Incognito: Howard and Patricia Carter
Howard and Patricia Carter on inventing a chemical-free mosquito repellent.
Company name: incognito
Founders: Howard and Patricia Carter
Based: West London
Staff Numbers: three full-time, four part-time
Date started: March 2007
Tell us what your business does… Incognito makes you invisible to all things small that bite! Specifically mosquitoes and other insects. Our first product is a 100% natural anti-mosquito spray. We have soaps and incense sticks as well.
Where did the idea for your business come from? Howard contracted malaria and then dengue fever the next year. After that, we realised that because of global warming, insects are on the increase – but more chemicals are not the solution.
How will you differentiate yourself from the competition? The product is a shield or camouflage, rather than a repellent. There are no other products on the market like us!
What planning did you do before you started up? Portobello business centre (PBC) advised us, along with a couple of old bosses. I then put together a business plan with the help of our Accountant and the PBC, and then just did research, research, and more research.
How did you find suppliers?
We interviewed four potential suppliers in Thailand, where most of the ingredients can be found, and picked the one we thought we could work best with. We also wanted to make a difference locally, which we do.
What challenges have you faced?
Cashflow can be the biggest hurdle if you don't understand it; its always best to have much more than you need along with a financial cushion.
We also had quite a shock when we came back from manufacturing this year to find that both our staff had found other jobs with salaires we couldn't possibly match. Though we consoled ourselves with the idea that their success was our success because we had trained them.
How have you promoted your business?
We use ABS: Always Be Selling! But we have done a lot of small fairs, which we won't do again. How much do you charge? How did you decide this?
RRP is £7.99 although a lot of retailers charge more and Harrods charge even more than that. This is our principle too. We don't think people will believe in a product which is too cheap.
The other thing we had to factor in is that we trade fairly with everyone and this costs more. Most importantly, we're not costing the earth.
What's the impact on your home life been like?
What home life?? It's very erratic!
What was your first big breakthrough?
We were recommended on the Lonely Planet page of the Observer – that was our first break. The biggest was an article in The Sunday Times last year from which we're still getting orders.
Where do you stand on the carbon offsetting/carbon neutral debate?
It is better than doing nothing or greenwashing, although more needs to be done by business in general. I believe that in 20 years' time, more and more businesses will be fulfilling some of the social roles of government.
Were there any tax incentives to starting a green business?
Do you have an exit plan?
My exit plan is to either sell to another ethical company or have enough income to work on philanthropic projects