A company founded in Warwickshire is revolutionising the market for horse treats in the USA – and is set to mount a drive for sales in Europe.
Alcester-based husband and wife team Kevin and Mary Elizabeth Nairne founded Kelcie’s Horse Treats in 2019 to offer high-quality, natural treats to high-calibre horses that take part in equestrian events.
Kevin gave up a 30-year corporate career in IT to move into the equestrian industry alongside Mary Elizabeth, who manages her sister and Olympic gold-medallist Laura Kraut.
After seeking advice from Laura and fellow Olympic champion Nick Skelton, they decided to move into the treats market and came up with a product made of 15 natural ingredients.
Finding a company to manufacture the product in the UK or the EU proved difficult, so they turned their attention to the USA and found a partner.
And as soon as they managed to get the treat to market, they found they had an instant hit with horses and owners alike – but they were missing a formal business plan and marketing strategy.
The company was introduced to the University of Warwick Science Park’s Business Ready programme by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub earlier this year and received advice from Business Growth Adviser Gaynor Matthews.
Business Ready is a programme that delivers support to expanding businesses managed by the business support team at the?University of Warwick Science Park and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
Gaynor supported the firm directly and introduced the company to experts who offered strategic sales and marketing advice, followed by a digital marketing plan to grow sales and distribution in the USA followed by the EU.
The firm was also given business planning advice by Innovate UK Edge and, having turned over $40,000 in its first year, it reached $100,000 in its latest round of accounts, with plans to double that again over the next 12 months.
Kevin said: “We found the right formula to create a great treat and horse owners who told us their horses were previously fussy eaters, loved the product.
“We had produced something that could disrupt the market but then it was all about getting the right marketing plan in place to make sure we could achieve the sales growth we wanted.
“The Business Ready programme was a big support in that and we’ve also had really helpful advice from other organisations too.
“I’d definitely encourage other businesses to tap into the support available. You can see how much it’s help us from a sales point of view and the growth we’ve achieved.”
He added: “It wasn’t originally the plan to crack the US market first but because we found our manufacturing partner there, it was much easier to sell there than to import back into the UK and Europe.
“However, we are now in the process of establishing ourselves in Europe because we know from our website and social media that there is very strong demand!”
Gaynor said: “This is a classic case of a company creating a great product but then needing support in some of the fundamentals of business – such as planning and marketing.
“Through Business Ready, we could introduce Kelcie’s to people with the right expertise to help develop the right strategies – especially around marketing – to help increase awareness and drive sales.
“It’s clear that horses love the treats – and now the business is in a position to make the most of that which will lead to even stronger business growth.”
Notes to editors:
The CW Business: Start, Grow and Scale project is receiving up to £2.6m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding