A file photo of Laura Campbell and Emily Bland working on Project SucSeed.

A file photo of Laura Campbell and Emily Bland working on Project SucSeed.

As it sets out to raise $700,000 in debt capital, St. John’s-based SucSeed is looking to build on its proven strategy of selling its vegetable-growing kits to schools and school boards.

The company makes hydroponic grow kits that help people grow nutritious vegetables indoors. It has booked about $500,000 in sales since the end of 2016 and those sales are growing – mainly because the venture has been closing sales to school boards.

Its 1,200 kits now in use include those purchased by school boards in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Saskatchewan. CEO Emily Bland said the great thing about these sales is they lead to follow-on sales by the families of students who use them at school.

“Once we sell one into a classroom, we start getting kids going home and saying they’re excited about kale and spinach,” said Bland in an interview Wednesday. “So. then the parents want to order one for their own home.”

You read that right: Kids. Excited. About. Kale.

Bland laughed at how incongruous it sounded.  On International Women’s Day, it’s a great time to showcase Bland, who says her five-member team has benefited from the support available to women entrepreneurs in St. John’s.

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Bland formerly headed Memorial University’s chapter of Enactus, the international group that encourages social entrepreneurship among students. During this time, she launched the SucSeed Project, which developed kits to produce vegetables indoors to encourage healthy eating. When she graduated, so did SucSeed. It became a company and has been growing since.

One benchmark in the company’s progress was being one of seven winners last year in the SheEO funding competition for women entrepreneurs. It selected seven winners from across Canada and had them divide a $700,000 prize pot. The winners had to decide themselves how the money was divided.

“Our cohort just came together and we described what each of us needed,” said Bland, who is not allowed to reveal the final breakdown. “We all understood each other’s needs and agreed to it that way. It was an amazing experience.”

Then last autumn, the Western Health Authority led a project in which 21 groups in Western Newfoundland – from day care centres to police stations -- purchased SucSeed systems, with the health authority footing the $500 bill for each kit. It was a big boost for a young company.

Now Bland hopes to build on the success of that program and needs capital to do it. She hopes to raise $700,000 in debt financing, and began courting prospective backers this week.

As well as SheEO, Bland said she has received great support from Genesis , where the company is a resident, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs.

With sales growing, SucSeed now has three main goals for 2019. In the spring, Bland and her team hope to produce a new system, which will feature an enhanced growing container. Second, she wants to expand SucSeed’s relationships with school boards so SucSeed is adopted by at least one school board in each province. And finally. she hopes to do more to develop the SucSeed brand.