We talked to Dave Stevens, founder of IGWorks, about indoor gardening, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dave Stevens: Thanks for asking. It’s been a mixed bag, both personally and for the business. From the perspective of the business, indoor gardening has really taken off. People are spending more time at home and are interested in new hobbies. Our iHarvest® indoor garden and µHarvestTM microgreen garden have both become quite successful. But, COVID-19 has also increased our costs significantly, due to disruptions in the supply chain.
On a more personal note, my wife has been diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. This makes her a high-risk individual for COVID-19, so we have to be very careful. Growing food indoors with hydroponics has always been a great hobby that saves money over time, but now it reduces our COVID-19 exposure from food shopping as well.
Because I like to turn negatives into positives whenever possible, we’ve recently created the “EndCancer” discount code for the iHarvest®. When folks purchase an iHarvest® with the “EndCancer” discount code, they receive $50 off, and we give $50 to the American Cancer Society.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded IGWorks.
Dave Stevens: I’ve lived in apartments for most of my life, but always loved the idea of growing my own food. I tried raised garden beds outdoors, but rarely had the appropriate amount of sun or weather to grow well. I also tried small hydroponic systems that I could grow a few herbs with indoors, but I wanted to grow more of my own food. I started looking into DIY methods for building larger hydroponic systems, but I noticed two problems. First, its’ shockingly expensive to build a system that works well and has the great lighting that you need to grow indoors. Second, the hydroponic systems that others were building were just plain ugly, so they ended up in people’s garages and basements. I knew that many of these people wanted what I wanted….a beautiful indoor garden for their living space, and that’s when I set out to build the iHarvest® indoor garden.
How does IGWorks innovate?
Dave Stevens: I don’t think it’s ever been easier to innovate than it is today. I set the direction for innovation at IGWorks® and create the concepts for new products, but I’m also able to work with a variety of talented professionals remotely. For everything from engineering to marketing, there are some great freelancers out there who can help at a reasonable cost.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Dave Stevens: COVID-19 has definitely made indoor gardening and the iHarvest® much more popular. That’s been great, but from a financial position, it’s probably been a wash. The pandemic has increased the costs and complexities of doing business significantly. I believe that over time, the increased awareness of indoor gardening that has come from the pandemic will help our finances.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Dave Stevens: We weren’t forced to lay anyone off, which is great. But, I’m very aware of the fact that IGWorks® helps a lot of free-lancers pay their bills when we hire them for short-term or hourly work. We’ve had to limit or put off some of this work, and that is difficult.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Dave Stevens: I’ve personally focused a LOT on customer relationships. I work very hard to respond quickly to customer questions and concerns. I have even come to consider some of my customer’s friends as I’ve gotten to know them. Of course, as we sell more and more units, it becomes more and more difficult to create the same relationship with every customer. But, we have a wonderful Facebook Group where our users discuss gardening and help each other grow with the iHarvest®. It’s great to see folks forming relationships with each other and having fun growing together.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Dave Stevens: We took a small, low-interest loan from the SBA to help us manage some of the increased costs created by supply chain disruptions, etc. It got the business through a difficult time, and I’m grateful it was available to the business.
Your final thoughts?
Dave Stevens: I’m very pleased to be a part of a community of entrepreneurs that share their innovations with the world. I’m even more pleased that our indoor gardening solutions have been so well received by our customers. Many of our customers purchase an iHarvest® and then find themselves purchasing 1 or 2 more. When they do so, they often thank me for inventing the iHarvest and providing them with support. I’m always touched by this, and thankful for having such great customers!