowledge development in subject areas such as packaging, marketing and branding and go-to-market strategy development, particularly as it relates to manufacturing and distribution and the implications for partnering with large retail outlets in terms of quality assurance and supply capacity.
Through the course of the HoneTEK program, Samantha has been able to refine her product innovation, to now be described as “eco friendly pellets, made from Australian waste wool and waste agricultural biomass, that channels the natural characteristics of wool for happier, healthier plants and improved harvests”. Samantha also landed on a brand for her product in ‘re-earthed’.
The HoneTEK program provided me with guidance, structure, support and encouragement – thank you!
Samantha’s key challenge in moving forward remains around sourcing suppliers or partners to prototype with and she is currently engaging with numerous parties through introductions from her HoneTEK program coach. The focus over the next 6-12 months for re-earthed is to prototype, carry out field trials with research partners and early adopters to evidence her product claims with a view to moving through to MVP in a direct-to-consumer model. Samantha has created a landing page for early sign ups and furthering her customer research. She is seeking prototyping and manufacturing partners as well as early stage investment to progress her start-up.
Samantha’s longer-term goal is to partner with a national retail distribution partner and she has already validated assumptions around supply chain capacity which will be key factors in refining her go-to-market strategy.