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My Business: An innovative idea fuels a new company

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Greenans Products makes the SmartBunker, an upright storage bunker with a lever design. It releases stored products through a shutter-control at the bottom into a bucket. The oldest material is used first, which is important for perishable goods.

How did you come to start up?

My idea was designed to help my mother, who has arthritis, to fill a coal bucket from her storage bunker. When the bunker was full, it was difficult to shovel out coal owing to the weight from above. When it was empty, it was difficult to gather coals scattered at the back. The prototype showed obvious benefits: the device made it easy to store coal and keep it dry, and made dispensing straightforward. Additional uses then became apparent, including storage and dispensing of animal feed; salt, grit, compost and wood pellets.



How has the business grown since then?

The SmartBunker now supplies to stores in UK, Ireland and Europe, and has interest from the rest of the world. It is used on farms and smallholdings around UK and Ireland. It picked up a top award at the 2017 Royal Highland Show, and was singled out for recognition at this year’s Farm Business Innovation Show.

Can you run me through a typical day?

It usually involves planning exhibitions, dealing with offline and online marketing activities, responding to customer enquiries, developing the product further, or speaking to people with a view to accessing investment to scale up.

What’s been the highlight for your business so far?

The awards mean a lot, and it’s nice to have interest from around the world. But customer feedback is everything to me, and it’s great to hear how the bunker is making people’s lives that bit easier.  



What’s the strangest request you’ve had from a customer?

One customer asked if they could store potatoes in the bunker. I said they must eat a lot of spuds. He said he did as there were seven of them, and there were problems with damp when bags were left on the ground. He bought one in the end.

What one thing your business couldn’t function without?

The internet. We have had 3.3 million views online – it would cost a lot if we had to post out that information. 

What’s the best thing about working for yourself?

The clock doesn’t stop at 5pm, but you still can take time out if you need to.

And the hardest part?

Everything has to be right. If a part supplied by a manufacturer fails, the customer will blame us, not the manufacturer. You have to be on top of your game at all times.  

If you could go back and change one thing what would it be?

Lots. As the SmartBunker was new to the world, we had to do lots of testing – from the material being used to ensure feed was safe to the stacking design and how to keep shipping costs down. Every time we made a mistake, we had to take a step back and start again. 


 
How does your FSB membership help?

The information provided is helpful, and it’s good to know FSB is only a phone call away for advice. 

Where will the business be in five years’ time?

I hope the SmartBunker will be used in every home, for heating your house, salting your driveway or feeding your animals – or even storing your spuds.

What do you do outside work?

On Thursday nights I play skittles in summer and pool in winter. 

The search is on for the best of the UK’s small business innovators. The FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 2019 Business & Product Innovation Award will recognise innovative business models, products and services implemented within businesses, offering a point of difference to competitors and peers and moving the business forward. It is one of 11 award categories to enter at fsbawards.co.uk

Click here to read the FSB's Innovation Report and how Government could unlock small business productivity