Fed up with the laborious task of weeding, Nick Skaliotis invented the Kikka Digga – an easy-to-use gardening tool that makes light work of digging. Here he talks about his lightbulb moment, memorable marketing opportunities and why Spark was just the boost he needed.
As a boy, Nick Skaliotis had to earn his pocket money. Armed with a spade, he’d be put to work every weekend weeding the vegetable patch. “It was back-breaking,” he recalls. “At the time I thought there had to be an easier way to do it.”
As it turns out, he was right: flash forward a few years and Nick’s Kikka Digga, a labour- and back-saving digging attachment that can be retrofitted to any garden fork or spade, is taking the green-fingered community by storm.
Its success was helped in no small part by Nick reaching the finals of 2017 Design Council Spark, a 16-week product innovation support programme comprising five design-led workshops, one-to-one specialist input and an investment fund to develop the product and fast-track it to market.
Design Council Spark 2019 has recently launched its Home Innovation Challenge, looking for product ideas that will make life at home better for all. It’s something that Nick, whose Kikka Digga is designed to facilitate gardening activities, knows a thing or two about.
“Spark put the wind in my sails, for sure. The mentors pushed me if I was slacking, and they’d challenge my views, which was good”Nick Skaliotis, Inventor, Kikka Digga
Break new ground
Nick was determined to make earning pocket money less laborious, but it wasn’t until a lesson on Archimedes’ Law of the Lever that he had his eureka moment. “I realised that attaching a footplate to a spade would create a natural fulcrum point, giving new-found leverage,” he says. “It would allow you to dig from a standing position, significantly reducing strain on your back.”
After leaving school, he gave the idea some serious weight. A few prototypes later (including one made of bicycle parts and scaffolding), Nick was satisfied with his Kikka Digga: a two-part laser-cut design, consisting of a clamp that attaches to the shaft of a garden fork or spade and a pivoted footplate that would hook on to said clamp.
Keen to get involved with an accelerator programme to grow and market his idea, Nick came across Design Council Spark, which in 2017 had partnered with Versus Arthritis (then Arthritis Research UK). “Quite a few gardeners and allotment holders are in the demographic that suffer from arthritis,” he explains. “So, I applied and got on to the programme.”
During the 16 weeks, finalists are introduced to the Double Diamond design process. Divided into four distinct phases: Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver, this method maps out how the design process develops from broad possibilities to situations where they are deliberately narrowed down.
“The Spark mentors shared their feedback and one of the main concerns with the Kikka Digga was its weight,” Nick explains. So, he explored different options, eventually settling on a design made from high-tensile stainless-steel and weighing in at just under 1kg.
It was the right decision. Following a pitch day organised by Design Council Spark and Versus Arthritis, potential customers were impressed. “‘Where can I buy one?’ was the main question that day,” he recalls. “They liked that it could take the strain out of digging and make them feel more capable.”
As for marketing advice, Design Council Spark was happy to oblige and Nick was given access to an extensive network of contacts. “I was introduced to Amazon Launchpad, which helps startups get their product on the website,” he says. “Now I’m receiving five-star reviews across Europe.”
Other opportunities included meeting the head of Crowdfunder, a gardener at River Cottage and running a series of pop-ups in garden centres. Kikka Digga has also featured on Channel 4 and Nick is currently in talks with a shopping channel.
“Spark definitely opened a few doors,” he says. “What footprint would I have left on the internet if I had just sold through my website?”
“We are not living in a digital dimension. We still need physical products. So, if you have a product idea that can help someone out in life, surely that’s a good thing?”Nick Skaliotis, Inventor, Kikka Digga
Spark of genius
Although Kikka Digga is now Nick’s full-time job, he still finds time to garden. “I always use my product,” he says. “It really helps me and I don’t have back problems. So imagine how it could help someone who does.”
It would seem that the future for Nick is looking rosy, and it’s Design Council Spark he credits. “Spark put the wind in my sails, for sure,” he says. “The mentors pushed me if I was slacking, and they’d challenge my views, which was good.”
“Believe in yourself and go for it,” he says, when asked if he has any advice for potential Design Council Spark 2019 candidates. “We are not living in a digital dimension. We still need physical products. So if you have a product idea that can help someone out in life, surely that’s a good thing?”
Got a bright idea for helping people at home? Apply now for the Spark Home Innovation Challenge.
The KikkaDigga is £29.99 and is available to buy from kikkadigga.com
Find out more and apply to Design Council Spark: The Home Innovation Challenge.Apply