09 May 2017
The Garden Tower Project - Joel Grant

(The Garden Tower Project - Joel Grant, Season 1, Episode 3)

1. How did you end up being cast on Start Up?  Did you submit or were you contacted?

Well, it was a while ago, there were several of us involved… I can’t answer that 100%, but one of them would know!

2. How did you feel after watching the episode, and is there anything you would've said or done differently?

No, I wouldn’t change a thing. You know we’ve come a long way since then and it’s awesome to have, because you guys caught us at a time when we were still doing stuff by hand. We still had some of our original legacy operation going, then we had our artisan operation and now we are all mass production. It was a very cool moment to capture and I know your producers were nice to give us a big roll. In the future we will use some of that to tell our story beyond the episode itself. The episode was great and we had a great time doing it. 

3. What response did you receive from being on the show?

We definitely had some interests from a lot of communities around the country that we had no idea would air your show and would generate interest. We ask every one of our direct customers one question during checkout that’s optional and that question is “How did you first hear about The Garden Tower Project?” and about 30-40% of people who make a purchase from us fill that out. So we have a pretty good idea how many people are introduced through which channels and methods and we definitely saw a lot of customers come in talking about Start Up TV Show. It wasn’t all instantaneous forced and it wasn’t necessarily in surges even. They were introduced to us through the show and then maybe six months later, maybe a year later, maybe a week later, we hear about it. So it was pretty cool and it still is pretty cool. I wouldn’t be surprised if we still have people coming into the shop telling us that’s how they heard about us. I think Start Up heard about us through our Kickstarter, I’m not 100% sure no that, but even though we haven’t run a kick starter since 2014, we still have people come in and tell us that they have been following us since the kick starter and the time was finally right for them to give our system a try. Almost nothing in the world of good authentic public relations is turn to ear overnight. It’s really a build and we are a very unique offering. There’s not really anything like what we do and it’s a very high price point, so it’s definitely a very considerate purchase. 

4. Have there been any major hardships or great accomplishments with you or your business since appearing on the show?

We were very lucky to have been featured by you guys as early in the process as we were. After the Start Up episode our next Kickstarter several months later and were able to have the seventh largest food project ever on Kickstarter and it was the third largest Kickstarter ever in Indiana. So that was a big success and I’m sure that Start Up helped introduce would be customers and supporters to us through the Kickstarter.

5. What was your favorite part of being on the show?

I was really just kind of an operations person. I was really happy that you guys were able to come during a pretty time for us, because being in the Midwest our growing seasons are reasonably long.  We try to do a lot and it’s hard to do anything past October, so nothing really exciting goes on until about April in the way of having lively plants and something good to show. I was just really happy we were able to represent what we do with you guys in a very nice part of the season when we could put on a good show and demonstrate what a garden tower can accomplish. The whole crew was a lot of fun, I don’t particularly love being on camera, but you guys kept us all pretty loose. Colin, the original inventor of The Garden Tower, was stung by a bee (he is allergic to bees) like an hour before filming so he had some extra challenges, everything turned out really well though…all things considered. 

6. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned in business?

Kind of a business lesson, but also a life lesson: You have to be open to opportunities and willing to take some risks, especially when your first getting started. There’s the further we get down the road the more opportunities we have, but at the same time you have to really focus on your core. Last year we took on the development of a couple new products and extended ourselves a little bit thin from a personal stand point and an economic standpoint. So this year we are kind of finding the core again in terms of what sales and business channels actually support the core of the business and knowing that as a small company you can’t do everything everywhere. So we are kind of refocusing and making sure that although we can pull off some new ideas in a big way relatively fast, it’s easy to get distracted by new opportunities. So it’s kind of two sides to the same equation, you have to be open to really seeing new opportunities in the market place and not be risk adverse, but at the same time as a young business you really have to stay focused on your core because it’s easy to get carried away with the excitement. Hopefully in the long run we’ll be in a pattern of introducing new things to market and having them be very successful, but it takes more than a few years to build that. 

7. What advice do you have for other "would-be" small business owners?
It obviously would depend on the context of the person, who they are and what they are doing, but for us right now it’s: Don’t grow too fast and focus on your IP, if it’s an IP related business and get your IP in order with a great strategy, hopefully with multiple perspectives or people guiding that. Don’t over extend yourself on trying to get into too many different sales channels at once.

8. If you could move your business and live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Oh boy. Well, I’m going to take a different angle on this and say that when we reflect on our business and we look at what we have accomplished on what kind of budget…I think we are perfectly positioned basically in a good, culturally rich city in the Midwest. You can do a lot with a lot less resources than it takes to do it on the coast. I don’t think we could have come as far as we have without becoming indebted to others. Doing this in a well-known start up city in California or in the Pacific Northwest. I think we would have been overly burdened with rent and high salaries and people not able to sacrifice because of the cost of living. When I look at the talent and the efficiencies of being in the Midwest USA and what you have access to. We do manufacturing from product development to working with film and manufacturing partners and building this in California would have cost us way more to do. 

of everything Start Up