Dave Stevens is the Founder/President of Indoor Garden Works (IGWorks, Inc). The company provides attractive indoor gardens that grow food beautifully. By doing so, we allow individuals to control a significant portion of their fruit and vegetable production no matter where they live while saving money and benefiting themselves and their environment in the process.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded IGWorks®.
Dave Stevens: Many people spend a lifetime building to one career endeavor. My path has been different. Most of my career has not been focused on hydroponics or the indoor growing of food. I’ve spent well over a decade in the energy R&D space, with a particular focus on energy storage and how it can help to enable intermittent renewables like solar and wind on the grid. This remains a passion of mine.
Using hydroponics to grow food is not so dissimilar to renewable energy. There are a wide variety of social, environmental, and personal benefits derived from being able to grow our own food in a small space at home. For instance, growing food with hydroponics can reduce water use by 95% over traditional farming and gardening practices. Fertilizer use can also be reduced by 60% over traditional farming and gardening practices.
The reduction of food waste may be one of the greatest benefits of growing our own food. It’s estimated that approximately one-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted every year. According to Earth.Org, that’s around 1.3 billion tons of food lost every year. In fact, if food loss were a country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter. Food waste also ends up wasting about a quarter of our water supply in the form of uneaten food. When we grow our own, we can harvest only the food we are ready to eat rather than stocking up on a week’s worth of supplies from the local supermarket. This means that what we don’t eat continues to grow and stay fresh.
From a consumer standpoint, folks who grow food with products like our iHarvest® indoor garden can save up to $1,000 a year on groceries. And allowing folks to grow their own food in the comfort of their home allows them to eat fresh, healthy food they can trust. That’s a whole lot better than having healthy greens slowly decompose in your fridge. And being able to grow in small apartments or homes that don’t have outdoor space, and growing without being at the mercy of mother nature, benefits almost everyone.
To quote Benjamin Franklin, I’ve always wanted to “do well by doing good.” Founding IGWorks® is something I’m quite proud of. The environmental, social, and personal benefits of growing our own food in the comfort of our home are important to me, and so is my commitment to customer satisfaction. I am constantly working to improve products, keep costs low, and ensure customer satisfaction. Building an honest business that benefits everyone is my passion.
Do you have small habits that made a meaningful impact on your life and business?
Dave Stevens: Not really, but I’ve certainly developed the habit of working days, nights, and weekends over the past several years. I can’t say I recommend it, but it’s necessary when bootstrapping a startup. In fact, it’s probably necessary whether you’re bootstrapping or not.
How does IGWorks® market its product/services online?
Dave Stevens: For IGWorks®, it’s all about online sales. We do not sell in stores, and we don’t intend to do so in the near term. But never say never. Marketing has never been my strongest suit, perhaps in part because I’m not particularly passionate about it like I am about product design and customer satisfaction. But I’ve found some outstanding partners who do a wonderful job marketing IGWorks® on a relatively small budget.
We advertise on Facebook quite a bit, as it allows us to focus on those who have specific interests related to gardening and similar themes. And while it’s not advertising per se, our Facebook group has a community of growers that show off the amazing products they grow. Because anybody is allowed to join the Indoor Garden Works Group, anybody not sure of whether they want to buy an iHarvest® can see for themselves the wonderful produce others are growing at any given time.
We also have affiliates who promote our products. I only allow those who purchase and use our products to sign up to be an affiliate. I don’t want people pushing my product who cannot honestly say that they use it and they love it. Affiliates create their own discount code, which they can give to customers, and when new customers use that discount code to buy a product, our affiliates get a small reward.
We’re just beginning to use Google Advertising with more success, but it’s a learning process. Email is also quite important and something we’ve been optimizing slowly over time.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Dave Stevens: More than anything, I’m using other gritty, intelligent people who focus on honest advertising for my online marketing. I don’t accept anything less, and it’s taken me a while to find people that I’m truly comfortable working with.
What is your hiring policy/process, and how do you retain your employees?
Dave Stevens: I can’t say that I’ve become an expert at hiring yet. There has certainly been a bit of trial and error involved. But, I can say that I’m beginning to understand the difference between those who are passionate about what they do and those just trying to make a buck. It should come as no surprise that passionate people go the extra mile, and sometimes you can sniff that out during the interview process.
How are you funding your growth?
Dave Stevens: To date, IGWorks® has been 100% bootstrapped. We did have a very successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $200k, which allowed us to build molds and fulfill our first orders. In the near future, we are strongly considering raising money on a popular crowdfunding investment website as well.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Dave Stevens: There are a few competitors in the space, but I believe IGWorks® is uniquely positioned to provide attractive, cost-effective systems that consumers love. In many ways, we’ve done as much or more as some of our competitors, who have raised $10 million or more in investment. As IGWorks® leverages its outstanding customer reviews while building new products and expanding to new markets, I believe we will be positioned to expect rapid growth without excessive investment.
Tell us a customer success story of yours.
Dave Stevens: We’ve sold thousands of systems, so there are truly too many customer success stories to count. We’ve turned a lot of brown thumbs green and allowed a lot of individuals and families without outdoor space to grow their own healthy food. For those interested in watching others grow with our products, I suggest that they visit the Indoor Garden Works Group on Facebook so that they can see many of our success stories for themselves.
Your final thoughts?
Dave Stevens: Never stop growing!!