A West Midlands firm which has enjoyed success with its treats for horses in the US is now eyeing expansion into European markets.
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 horses that take part in equestrian events.
Mr Nairne gave up a 30-year corporate career in IT to move into the equestrian industry alongside his wife who manages her sister and 2008 Olympic equestrian champion Laura Kraut.
After seeking advice from Laura and fellow Olympic star 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 US and signed up a partner which helped them crack the market over there.
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The pair were missing a formal business plan and marketing strategy so worked with the ‘Business Ready’ support programme at University of Warwick Science Park.
Mr Nairne 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.
“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.”
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Gaynor Matthews, an adviser on the Business Ready initiative, introduced the company to experts who offered sales and marketing advice and a digital marketing plan to grow sales and distribution in the US followed by the EU.
She added: “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.
“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.”