My Week: Daniel Woolman of Binifresh

The inventor and entrepreneur on trying to make rubbish smell a little bit sweeter.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

I had the idea for Binifresh while I was at university. I lived on the ground floor next to wheelie bins, and for three years I was greeted with the stench every day. It seemed like a very obvious problem to solve, so I did some research as to what was out there, and everything I found was a bit half-arsed. I already had a start-up working on a product that was kind of like a toilet duck, so I was already familiar with R&D; I understood how to get from an idea in my head to a working product. And then after I left university and everybody else was getting jobs, I decided I’d rather go it alone.

And in fact, I am still kind of alone day-to-day. There are a few people around: I have a brand manager and a CFO who both work a few days a week. We also employ a PR team and an online marketing agency, which handles our digital strategy. There are so many people I lean on; all I really do is manufacture and organise it.

I don’t have a typical week per se, but I try to spend a chunk of my time on the phone selling. It’s still a very mixed bag when it comes to partners; I’ll call everyone, from waste management and recycling companies, to online companies that sell bins, councils and retailers. I’ve been speaking to QVC this week, as well as a random individual who bought the Binifresh product over the internet and decided he liked it so much he wanted to sell it to friends and family. And he’s done well: he sold four units in the first half a day: one to his plumber, one to his neighbour and one to his wife!

Negotiating with the supermarkets has been a real challenge – I’ve been talking to them for two and a half years. The first conversation I had was with Tesco, but it took two years of talking to them and meetings before we did a deal. Asda was tricky too – I went to the HQ in Leeds repeatedly and would say: ‘I’m not leaving until I get to see someone,’ and eventually, they listened. We’ve been retailing for four months now and we’ve sold about 20,000 units.

I’ve also been speaking to infomercial companies in the US this week. In my mind, conquering the US would be the icing on the cake. To make it here would be fantastic, but if we can make it in the US, that would be just mind-blowing. The market size is huge – there are more wheelie bins in California than there are in the whole of the UK. (My mind is full of various wheelie bin related trivia like this.)

Another focus at the moment is trying to cut our manufacturing costs in Asia. At the moment the product is made in China; we wouldn’t consider manufacturing in the UK because it is so much more expensive. Here our tool costs might be £100,000; in China, they’re likely to be a tenth of that price. There are highly specialised things that you have to manufacture in the UK and Europe, but for plastic moulded products, everyone’s doing it in China. We’re also changing our packaging, so at the moment I’m speaking to the factory in China a lot because I need to get it cut, and for them to send me some proofs so I can approve it. There are tons of emails going back and forward every day trying to organise that.

Not everything in my life is bin-oriented - although I think I’ve forgotten how to have fun, because I seem to work the whole time. I still manage to get to the gym a bit and try to maintain something of a social life. A lot of my close friends have gone into business themselves so we’ll talk about Binifresh as well as their careers. When I initially said I was setting up the business, everyone thought it was all a bit high risk – coming up with an idea, raising money, and going to China to find a manufacturing partner. They thought I was a bit mad. Perhaps they were right.

Daniel Woolman is the inventor and founder of Binifresh – an automatic hygiene and odour control for wheelie bins.

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