By Nancy Saunders
The Good Earth Puts Free Mentoring to Good Use
Phil and Minny Hill own and operate The Good Earth in Nolalu, where they produce natural fertilizer made of worm castings. The Hills started their family run local business two years ago around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before starting the business, they would transport the manure from their horse paddocks to a local farm. Now they collect it themselves and produce a high quality natural product.
Minny Hill describes the process of making their vermicompost, or worm castings: “We take the [horse] manure and compost it for a year. Then we take that and feed it to the composting worms in special reactors. With the microbes in the manure, we break it down further and add more microbes and beneficial things to the castings. In about 60 days, we harvest about 40 kilos from each reactor. We sift it twice and package it.” The finished product is an incredible fertilizer and soil amendment that the Hills say is better than regular compost and chemical fertilizer. “Vermicompost is actually adding beneficial microbes to soil.”
The Good Earth is currently sold in 12 stores, with the Hills’ main customer being home gardeners. The product is slowly breaking into the small market gardener and greenhouse markets. The Hills explain that the introduction of a new garden product can take time, as gardeners often employ long-established processes and products. “Introducing a new product can be met with some hesitancy. We’re slowly trying to get into those markets where we can sell more,” says Minny. “We have a huge advantage because we’re the only local supplier,” adds Phil.
The Hills knew they needed to make some changes if they were going to grow their business in the way they wanted to. “We’re busy running the farm, and it’s like we almost need a full-time marketer at this point. We’re not natural marketers, so that’s a challenge,” explains Phil. “We are of the generation where we didn’t have social media. We have to wrap our heads around it. We’re trying. We know we have to do it,” shares Minny. This is where Digital TBay came in, providing mentoring that exceeded the Hills’ expectations.
Phil and Minny met with Brook Dallaire and gained training, feedback and support in topics including social media marketing, graphic design and ecommerce. “Brook told us that we really have to get into social media, and that we should post to get people involved, show them our farm and how we do the process. And we’re pretty private people, so it’s a hard one,” say the Hills. With Dallaire’s help, the Hills became more comfortable with social media marketing and learned how to schedule posts, create different themes for posts, and generate ideas about what to schedule on different days.
Dallaire also showed the Hills how to use Canva, a graphic design platform. “We have been making a concerted effort of sitting down at Canva. You can do Facebook and Instagram postings, you can make business cards—that sort of thing, “says Minny. “Brook reinforced that the effort is worth it. She walked us through each feature and what is possible.” Up until then, Minny had been doing all of the Good Earth design work, with techniques she describes as “ancient”. “I would write something up, photocopy it, cut it, put it on. I don’t like computers that much. I don’t even own a cell phone. Brook, by demonstrating stuff, took a lot of the hesitation of it. We realized, okay, we can do this. And if we get stuck, we know we can get help.”
In order for the Good Earth to venture into the realm of online sales, Dallaire also provided input to the Hills into various ecommerce platforms. “[Dallaire] showed us Square Space. We had been debating using Shopify or Etsy, and deciding whether to go in that direction. We are now considering going with Square Space, with an FAQ page, to build more of an online presence,” explains Phil.
The Hills are very appreciative of Dallaire’s knowledge and interest, and also remarked on her patience. “We learned a tremendous amount from Brook, and now it’s time to apply it. We need to do our homework. If we get stuck, or once we become proficient, we will book more time with her. We also want to look at the workshops she is offering. We are huge Brook fans!”
“This is a chance to mentor with high-priced talent and take your marketing to the next level—the chance to get free mentorship from some very talented people, and you can pick based on your personality and style. If you’re prepared to do it, you’re going to go to the next level—for free!” – Phil Hill, the Good Earth
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