On the up · 11 September 2018

How a garden centre employee brought ecommerce to the gardening world

Internet Gardener founder Andy Baxter

Ten years ago, garden centre employee Andy Baxter took a risk and brought the gardening industry online.

Internet Gardener is a family-run gardening ecommerce store which has been running for over a decade. The company, founded by Andy Baxter, has risen from grassroots beginnings to becoming a much-loved and trusted supplier of garden furniture.

After a rapid climb through the industry, Baxter has a number of impressive achievements to his name, including an award at the Online Retail Awards 2016.

Business Advice caught up with Baxter to find why he’s always managed to maintain family-focused roots throughout his business.

Where did the concept come from?

I was working in a garden centre back in 2006, and I noticed there was a huge gap in online shopping for gardening products.

At this point, the industry was just not catered for online and the only way to purchase gardening products was through visiting a gardening centre.

This seemed madness to me, as increasingly at this point shopping was turning towards ecommerce, and I didn’t see why the gardening industry should be an exception.

How did you fund your business?

Internet Gardener was self-funded at first. More recently, we have used platforms such as Funding Circle, as we find them to be both more efficient and convenient than bank lending.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when launching?

The biggest thing was convincing big companies to dropship for us, which at the time was unheard of in the UK for garden products. In fact, back at the beginning we were pioneers in this, despite it now being the norm.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

We have just completed our biggest year of sales to date, which is a huge achievement for us.

This is reflective of a lot of wider achievements as well though, such as witnessing the team grow, both personally within their roles, and alongside the growth of the business.

We’ve evolved from a purely family business, to a varied and strong team of experts who are absolutely vital to our growth, which I would consider both our biggest and continuous achievement.

What marketing strategies have you used?

We work on a variety of marketing strategies, but focus mainly on our digital side seeing as online is core to our business model. This incorporates a mix of paid advertising online, plus SEO tactics and digital PR.

Baxter and his Internet Gardener team

In five years’ time, I’ll be…

In five years time I’ll still be working on growing and developing the team here at Internet Gardener as I love my job, and am committed to the long term growth. Hopefully, however, I’ll be able to take a few more days off work every now and then!

Who are your business heroes and why?

It might sound a bit standard, but Richard Branson is a business hero of mine. I like that he says: ‘”You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over.”

This advice really rings true for me because as a business owner, you have to try, try and try again to find the thing that works. Many mistakes are made along the way but you must stick at it.

Additionally Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlante, founders of MVMT, have really inspired me over the years. They built a watch company from nothing in 2013 to $60m turnover in less than four years.

In particular the way in which they disrupted the market really inspires me on a daily basis, and I’d love to emulate that as much as I can.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

There’s time to think big, there’s time to be cautious, but keep your goals close to you, and never forget why you started and where you’re going. Be passionate. Your passion will ultimately be what keeps driving you.

What’s your favourite way to spend downtime?

Strangely enough, I love to spend time in my garden. At first in 2006, I saw the garden as just a revenue stream, but now I really appreciate the garden as a space to clear your mind.

Last series you binge watched?

Stranger Things.

What three things can’t you live without?

Lasagne, coffee, friendships

What app do you use the most?

Facebook.

What song is always on your playlist?

Green Day – Good Riddance. I’ve probably had too many good times listening to that song.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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