Friday, November 23rd, 2007
Our trip to Wiggly Wigglers, a Herefordshire natural gardening company, was a late addition to an already full itinerary but we had heard that its founder, Heather Gorringe, was a really interesting woman, and decided we could probably squeeze something else in before we collapsed of exhaustion. It was well worth the effort.
After developing an interest in composting and sustainable gardening, Heather set up Wiggly Wigglers in 1990 to supply worms to gardeners. Growth was slow to begin with – people weren’t terribly excited about composting and recycling in the early 90s – but she now sells over 900 environmentally friendly garden products, ranging from home-grown birdseed and hedging plants to insect boxes and bird feeders, and is the market leader in her industry.
How it all began
After giving us a tour of the business, Heather explained how Wiggly Wigglers is about so much more than just worms. Her idea is to try and bring out the farmer in everyone, whether you have a few acres or just a window box, and to promote innovative approaches to sustainability. As she pointed out, 12.5% of the UK is actually garden, so if gardeners aren’t going organic or trying to help wildlife, we must be mad.
One of her best-selling products is the Can-O-Worms wormery, which turns natural waste into compost and offers households a hygienic alternative to clogging up landfill sites.
One of the most interesting things about Wiggly Wigglers is how Heather has embraced technology to promote the company and what she believes in. Starting with just a catalogue, by 1995 (when most of us hadn’t even heard of the internet) this was being complemented by their first website. Heather also keeps everyone up-to-date on Wiggly Wigglers news and environmental issues in a blog she launched in 2005, and now has her own Facebook group which is proving to be very popular. Most impressive (and well-documented), however, is her clever use of podcasting as a marketing tool.
The Wiggly Wigglers Podcast:
For the technologically disinclined, a podcast is a digital audio broadcast that you can download and listen to on your computer or iPod…so kind of like a radio show that you can listen to when and where you want.
Heather downloaded her first podcast in 2005 and was so intrigued that she booked herself a space at the UK’s first podcasting conference later in the year. In podcasting, she saw an opportunity to talk to a wide audience about what she believes in and express her individuality, as well as being able to control how the broadcast is edited. So she took a chance and decided to throw her advertising budget into podcasting instead, and set about making a series of ten podcasts.
The result was an astounding success; she now records one every week, has thousands of listeners and is a permanent fixture near the top of the iTunes UK podcast rankings. Varying in length from 20 to 45 minutes, the Wiggly Podcasts usually take place on her sofa, where she is joined by friends, family, colleagues and guests for a bit of a chinwag about a variety of topical farming, gardening and rural issues. There is normally some kind of lively debate, advice offered and a wonderful insight into life on their farm – “a bit like the Archers, but real”, she says. A more recent addition to the programme is ‘PigCast’, where her young son offers a weekly fact on pigs!
While we were there, we sat on the ‘Wiggly Sofa’ with Heather and her husband (Farmer Phil) and she recorded a bit for her next podcast, asking us about Muddy Matches and getting Phil to calculate his Muddy-Townie ratio! We had such a laugh; and that, we reckon, is why she has so many listeners – people love the humour and friendly, family atmosphere. Heather says that podcast day is her favourite day of the week, and it shows.
It’s great for business as well, as it enables her to communicate directly with current and potential customers, maintain control over the message that she gets across and have a lot of fun at the same time. She is now a self-confessed podcast addict for, as well as generating a lot of new customers, she has also got a lot of PR out of it as people love the fact that a rural business has got its finger on the pulse of technology. Consequently, she is frequently being interviewed or used as a case study, and has even been asked to be a future ‘face’ of small business on Google.
Once again, we felt really inspired by our visit and Heather and Phil are a lot of fun. So next time you have a spare half an hour and fancy a bit of a rurally-themed giggle, have a listen to the Wiggly Wiggler podcast. For more information about the company, visit their website or read their blog.