Close friends Jeffrey Busch and Nancy Jack, who both left the workforce to take care of their families, have been getting together for weekly lunch for years. At lunch after a vacation on Nantucket, Busch lamented how much the horseflies irritated him on the beach, and the two started joking about a “Nantucket spider”: the creature they wished had evolved to keep those annoying flies at bay.
Then Jack had the idea to make their own spider; not a creature to eat the flies, but rather a spray to keep them away — mosquitoes and ticks, too. She knew how to make a natural bug repellent and shared her recipe with Busch.
Soon after, the pair decided to to share their formula by selling them at a farmer’s market. “We decided to make a label that was elegant enough to leave on the barbecue table,” Busch says, “And use only natural ingredients that were recognizable.”
But before they made it to their first farmer’s market, a local grocer, whom they had asked for pricing advice, ordered a case. “One thing led to another, and that summer, we ended up selling over 1500 bottles in a handful of stores in our area,” Busch recalls.
Nantucket Spider now sells more than 10 DEET-free insect repellant products.
While they had a good product, neither Busch nor Jack had a business background. After learning that Busch had struggled with a business plan template, mentor Barry Skalka asked the pair to step back from the intricacies of a formal business plan, and had them answer questions about their business. Where did they want to see themselves in a year? How did they plan to get there?
Skalka caught a flaw in their early plans to wait until spring to approach potential retailers. “He explained that many stores plan in the fall for the products they will carrying the spring,” Busch says. “He asked great questions about why we got into the stores we did, and then helped think about how to learn from those successes in order to repeat our success in new stores.”
Along with receiving help composing a business plan, Busch and Jack also attended a workshop on customer relationship management (CRM) that helped them evaluate potential systems for Nantucket Spider.
“Barry not only helped us with a plan. He was so supportive and enthused by what we had already accomplished that it motivated and reenergized us at exactly the right time,” Busch says. Skalka advised Nantucket Spider to outsource production to a contract facility early in the course of the business so that Busch and Jack could focus on other aspects of growing the company.
Busch and Jack meet with Skalka every four to six weeks. “By meeting regularly, we have a sense that we are accountable, and work hard to do the things we agreed we would do,” Busch says.
When Nantucket Spider first started working with Skalka in 2013, it had one product made by its founders in a garage. The company served 20 local vendors and had $10,000 in gross revenues. In 2017, the company’s products can be found in more than 600 stores and online, with “nearly half a million dollars in gross revenues,” Busch reports. A contracted local facility manufactures, warehouses and distributes Nantucket Spider’s product lines. “Much of our growth we credit to the guidance and support of the SCORE team,” Busch says.