MATT: Roy, I'm interested in how your business has grown. What sort of people buy your products? Are they mostly those with a green outlook, or are they more wide ranging than that?
ROY: They're very wide ranging. Sometimes it's gentlemen in retirement villages who enjoy gardening, but whose knees are bad, and can't work on the ground anymore. So the raised garden beds give them that joy again. Or it's families with young kids who want to teach kids where veggies come from and show them the magic of planting seeds and seeing what happens when you apply water and sunshine.
MATT: So it's not just people who have that philosophical commitment to sustainability, etc?
ROY: Everybody's a gardener at heart. Somewhere down the line people want to get their hands dirty and grow their own food.
MATT: Thinking specifically about Perth -- where the cost of living has increased: Do they have economic reasons for buying rainwater tanks?
ROY: Unfortunately the government stopped the grant for rainwater tanks. People who get rain water tanks now are paying for it. But they are getting free rainwater from the sky. They are helping save water resources which are limited. A tank for the next twenty years will give you a supply of rainwater each year.
MATT: And what about other motivations ... Do they have concerns about fluoride in the water, for example? Are things like that a consideration?
ROY: Absolutely. That's mostly summed up by people saying, I don't like the taste of the tap water.
MATT: Is there some sort of government regulation regarding cleanliness and hygiene when it comes to the tanks?
ROY: I can't say that you can drink water out of a rainwater tank. I'm not allowed to say that. Rainwater tanks disappeared off the scene because of hygiene problems. So you do have to look after them. They're not like a solar system that just sits there and does the work. You do have to do the work and keep the gutters clean. You have to actually look at the tank water.
MATT: How often would you have to do that?
ROY: Say maybe two times through the rainy season. About once a month. Take a look at it. You're saving water every day, so you're taking responsibility for it. You need to look after it.
ROY: Absolutely the raised garden beds. They keep the doors open.
MATT: Thinking of the business itself, how did it all start?
ROY: I had been working away. I wanted more time at home. I thought if I were to start my own business I should do it now. I'm not getting any younger. I wanted to get away from working for somebody else and get to do things the way I want. So I was looking for something that was hands on, environmentally friendly and manufacturing something I could sell to people and sleep at night knowing that I'd given them a good product. And rainwater tanks came into that category. So that's why I started with them. Unfortunately six months later the grant was cancelled. That made paying bills quite hard because demand for tanks dropped off drastically. But the veggie gardens came into their own and are proving popular year after year.
MATT: And is there any suburb or area that you do most of your business in? More environmentally conscious areas like Fremantle come immediately to my mind, but are your customers all over Perth?
ROY: A lot of the veggie tanks do go around close to the Freo area -- for example, there's one street in Coolbellup. They're Independent of one another but there are three houses in the one street that have garden beds ... But it ranges fom Joondalup to Armadale to Rockingham. I don't know where they're gonna go next!
MATT: How much do they cost?
ROY: Garden beds are around two hundred dollars. You can get a few nice crops of veggies going on in them.
MATT: So, it's not a luxury item, then ...
ROY: No, and the knee height ones are easy to fill. You just dump the soil in there and get your seeds in. They're easy to get up ... The higher ones are more for people with bad backs that can't get down to the ground anymore. So you raise the garden up to them. They take a bit more to fill. But a day's work gets one of those organized. You've got a garden at working height for the next ten years.
MATT: Thanks for your thoughts, and all the best with the business.