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Published January 11, 2008, 12:00 AM

PRAIRIE COUNTRY: North Dakota woman has a fresh idea to discourage mice

You don't have to create a stink to get rid of rodents. Crane Creek Gardens owner Kari Warberg is proof of that. Warberg is marketing nationwide a product called Fresh Cab that uses natural, sweet-smelling ingredients as a rodent deterrent.

By: Ann Bailey, Special Features Staff Writer

You don't have to create a stink to get rid of rodents.

Crane Creek Gardens owner Kari Warberg is proof of that. Warberg is marketing nationwide a product called Fresh Cab that uses natural, sweet-smelling ingredients as a rodent deterrent.

Warberg, of Stanley, N.D., developed the product after an encounter with a mouse in 1993. She was helping her boyfriend pull-start a truck when a mouse scurried out of the floorboards and up her leg. When she expressed her dis||?Page=001 Column=002 Loose,0005.00?||may her boyfriend told her that mothballs helped keep the mice at bay, but that really the rodents were pretty much a fact of farm life.

Warberg didn't buy that theory. She figured that it probably was the strong scent of the mothballs that discouraged the mice, not the fact that it stunk. She suggested to her boyfriend that they spray the cab with some of the sample bottles of perfume she had gotten while working at a department store perfume counter.

“I sprayed it in there and the mice ran away. Over the years, I pretty much used up all my perfume,” Warberg said. But during those years Warberg also was at work figuring out another way to keep mice out of vehicles and buildings

R and D

For seven years she did “trial and error” research, combining natural ingredients with essential oils.

“The essential oils is what works” to deter the mice, she said. While the odor of Fresh Cab is offensive to mice, it is pleasant to people. In 2000 Warberg sold her first batch of “Fresh Cab” at a Pride of Dakota show.

“Since that time we've been steadily growing,” Warberg said. She and her eight employees produce the packets of Fresh Cab in a former Cenex building in Stanley and it is packaged and prepared for shipping at a vocational rehabilitation center in Minot.

The Stanley office and warehouse is 4,500 square feet, she said, and includes machines that the mechanical engineering department at North Dakota State University helped design to make production easier.

MarketingWhile Fresh Cab originally was designed to keep mice out of farm machinery such as truck, tractor and combine cabs, Warberg now is targeting so-called “hobby farmers,” people who live in the country but don't farm.

“There are estimated to be about 40 million (nationwide) that want the rural lifestyle in some way. Those really are the good target customers of ours.” Fresh Cab customers use the product in boats, campers, garages and basements, Warberg said.

According to independent lab studies Fresh Cab will be effective at least 30 days, but the average customer uses it for three months, Warberg said. Crane Creek Gardens - named after Crane Creek Township between Stanley and New Town, N.D. - strives to use as many natural ingredients as possible in Fresh Cab and discloses all ingredients on the label.

Tractor Supply Co. recently began selling Fresh Cab nationwide. The product is packaged four in a box and sells at a suggested retail price of $14.50 per box, Warberg said.

Besides Fresh Cab, Crane Creek Gardens also produces Prairie Air, a natural air freshener that includes herbs that Warberg grows on a farm near Stanley. She is researching niche markets for Prairie Air.

Business skillsAs she grows the business, Warberg is seeking to balance her entrepreneurial skills with market needs. While it's important to be a visionary, she notes, it's essential as a businesswoman to also be practical and think long-term.

So far that philosophy has proved successful, landing her nationwide distribution of Fresh Cab.

“It's rewarding after all the time and effort put in the beginning years to build the business, to have something that can be sustained over the long haul,” Warberg said.

Warberg will be part of a panel called “Business Success Stories” at 1 p.m. Jan. 16 at the annual Marketplace for Entrepreneurs at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

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