From developing chemical-free technology to planter poles

One of Mary’s planter creations

Mary Heath of Mardi found herself in the fall-out of COVID-19 which dried up funding for her business venture developing chemical-free technology to prevent infrastructure damage in agency, commercial and industrial buildings.

The time in Covid lockdown drew her back into gardening, a long time love passed on from her grandmother while Heath was young.

Watching the trend of macrame decorations see a resurgence in interior design reminded Heath of indoor planter poles from the 1980s.

This, and a growing trend of indoor plants for new generations, brought back a long term idea to develop handcrafted planter poles to display indoor plants without requiring permanent structure or damage to walls or ceilings.

She invested into the business idea and engaged a Sydney based professional design company to engineer some prototypes, but after growing frustrated with the disconnection from the design process and a desire to embrace locally sourced elements into the product, Heath commenced a quest to be more hands on in the process.

“I connected with local social enterprise and maker space, Sparks EC at Somersby, to further develop the prototype and touched base with the local Men’s Shed at Wyong, who enthusiastically took on the work to create the first line,” she said.

“A simple post on a gardening social media group brought in the first orders, which were then specially carved out of Tasmanian oak and shipped off to the first happy customers.”

At this time the Bigger Backyard initiative was born through the collaborative partnership of Business NSW Central Coast, local Chambers of Commerce and Central Coast Council.

“I signed up to the Buy Local campaign which also provided a networking connection to other entrepreneurs and mentoring support,” Heath said.

“There was an authentic commitment by the leaders and participants to discover, share and support each other, which encapsulates the spirit and generosity of the Central Coast business community and entrepreneurs,” she said.

In addition, Heath also took part in Council’s Digital Activation program, an online assessment tool to assess the business’s level of digital maturity and to help set a roadmap to take full advantage of digital technology and applications to boost the business.

“I have a high level of experience in digital technologies and background in business but I still gained a lot of learning from the program,” she said.

“At first it was overwhelming how many factors had to be considered but it helped to set a clear step by step plan and provide the knowledge which increased my confidence in this area.

“From this I understood the importance of using data for business development and marketing, especially when working in high volume online business, plus I gained an understanding of security considerations and responsibilities when trading online, and how to take advantage of all social media platforms to boost business.

“It’s so important to have digital maturity with business today, because whether you like it or not, it is how we as a society work, play and connect.

“If you fail to participate, you will be doomed to fail.

“Technology has enabled my customers to lead the growth of my business through an active campaign online to understand what they want.

“This has enabled me to make confident choices in stock, materials and direction for product development.

“It’s basically providing market research at my fingers and engaging the customers at the same time.

“I would highly recommend businesses to jump online and take advantage of the free digital assessment tool to see where their digital weak spots may be and move towards the opportunities.

“I’m thankful that Council, the Central Coast Business NSW organisation and other business groups are banding together to help our region’s economic development and to support local entrepreneurs and businesses with opportunities to gain knowledge and vital networking connections.

“If there’s any advice I would give to a new start-up, it’s to just start, and the energy will come.

“Have a plan but make it organic so you can be flexible and adapt to the unknown as what we know is just around the corner.

“And importantly, network – network with confidence but allow your vulnerability to come out as that person you are talking to may just have the piece in the puzzle,” Heath said.

Central Coast Council website