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Have a Problem? Create Your Own Solution & Start a Business

“Necessity is the mother of invention” isn’t just a saying — it’s the reason why Earth-Kind exists. Kari Warberg Block founded the business in Bismarck, ND, after encountering a problem with mice and other rodents each winter. She didn’t want to use a conventional poison or trap to deal with the problem and knew there had to be a better, more proactive solution. So she created one!

We recently spoke with Kari to learn more about her unique idea and how Earth-Kind continues to make more happen for hunters, farmers and others who deal with unwelcome guests each winter.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was a farm wife, and we had a plaguing problem with mice getting into our stored vehicles, tractors and trucks during the winter. The rodents routinely made homes in them, gnawing on wires, making nests of the seat cushions and defecating on the rest. There was no solution for keeping them out, so I invented one. I wanted to keep these pests out from the start rather than trapping or poisoning them, which could be harmful to our kids or pets and saddle me with cleaning up the dead carcasses. Our Fresh Cab rodent repellent pouches do just that, naturally, with a combination of plant fibers and essential oils.

That’s such a great idea! Would you say you’ve been successful so far?

Actually, without a doubt, the biggest success I’ve had was getting a patent and federal EPA registration on my product. Up till now, poisons and traps were the only options available to consumers; this had never been possible in science or technology. To get the EPA registration, we had to prove that our product was consistently effective, and safe to use indoors. Any product that makes a claim of repelling or killing pests that are considered a public health risk must undergo a series of rigorous performance testing. All the data we submitted to the EPA was accepted, and the product has no known hazards to human or environmental health. Fresh Cab is now the only plant-based rodent repellent registered by the EPA for use in indoor and enclosed areas.

Has it all gone smoothly, or can you talk about a time when you were challenged and how you adjusted your plan?

There have been so many times when things didn’t go according to plan that I’ve learned to celebrate them as welcome learning opportunities — open doors to better opportunities.

The first one I recall is when I failed to gain national distribution for my handmade, high-end potpourris. I didn’t realize at the time that candles were a trend that would overtake potpourri in the marketplace. I was devastated and felt like a failure. As a result, I was forced to refocus my time and energy into marketing the natural rodent repellent I had also invented because there was a need and growing demand. Back then, I was viewing it as basically just another potpourri blend I had developed with the added value of repelling rodents during the winter. But it has become much more than that.

What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to start a small business?

I have three. First, always believe in yourself and your vision, and work at it one baby step at a time until you find a way to make it happen. It’s better to go slow when you’re a beginner — that way the mistakes aren’t devastating to your business.

Second, remember that people become that which they most focus on. Research has proven that it takes 2,000 hours of focus to become an expert at anything.

Third, trust your gut. It’s your unique voice that will help you make difficult decisions when you reach a fork in the road. Decide which direction makes sense in your mind, and in your heart.

What are your biggest pain points in running your own business?

Keeping it simple, keeping it real and keeping it fun. I was in great pain in the past when working for a company that was unnecessarily complicated and political, and had no clear mission. I want my company to be none of that, so we can instead focus on the customer and solving their problems.

What is the one tool you can’t run your business without, the one that helps you make more happen?

For me, it’s the daily reports each employee shares with co-workers at the end of each day. This way I can decide when to react and when to just watch. It prevents me from micromanaging, helps everyone know what’s going on with those few things that matter most, and ensures that we are working together as a team to make sure problems are being taken care of in an orderly fashion.

Do you have any takeaways from your experience of starting and managing a business?

Again, I have three:

  • Stick with a good vendor partner and don’t jump around on price. This will ultimately create a relationship that will help you through turbulent times, and deliver better value over the long run, all things considered.
  • Live in your customers’ shoes so you always know what matters most to them. This is the fountain of life for any business.
  • Don’t underestimate your role as a leader. Business owners are the ones who create vibrant communities, economic health and future jobs. It makes no difference how large or small your company is — you still have this effect.

Do you have a must-have item you buy from Staples that you can't do business without?

Yes. Oddly enough, my must-have item from Staples is... staples! We use them in our manufacturing process, so we go through thousands of them and they are a critical, must-have-in-stock supply. And without the amazing customer service we wouldn’t be able to get the supplies we need in the short time span needed.

How does your business make more happen? We want to know! Share your story with us in the Comments section below, and we might contact you for a future article.

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