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Starting a landscaping business

landscape gardening

Unpredictable weather and rain that's "good for the garden" - gardening in the UK continues to blossom, but people have little time for the upkeep.

Accomplished landscaping project manager Steven Davis says: "Here's a chance for home based entrepreneurs to enjoy an outdoor career and a healthy lifestyle."

Gardening contractor Michael Richins started his business, Montague Gardens, six years ago. "I got into landscaping when I bought my house - the garden was a real mess," he says. "I became interested in the gardening world and did two years training with a maintenance company."

Before long, Richins developed self-taught tools of the trade and tried his hand at starting his own garden maintenance business.

Similarly, the owner of London Landscapes and London Garden Rooms, Steven Davis, began a gardening venture, albeit under different circumstances. Having trained in horticulture, brick-laying and garden design, Davis' 20 years of experience, along with the help of a dedicated team, saw him grow a successful business.

Advice

Well placed to offer advice on the subject, Davis implores would-be gardening entrepreneurs to "work under a good landscaper, do an apprenticeship, go to college, get the most qualifications and experience you can. Once you've been in the industry for five to 10 years, you can naturally progress to starting your own business."

While I'm working on a job people passing will come over and book me to do their gardens - it's amazing

Michael Richins, gardening contractor

Richins also believes entrepreneurs should build up their company on a personal level. "To start with you need to work your business and get a feel for the manual labour. People are paying for you as a person, your talent and skills - particularly private clients. Customers like a personal service."

This 'personal service' is how Richins has built a successful clientele: "While I'm working on a job people passing will come over and book me to do their gardens - it's amazing. A key point marketing your business is recommendation." But conversely, Davis warns: "You must also maintain a gradual natural progression in your business, as a good reputation takes years to circulate, but a bad reputation spreads like wildfire."

There's no need for an office necessarily - a back bedroom will suffice, and the chance to enjoy the outdoors is one of the many advantages of a work-from-home business.

Richins details his plans: "I want to make an allotment, use plant cuttings and grow my own supplies. Garden centres are costly and if you put extra effort in you could make more money, and save your clients' costs."

When starting a garden maintenance business budding entrepreneurs should have a keen interest in horticulture to maximise success. Only if you are green-fingered should you consider your potential earnings.

Exactly how much can you earn in this industry? The sky's the limit.

The more work you put in the greater the earning potential. The average income for a well-run garden maintenance business is up to £40k a year. Lawn care and landscaping business owners generally earn up to £30k in their first year and can earn over £150k once they grow the business.

Steven Davis, who manages a London-based business, pinpoints location as a key asset: "We specialise in contemporary garden design and we're pitching top end, so we realistically need to be on the fringes of London.

"People laugh and say we do gardens of the rich and beautiful. I think it was actually me that said that. [laughs]"

Davis talks about the difficulties he comes across: "Speaking boldly, if you have a good member of staff you should do everything in your power to keep them and make them happy.

"I can't emphasise enough the false economy in not paying employees sufficient money to do a good job. It costs you so much more in the long run.

"Working the general public is also quite hard, because they're inexperienced in how the work is done, their expectations are beyond what's feasible."

Whatever problems there are, however, Davis insists that "the benefits outweigh the difficulties. The chance to work in different places, meet new people and create a unique project - these are all great aspects."

Michael Richins is just as effusive about the transformation of his garden maintenance business into a landscaping company, and with "two possible investors" circling there are prospects for yet further growth.

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