Barry came along to an Is it for Me? Session in March 2017 and since joining the project he has registered as a sole trader and has started trading, I met up with him to chat to him about his story so far…
Tell us a bit about your business and where the business idea came from?
I had a nasty accident with my health 2 and a half years ago and it was a bit of a wakeup call, I realised that if I had another similar incident again it may stop me from having the chance to achieve something in my life and put my name to something I care about. I saw it as an opportunity to make the most out of what I have. I was already working on the property that I’m living at now maintaining and developing the garden and I realised that I could get lost in it for hours as I enjoyed it so much it didn’t feel like work. I thought “if I enjoy it that much then I could do it as a career and it won’t seem like work!” From my point of view if I can get paid for something that I enjoy and am good at its winning from all angles.
My business is called BGM Garden Services
Initially I’m cutting grass and looking at grounds maintenance but will soon be investing in the machinery to add landscaping and garden design to my work as I love nothing more than looking at a garden that looks like a jungle and envisioning in my head what it could look and then creating it in front of me. I have a really good eye for design and I love the sense achievement I feel when I can stand back and look at what was a wasteland and suddenly it is something that is usable and viable to people. I also enjoy taking areas that are unusable or inaccessible to the owners and making those areas usable. If I can help people out and give them a more pleasing to the eye garden as well as making the garden more usable it makes me feel good, and to be able to stand back and say “I did that, I made that happen” makes me feel proud.
I know some of my clients will probably be people who are elderly or disabled and I would like to help people who might struggle to do it themselves. The garden for the property I live in was 6 ft high in brambles and the person I live with is partially disabled and couldn’t clear it herself, and couldn’t afford to pay anyone to do it. So I said I would do it, but as I didn’t have the access to the tools I have now I went out with only a pair of scissors and cut them all down. It took me two days and I looked like something out of a Freddie Kruger movie but it was taken to the ground and now the brambles have all been dug out and I am creating a lawn and I will now completely level the garden so it is accessible for her.
I will price jobs up on a bespoke basis and I will ensure that my pricing is fair and affordable.
I know that the state pension isn’t very much and people who receive benefits don’t have a lot of money so I price jobs accordingly. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking lots of money from customers who couldn’t afford it.
How did you come to be involved in the Inspiring Enterprise Project?
I was urged to come to an Is It for Me? workshop in Basingstoke by the Job Centre , I had my business idea but I wanted some support and advice so I thought I would go to the workshop and see what was available, Before that I went to a Basingstoke Job Fair and met Nick (WSX Business Advisor) and I think he was surprised as my idea was so clear in my head already! For me it was less a question of is it for Me? but more a question of helping me to get started! Nick from Inspiring Enterprise has been great at guiding me and offering really helpful advice.
Where are you in your journey?
I have registered as a sole trader last week, have organised my public liability insurance. I have business cards and uniforms. I am just in the process of pricing up my first job!
With insurance I have come to the idea that it is better to be over insured then under insured, you can remove things for your insurance if you find you don’t need them but if you get offered a job and you need extra insurance then by the time you have sorted the extra insurance you might miss out on the job, because the client might go to another trader who is insured to do it.
What are your best bits so far?
Where I am now is the best bit of the journey so far, as it’s the start of the business and I can start to see everything I have put in up until this point, I can start to see the comeback, it means that all the hard work is actually worthwhile. I have put lots of money and hard work into getting this far and it’s great to start to see it pay off. I have something to show for my hard work. I can see that it’s worth it. There are a lot of people who expressed disbelief in whether I could pull it off and I’m really enjoying proving them wrong!
If the disbelievers had put as much energy as they have into telling me I couldn’t do it into setting up something on their own they could be in my position now!
If you have struggled to find work and someone puts the idea on the table of starting your own business it can quite a daunting idea because you think you need to be top of the class, and as far as it goes you do need a certain amount of competence to keep a check on things but really as long as you are prepared to put the work into it and prepared to keep your nose to the grindstone and keep going you can do it, You don’t need to be Alan Sugar to start your own business. Anyone can do it!
You have to be realistic as to your expectations, you can’t expect a business to be fully established and to be making hundreds of thousands of pounds a year right from the outset, it’s not going to be a five minute thing, it’s going to take time and effort, you can’t expect to be sitting back enjoying the benefits after a month or two, I don’t expect to see any profit for the first 6 months to a year. You will earn money and your efforts will pay off but it is a long haul thing and it doesn’t happen overnight.
What have been the most challenging bits?
Gaining people’s belief in me has been really challenging but if you have enough self-belief and honestly believe that it is a viable business and that it can work at the same time as being realistic then you can achieve it.
I don’t want to look back on my life and think “Oh yeah that was an idea and I should’ve done that”
If you have an idea then run with it, it may not work out, but you don’t know if you don’t try.
People are prepared to help you but only if you are prepared to help yourself.
What are your next steps?
I am starting to look at marketing now. I haven’t got a website yet. I think that my business will mainly grow from word of mouth and I do have a Facebook page as a lot of people use facebook for recommendations and reviews. I have been asking people to recommend my page to anyone asking for someone doing my sort of work.
My work is a lot about trust as people want someone that they can trust on their property so if I do a good and trustworthy job then people will tell their friends.
Final word from Barry…
Ultimately when things take off and I have a self-maintained, established business, I would like to take on employees. I would like to take on people who have struggled to find work and teach them a trade and have someone believe in them. I would like to be the one person that gives them a chance!