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Sunday, 6 July 2014

Claire Reid - Reel Gardening

I was recently invited to join a wine club and I attended their 3rd evening together. It was such a nice group of ladies and I really enjoyed meeting them all. 

We all put in a donation and managed to raise R3500 which will go to one of Reel Gardening's school / community posts which I will talk more about now. 

The ladies organise a speaker for each wine evening and they had gotten Claire Reid to come and talk to us on the evening that I attended. 

Claire and Stephanie (Host)
When Claire sat down to talk to us she came across as a very friendly, down to earth and approachable young lady. As she began to tell her story I began to realise what an incredible woman I was in the presence of, she was completely humble about all her achievements and told her story in such a relate-able manner. As someone who is interested in doing motivational speaking I felt that I learnt a lot in terms of how to be a good speaker. Claire spoke from the heart and told her story as if she was chatting to friends, sharing all the small personal details in a humorous way.

Claire's Story
In 2002, at the age of 16, Claire Reid found herself sitting in her vegetable garden with a tape measure between her knees and centimeter marks drawn on her fingers. Claire knew she wanted to grow vegetables to sell to her parents for extra pocket money. However she soon became frustrated by the wastage of seed and fertiliser and her inability to get the seed to stay in the soil at the correct depth and distance apart.
She asked the family’s domestic worker, Meggi, to help her with this overwhelming task by holding the seed packet and passing her the seeds while explaining the instructions on the back of the packaging. Meggi was unable to instruct Claire on how to plant the seed as the instructions were only in English and contained mathematical language that Meggi was not able to understand. It was at this point that Claire decided she needed to create a way to both plant and keep the seeds and nutrients in the soil at the correct depth and distance apart, a form of planting that needed no mathematical or English education to understand, a form of planting that was simple, effective and easy to do in a short period of time. And Reel Gardening was the solution.

Claire began to make seed strips with newspaper and encased the seed using a  paste made from flour and liquid fertiliser. This craft type project was entered into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists in 2002 to gain Claire some extra marks for Grade 10 Science. The public response to the simple idea was overwhelming and Ronnie Kasrils, the then Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, requested information on the water saving abilities of this new form of planting. Claire conducted tests with the help of the University of Pretoria and was able to conclude that Reel Gardening was able to save up to 80% of the water consumed during the germination phase. Subsequently she went on to win the International Stockholm Junior Water Prize for South Africa. A number of awards followed, including Woman in Water for Scientific Research below the age of 35 and The United Nations Environmental SEED award.

Reel Gardening was able to secure a loan from Anglo Zimele in 2009 to enable Claire to develop the idea into a commercially viable and manufacturable product. 

Reel Gardening opened its doors for business on the 12th February 2010 and soon began expanding and grew to a team of six. Claire chose to develop a handmade manufacturing process as it aligns with her dream of maximum job creation through the production of a product that will enable people to feed themselves.

Reel Gardening initially entered the retail sphere with a range of 27 products - the custom branded and corporate products followed. Claire continued to find a way to get Reel Gardening into the rural areas for which it was designed through the invention of the ‘Garden in a Box’, for which Reel Gardening won the inaugural SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards in 2011.

Garden in a Box is now making a difference in the lives of thousands of school children and community members across peri-urban and rural South Africa with the help of the newly established NPO called Reel Life.

Such an amazing and inspiring story! 

Claire explained that she had always been entrepreneurial and from the age of 6 years old she had come up with ways of earning extra pocket money. It started with her collecting craft stamps and then charging neighbors to make stationary paper for them. 
Her next little business venture was when the 'pikitup' bins were introduced and neighbors would fight over who's bin was who's. Claire worked out that if each home owner put their house number on the bin then there would be no more arguing over who's bin it was. So she went around and charged people R20 to spray paint their street number and name onto their bins.

Listen to Claire telling her full story in the clip below. It really is an inspiring story and worth listening to - 

Here's another clip where Claire talks more about the actual product and how it works.

Claire's story is inspiring for so many reasons but I think one of the main lessons I personally learnt from her is to never give up and if you don't believe in yourself then no-one else will.

She shared an anecdote from when she went to Stockholm for the international science fair. She arrived, as an insecure young girl in her school uniform and was surrounded by much older entrants (the competition was open to anyone under 35) with what she thought were far superior inventions. She said that there was a Chinese team which had entered a tank of fish where the fish somehow generated energy to power a computer which then in turn generated power to feed them. She phoned her mom in tears and said she didn't know what she was doing there and that her little newspaper encased seeds weren't good enough to be a part of such a huge competition. Her mom asked her if she believed her product worked and could benefit others. Claire responded that she did believe it worked and would improve the lives of other people. With this Claire plucked up the courage to carry on and she ended up winning the entire thing and was presented her award by Princess Victoria.

Claire has gone on to receive many awards and has achieved so much. Here are a FEW of her achievements-

I just want to share a final note about one of the things Claire spoke to us about. Claire is a big believer in inspiration boards and encouraged us all to make one. An inspiration board, for those of you who have never heard of the concept, is simply a board of things you want to achieve. You can put anything on your board, from a car you want to one day own, a celebrity you want to meet, a skill you want to learn or a holiday destination you want to visit one day.

One of the pictures Claire had on her inspiration board was of Richard Branson as she always wanted to be a successful entrepreneur like him. In short, Claire has since met Richard Branson.

I hope Claire's story inspired you as much as it inspired me! 

You can read more about Reel Gardening HERE or follow on Twitter or Facebook.  

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