On the up · 11 September 2017

Fastgardener founder saw crowdfunding as best route to grow “Uber for gardening” app

Fastgardener hopes to be present in every major UK city in early 2018
Fastgardener hopes to be present in every major UK city in early 2018

With an app that connects vetted gardeners with local clients, matching them on location and price, fastgardener is the new online platform that’s the self-proclaimed Uber for gardening.

UK gardeners receive ratings through the app, helping them to build their online profile and increase success with future clients.

Based in London, the startup has grown its local client base quickly since launching just 18 months ago, and the ambitious small team of just five employees is looking to expand nationally in 2018, with the aim of creating a network of gardeners and clients all over the UK.

Business Advice sat down with fastgardener co-founder and CEO Khaled McGonnell, who told us about successful crowdfunding campaigns and what he likes most about the sharing economy.

(1)    Who are you and what’s your business?

I’m Khaled McGonnell, the CEO and one of the founders at fastgardener, together with Lyndsey McGonnell, Neil Bundy and Mike Wong. We found the old ways of booking gardeners frustrating so we created fastgardener to make it better.

Today’s consumers want digital, cashless, easy solutions. With fastgardener’s website and app, we’ve made it possible to book a professional gardener in seconds.

2)     How do you make money?

We make commission from services booked via our platform.

3)    What makes you different and why should people take notice?

There’s no quicker or easier way to book a gardener than with us. To ensure users have complete peace of mind, we only take payment 24 hours after the work has been complete so that customers have a chance to inspect the work and confirm they’re satisfied with our service.

We’re also growing very fast, so by Spring 2018 we’ll have gardeners covering every major city in the UK, and we’ll be the only company with this reach. We also have a couple of exciting technology projects underway that will make garden maintenance and garden design easier and more accessible to everyone than ever before.

Fastgardener CEO Khaled McGonnell
Fastgardener CEO Khaled McGonnell

(4) What was key in terms of getting started? 

If, like us, you’re a working parent in a dual-income household, you’re always short of time but you want to keep your house and garden in order. When we struggled to get a reliable gardener ourselves, we saw a problem, identified a gap in the market and landed a solution quickly.

Fastgardener was making money within days of going live. We quickly validated our assumption that our solution had a demand and we’ve continued applying a validated learning approach ever since.

5)    How did you go about raising finance for the business? 

Like many startups, we boot-strapped the funding initially but, now that that we’re ready to scale up, we’ve been crowdfunding on Seedrs, where we’ve managed to smash our funding target. We’re currently 130 per cent overfunded and are hoping to reach 150 per cent so that we can deliver our next stretch goal.

6)    What’s been the key to your social media success? Which platforms do you use? 

Facebook and Twitter are currently our main channels although LinkedIn has been fantastic for crowdfunding and we also use Pinterest, Instagram and Google+.

We use our platforms to show case our work and we aim to create interesting content that our followers engage with. Gardening is a topic many people are passionate about and want to discuss, so it’s great to be a part of the conversation.

7)    What setbacks have you had along the way?

Let’s face it, weather-wise this summer hasn’t been great! Rainy days mean rearranging bookings. I think the whole country would join me in hoping for a drier, warmer summer in 2018.

8)    What’s so good about the sharing economy?

When it’s done right, the sharing economy allows people to get more work at times that are convenient for them. We make it easy to get more cash in our gardeners’ bank accounts.

Platforms like ours also make it easier than ever for people who want to work for themselves to get set up. We’ve done the marketing and pricing, so its effortless for our gardeners to get more gardening jobs. They know upfront what they’ll be paid and they don’t waste time on marketing or providing quotes. Our gardeners love this.

9)    What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Read the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, and understand and apply its methods to your business. This will save you time, money and frustration.

 10)  Which influential figure would you most like to partner with in business and why?

Mark Zuckerberg really believes in the potential of technology to make the world a better place. He’s pioneering some game-changing applications of virtual and augmented reality which I believe will catalyse significant disruption in a number of markets. I’m betting on gardening being one of those. Watch this space for fastgardener’s foray into this realm.

The founder of Blok Knives got business inspiration from YouTube videos

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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