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Gardening start-up seeks to bloom with crowdfunding

June 26, 2017

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This article has been provided by fastgardener the new garden maintenance service.

A new British start-up connecting businesses and homeowners in the UK with professional gardeners is turning to crowdfunding to get the necessary capital to grow. Rather than go the traditional route and seek private investors with deep pockets, the entrepreneurs behind the budding garden maintenance service believe small amounts from a large number of people is the best option for them.

The company, fastgardener, operates much in the way that leading tech disruptors like Airbnb, Uber and others do. It is providing a platform accessible by app and website, through which both sides of the gardening equation are connected.

The belief is that there are enough people who either don’t know what they’re doing in the garden and want help, or gardeners with no time but plenty of cash, that the business will prove a success and really take off.

The idea for the new garden maintenance service came to one of the founders, Khaled McConnell, when he had no time to look after his own garden. With a new family and a daily commute into London, there was no spare time to do garden maintenance at the weekend. Even if he had the time, he wasn’t inclined to spend it mowing and weeding when he could be with his young child and wife, who also worked.

Cutting out the hassle

The experience of finding a gardener to look after his little patch of green was a frustrating one, McGonnell said in an interview. Even when he found someone who was suitable and qualified, there was the whole process of getting a quote and haggling over it — all far too cumbersome and time-consuming. It would be much better, he thought, to tap on a phone or tablet and a professional gardener would then magically appear and do the work for a set, affordable fee.

And so the idea was born and refined along the way. Now, Khaled is working with partners Neil Bundy and Mike Wong, as well as Khaled’s wife, Lyndsey. Visitors to the garden maintenance service’s site or those using the app are met with the promise of booking a gardener “in seconds”. Entering a postcode brings up the available gardeners in people’s particular areas of the UK and all gardeners are professional and vetted (there’s no fear of a 16-year-old schoolboy turning up to mow the lawn on a Saturday afternoon).

An affordable hourly rate of between £15 to £27 covers all the gardening essentials that people require. These include lawn mowing, leaf and debris clearance, hedge and shrub trimming, planting, pruning and weeding. Those with horticultural needs can also get that gardening assistance, as long as there’s someone suitably qualified in their area.

On a garden path to growth

But what if customers — whether businesses with garden areas or homeowners — are not happy with the work done on their garden? They don’t pay. Fastgardener offers a “no-fee guarantee” that gives them 24 hours to appraise their gardener’s work. Only if they’re satisfied is payment taken, via a secure online system.

While you may wonder if there’s much money to be made from a garden maintenance service, bear this in mind: collectively, garden services in the UK are worth around £1 billion a year. The country is home to some 68,000 professional gardeners and there are around two billion square metres of private gardens in Britain, according to figures fastgardener dug up for its investor presentation.

The crowdfunding drive kicks off on June 26 on Seedrs, which is especially geared towards raising money for start-ups. McGonnell, his colleagues and his spouse are initially looking at raising just $80,000. If successful, they will use the money for an “aggressive marketing plan” to bring the business up to around £1 million in annual turnover, he says.

If it’s true that people increasingly want to enjoy their gardens, but not spend long and sweaty hours toiling in them, fastgardener may be set for real and sustained growth.