In her work as a designer and building project consultant, Nicci Leung’s thoughts kept returning to two things. How can we do this better if we want our planet to survive? And how ‘small’ can we live, minimising our environmental impact without compromising our lifestyle? The answer, she discovered, is very.
A love of innovation and focus on how we use space, alternative construction methods and new technologies led Nicci Leung down a research and development path that resulted in the establishment of her business.
'Lifepod began as a passion project, a reaction against the wasteful practices of house building. I love my work but was becoming increasingly horrified at the wasteful way we consume space, resources, time and money when building our homes. There had to be a better way.'
Nicci’s solution was a prefabricated, affordable, sustainable, transportable tiny off-grid house that doesn’t compromise on comfort or lifestyle. A Lifepod.
'I started with the waste hierarchy mantra – reduce, reuse, recycle – applying this to the way we use space. I was also conscious that how we feel about the spaces we live in plays a huge role in our acceptance and enjoyment of them. Whatever the environmental and sustainability credentials, Lifepod had to be a desirable living space if it was to gain traction.'
With a design developed and market research indicating Lifepod was a unique solution to a range of environmental and housing problems, Nicci’s challenge was how to market the concept to vastly different audience groups.
'I felt like a fish out of water when it came to marketing Lifepod. What had started as a tiny house concept had so many applications, from sustainable living, affordable housing, transitional house for homeless people and providing relief housing after natural disasters. And, of course, we needed to approach investors. Where should I start?'
With many markets to tackle, Nicci decided to take a novel approach to bring the concept to life.
'We developed a virtual reality (VR) simulation – from a Lifepod arriving on site, to setting it up and moving in, you can walk through the whole process, interacting with the house at every stage. It certainly fits with our theme of innovation and changing mindsets, without the wastefulness of having to build a display.'
With the VR simulation up and running and interest from individuals, government, housing providers and developers, Nicci attended Business Victoria’s Marketing Your Business workshop to determine how she could best capitalise on the interest her concept had created.
'I had so many questions. How do I connect with my different audience groups? How do I move forward? The workshop really opened my eyes to what other people were doing, and I met so many people with a diverse range of expertise. It was just what I needed.'
During the workshop Nicci found the real-world experience of the workshop leader coupled with the planned approach suggested in the course workbook really worked for her.
'The workshop leader and wider group were great, helping me to focus on the marketing essentials and how I could connect with my different audiences. It became clear that I needed separate marketing strategies for housing solution providers, the "tiny house" market and potential investors. There was also a great recommendation that I set up a website landing page or portal with two different sites behind it, which I’m going to run with.'
The business today
With a marketing plan now in place Nicci has refined the way she communicates with her diverse range of stakeholders.
'We’ve created on online community that we engage with through the Lifepod website. We’ve also segmented that community, so rather than one general message, we are tailoring communication according to need or interest. It’s a similar model to Tesla - active online communities that contribute to product development.'
'The workshop really helped. You can’t innovate in a vacuum. The changes to the way we market Lifepod has enabled me to connect with so many people who have contributed to moving the concept forward, and we’ve now entered the equity and investment phase, with a targeted approach of course.'