Martin Doyle looks back on six years of The Little House Co, and delivers some exciting news to take the business forward!
In August, we were six years old. It became a time to look closely at the business – what was working for us, and what wasn’t, and make some big decisions about the future.
It’s all about me
Running any business isn’t easy. Running it by yourself is even tougher – in my case I did all the sales, support, web development, marketing, supplier liaison, stock control, order processing, invoicing, accounting, tax returns, making toilets and so on. In the early days, this was fine, but as time went on and the business grew, it becomes harder to do all these things well.
One of the toughest aspects to running the business was making our signature product, the Eco-Loo. Working from a very small workshop at our home meant both production and storage space was extremely limited. The Eco-Loo itself was quite time consuming to make as it was make using fairly traditional carpentry and assembly techniques. Once made, I had to paint them, but that meant I couldn’t do any cutting or sanding for the next batch for fear of getting dust onto the still wet paint.
I looked at renting a bigger workshop – that would mean having to find a large amount of money each month just to get the space, and there would be extra insurance, security, internet, electricity, heat and so on. On some levels, this made sense, on others, it filled me with fear!
The final straw was when our supplier for Separett toilets went bust – that accounted for just under 50% of our business. So to cut a long story short, I decided to scale the business down, with a view to closing it by the end of 2018.
I sent a message to the folks at Kildwick (who made the urine separators we used in the Eco-Loo and who had become good friends as well as business associates) telling them of my intention, and a short time later, Maria from Kildwick was on the phone to me, discussing possible ways forward.
The upshot of the conversation and subsequent meeting was that we agreed Kildwick would take over The Little House Co and I’d work for them. This mean’t that many of the headaches I’d previously had (production, accounting etc) would be handled by their team and I could concentrate on talking to customers and growing the business!
Let’s look at some of the significant changes the new business brings:
Solar-long and farewell!
We have decided to stop selling solar panels, batteries and bits – there’s plenty of places that can get the bits you need, and of course we’re happy to give you guidance on what size panels you might need. Sourcing the solar panels and accessories on a small scale become very time consuming and just doesn’t make financial sense for us.
Along with the solar bits, a number of other smaller items that have only sold in very small numbers are being retired from the website (on full pensions of course!). This means we can focus more on the important products and deliver a quality service.
As you read above, Separett’s previous UK distributor, Eco-Toilets, ceased trading in July 2018. With my experience of selling Separett since 2012, Kildwick’s MD, Colin Ives visited Separett in Sweden and secured the exclusive UK distribution of Separett Waterless toilets to be sold through The Little House Co.
As well as the usual Separett Privy and Villa range, we are also looking at the potential for their freezing and incinerating toilets along with a few of their other specialist products that were previously not brought into the UK.
New Eco-Loo models
Having access to Kildwick’s production facilities meant we were able to rapidly develop and launch a new range of Eco-Loo compost toilets. Based on the Kildwick Konstruct (a flat-pack toilet), we specified a solid oak seat and a kick trim (beautiful and useful!) to subtly change the look. We’ve expanded the colours previously available, but rather than using standard paint, they are now painted using an industrial lacquer – the result is both beautiful and incredibly tough.
The new Eco-Loo Divert is designed for permanent or semi-permanent land-based installations, where the urine will run into an external soakaway pit. It comes with a solid oak seat and a 24 litre custom designed, anti-bacterial square solids container and a plastic base tray which ensures an easy clean up in case of accidents.
The new Eco-Loo Capture is designed for mobile users. It has a 10 litre anti-bacterial urine bottle with an ‘easy pour’ spout and carry handle. It also includes the easy-clean plastic base tray that can hold up to 1 litre in case there are any accidents. The Capture is ideal for boats and mobile users.
Common features to both models include a solid, 15mm birch ply construction of all sides, base and top (precision engineered and cut on CNC cutting equipment), white fibreglass anti-bacterial urine separator (optional glitter finishes available), solid-oak toilet seat and have the option of a 12 volt or mains ‘background’ fan for complete odour control, or you can just use a suitable cover material. You can also turn a Divert into a Capture or vice versa – something that people have been asking about for a long time.
The new Eco-Loo products are available in around 7 days for unpainted models (sometimes sooner…) and 14 days for painted finishes.
In addition, we are also selling the rest of the Kildwick range, including the Koodle (the smallest compost toilet available), the Kabin, the Konstruct (a flat pack toilet), the ‘everything but the box‘ and their urine separators and accessories.
Check out the web shop for more details!
We’re really excited about the changes and look forward to hearing from you!