A “micro-garden centre” born from a mid-life crisis, turned down for a bank loan but now thriving and employing 12 staff has been named one of the UK’s 12 most exceptional firms with particular praise for its growth.
The Garden Shop was “the outcome of my mid-life crisis, a much needed change of direction,” according to founder Sue Brown. Profitable every year since staring up, the Colyton-based garden shop and café is, she says, “living proof that a micro-enterprise can succeed if you build in the right differentiators to make it stand away from bigger competition.”
Visitors come from the local community, enjoying The Garden Shop’s warm family atmosphere, and from Colyton’s sizeable tourist trade with many customers seeking The Garden Shop out after coming in on the tramway from Seaton.
Core regulars include a number of vulnerable people and The Garden Shop is particularly dementia-aware and disability-friendly.
The Garden Shop has now been named one of just 3 finalists across the UK for the “Growth” award in the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards, funded by the Citi Foundation.
The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards are the annual celebration of Britain’s microentrepreneurs that have accessed “responsible” business finance, and the three “Growth” award finalists are in the running for a £7,500 cash prize and national and international recognition in this year’s awards.
Sue Brown of The Garden Shop said: "To be nominated by Fredericks Foundation was thrilling enough, but to be shortlisted for the final is like winning the Lottery! I am still pinching myself, as it feels like a dream! We have come a very long way in five years, but continue to strive for growth by providing great service, a unique experience for our customers and more permanent employment opportunities in a rural/tourist area. The continuing support of ‘Freddies’ is key to our future. We are very excited to be attending the Award Ceremony in March and to meet the other finalists … we are all winners!"
The Garden Shop’s success story has been supported thanks to a start-up and expansion loan from responsible finance provider, Fredericks Foundation.
Sue added: “None of what has been achieved would have been possible without our partners at the Fredericks Foundation. There would be no business, no expansion plans and no expanding employment.”
Duncan Parker of Fredericks Foundation commented: “We are thrilled for Sue. As well as being nominated for this award she was recently featured in the BBC1 series ‘A matter of life or debt’ and her story was told which covered the emotional rollercoaster being a business owner entails. Sue and her family work so hard making this business a success and have their eyes firmly on growing the business which includes a great café alongside the core garden centre business. Businesses like Sue’s really are the lifeblood of so many communities and Fredericks is proud to have been a small part of her story.”
"The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards are a celebration of the enterprises and local businesses – like The Garden Shop – that are the backbone of our communities. Year upon year, we see the increasing value of microenterprises in the UK, from businesses that have created jobs for marginalised youth, to businesses providing low-cost services for charities, or developing innovative and sustainable food sources," said Bob Annibale, Global Director, Citi Inclusive Finance and Community Development.
“The year's Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals agenda and the shortlisted businesses and responsible finance providers all contribute to economic growth and the social and environmental vibrancy of their communities."
The Garden Shop and Fredericks Foundation must now wait until 13 March 2019 when the winners of the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards will be announced at an Awards Ceremony in Liverpool.