Warwickshire horse treats firm Kelcie’s gallops towards success

Nick Skelton with Laura Kraut ... We are not sure what the horse’s name is…]

A company founded in Warwickshire is revolutionising the market for horse treats in the USA – and is set to mount a drive for sales in Europe.

Alcester-based husband and wife team Kevin and Mary Elizabeth Nairne founded Kelcie’s Horse Treats in 2019 to offer natural treats to high-calibre horses that take part in equestrian events.

Kevin gave up a 30-year corporate career in IT to move into the equestrian industry alongside Mary Elizabeth, who manages her sister and Olympic gold-medallist Laura Kraut.

After seeking advice from Laura and fellow Olympic champion Nick Skelton, they decided to move into the treats market and came up with a product made of 15 natural ingredients.

Finding a company to manufacture the product in the UK or the EU proved difficult, so they turned their attention to the USA and found a partner.

And as soon as they managed to get the treat to market, they found they had an instant hit with horses and owners alike – but they were missing a formal business plan and marketing strategy.

The company was introduced to the University of Warwick Science Park’s Business Ready programme by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub earlier this year and received advice from Business Growth Adviser Gaynor Matthews.

Gaynor introduced the company to experts who offered strategic sales and marketing advice, followed by a digital marketing plan to grow sales and distribution in the USA followed by the EU.

The firm was also given business planning advice by Innovate UK Edge and, having turned over $40,000 in its first year, it reached $100,000 in its latest round of accounts, with plans to double that again over the next 12 months.

Kevin said: “We found the right formula to create a great treat and horse owners who told us their horses were previously fussy eaters, loved the product.

“We had produced something that could disrupt the market but then it was all about getting the right marketing plan in place to make sure we could achieve the sales growth we wanted.

“The Business Ready programme was a big support in that and we’ve also had really helpful advice from other organisations too.”

He added: “It wasn’t originally the plan to crack the US market first but because we found our manufacturing partner there, it was much easier to sell there than to import back into the UK and Europe.

“However, we are now in the process of establishing ourselves in Europe because we know from our website and social media that there is very strong demand!”