Willsow: The Plantable Children’s Books Sprouts Up In Dragons’ Den


Our incredible client Willsow recently took on BBC 1’s Dragons’ Den. We love seeing our partners smash it out the park in all areas of their business (not just their retail experiences!) and there is never a *dill* moment with these guys!

Willsow books are an innovation in sustainability, gardening and children’s books. The front and back cover is made of plantable seed paper, a handmade paper filled with real vegetable seeds. There are several different books available with main characters such as The Carrot Who Was Too Big For His Bed or The Lettuce Who Wanted A New Look, and the seeds in each book will grow these plants their story is based on. Simply plant the book cover in your garden or a pot and the vegetables will grow from there!

‘Willsow books are the first of their kind. Never have you been able to read a book, plant a page and grow real vegetables, meaning you can meet the main character!’

An exciting concept, the books are also a breath of fresh air in their commitment to taking care of the environment. Each product is made from 100% recycled paper and stitched together with 100% natural cotton. Inks are vegetable-based, eco-UV based and fully biodegradable.

So we were thrilled when Willsow approached us a few years ago, asking for our help with their retail displays. It was a bonus that we are both based in Leicester so it was great to work with a fellow local company.

And when they recently shared their news that they were to appear on Dragon’s Den and needed some help with their product presentation in their pitch, we couldn’t have been more excited for them!

Looking Blooming Great In Garden Centres

After working with Willsow to truly understand their brand and consumer, we kicked off our partnership by getting to work on designing a quality card unit to promote Willsow within garden centres.

The display has a leafy, carrot-like aesthetic with strong use of brand colour: their brand orange is both fun and carrot-coloured like their main hero which helps to introduce the premise of the product to garden centre shoppers from afar. The orange is the main theme of the display and textured like the seed paper of the product to give it a more authentic and garden-like feel, while the shelving is styled like natural wooden panels, reminiscent of a garden planter.

Like the brand, the design is playful in its use of shaping, messaging and dimensional elements. On the header panel the logo is layered to give it standout, while the remaining space works to tell the unique Willsow story. Key product messages are presented while still maintaining the fun and simple character of the brand by giving the charming vegetables central placement.

An educational diagram follows this, visually showing how the product works, so the shopper can know all about the product without even picking it up. On closer inspection you can view the story panel on the top shelf which goes into more detail on the sustainable story of the books.

Thyme To Go Permanent In Selfridges

In their next exciting step, Willsow were to launch in Selfridges as part of the retailer’s Project Earth campaign. This time the brand needed a permanent display to create a premium and standout brand space that would catch shoppers’ attention in the iconic department store.

The brand were allocated space in the toys department as well as a counter unit in the book department of Selfridges, so the look and feel needed to suit both areas. We also had to be conscious to continue the brand’s retail presence established in the garden centres, so shoppers who may have seen the brand before would instantly recognise them. Finally, it was integral for the materials chosen to be in harmony with the Willsow sustainability ethos, while also adhering to Selfridges guidelines.

To suit its environment the design is simple and clean with pared-back messaging on the header boards, using the educational panels to tell the sustainable story for the department store shopper who will spend more time browsing.

Originally, we imagined using beautiful bamboo for the display as a sustainable option, however the material did not adhere to fire-safety guidelines with the retailer. Instead, we were able to use an eco-friendly Foamex alternative as the main component of the display, coated with a bamboo-effect laminate. While not the real thing, the laminate is a stunning alternate option that offers a beautifully natural and premium look, and is also fantastically 100% recyclable.

What’s Next For Willsow?

The Willsow books are an innovation that belongs to a family company that has been trading for nearly 80 years. Their top carrot Tom is the fourth generation to manage the printing company, sticking to their roots in Leicester.

Tom took an original idea and worked to make his dreams of creating the Willsow book a reality and with the team’s continued hard work they have so many exciting projects set in the pipeline!

With their winning formula of exceptional creativity and authentic sustainability, we know you’ll be seeing lots more amazing things to come from Willsow and we are super excited to help them grow through retail and any other brand spaces they choose to sprout up in. We’re also excited to keep using vegetable puns for the foreseeable future!

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