Acoustic solutions firm amplifies its message

Somerset sustainable acoustic firm establish clear route to market for a new product with help from i2s.

A Somerset firm producing sustainable acoustic ‘clouds’ or panels made from sheep’s wool to reduce ambient sound levels in reverberant interior spaces such as restaurants, offices and schools is happily making more ‘noise’ of its own thanks to the innovate2succeed programme.

Woolly Shepherd, currently employing five staff at its Wellington premises, already sells their Natural Acoustics products across the UK and into Europe, with a distributor based in the Netherlands - are now setting their sights on the US market.

Customers range from the Eden Project in Cornwall to the Met Office in Exeter, from Chelsea Open Air Nursery and Children’s Centre to Aberdeenshire County Council – as well as a host of restaurants and museums including River Cottage and the Roald Dahl museum.

Managing director Tim Simmons runs the business with his wife and co-director, Marty. They joined the i2s programme, which is supported by Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund, to help them to tap into the potential within the business.

Achieving clarity on strategy

Following a comprehensive i2s review, to look at the company’s new product portfolio, and working with i2s marketing specialists, the business now has a clear understanding of how to develop their marketing strategy and establish a clear route to market for a new product.

They have since employed a professional marketer to join the team to put their new plans into action, improve brand awareness and explore new markets.

“No-one does what we do, either here in the UK or in Europe, but i2s made me lift my head and look around again. Because we were snowed under with work, we’d lost track of the marketing a bit.

“I learned you’re not always better off trying to do everything yourself. You generally get much better value employing people who are specialists in their field.” Tim Simmons said.

As well as developing greater capability in digital marketing, the company have updated their website to improve search engine visibility and commissioned an exhibition stand as well as a series of videos, flyers and case studies to support their marketing activity.

Innovation leads to growth

Woolly Shepherd began commercial life supplying insulation material for boxes of organic meat.

Under pressure from lower-cost competitors and seeking an alternative added-value product, Tim drew on his background in music and hi-fi to devise ways of using wool as an acoustic solution. It also reinforced his own strong belief in sustainability as a business principle.

An appearance on BBC TV’s Countryfile programme in 2012 sparked considerable interest, reinforced by successful installations which have made noisy spaces quieter and more comfortable for people who work and spend their leisure time in them.

But five years on, the i2s strategy review highlighted the need for a more considered, systematic approach to the company’s marketing, particularly in using digital marketing in a more targeted and customer-focused way to support the development and commercialisation of new products.

Ahead of a move earlier this year to their new premises, the company also received advice on incorporating lean manufacturing principles to help them manufacture new and existing products more efficiently and cost-effectively.

This will not only enable better margins on new products but will also support the company’s growth and further innovation – with their next steps now in place to enter the US market.

  • innovate 2 suuceed in black writing with the number 2 in orange

  • “The workshop facilitated by Business West was extremely useful in determining the areas in which we needed external assistance to achieve our diversification and growth strategy."