How I got started - Steve Jebbet, owner, Town Garden, Oxford

How did you break into the industry?

Quite spontaneously. Although I have loved gardening since a young boy, and have designed and maintained my own gardens, I had no concrete plans to go into the industry. But I did want to own a business that would be different from a normal garden centre. On the day I left British Airways four years ago, a friend told me about a property for sale, and four years on here I am in North Parade in Oxford with a fantastic proposition for the local market and wider audience via the website.

Who or what was your inspiration?

I wouldn't say there was one thing or one person, but I was and still am, an avid watcher of Gardeners' World and reader of anything to do with gardening. As BA events manager I had helped to organise a speaking engagement for Sir Clive Woodward to address the BA senior management team and found his words very inspirational.

What's the best thing about your role?

Freedom. Freedom to explore new ways of doing things. Freedom to try new ideas. I love to try new things - we try everything to make the shop look better, to please our customers and to source better products. If an idea don't work, then we try something else. And now I am able to spent so much more time with my daughter. Advice to people wanting to enter the industry? Research, research and research. I can't believe how naive I was when I started. It's not an easy ride.

What are your plans for the business?

Town Garden is now firmly established in Oxford as an outlet offering products and services to the more discerning customer. My theory is that as the larger garden centres move to out-of-town locations, they leave a vacuum for the 'town gardener' and I would love to be part of the move to bring the traditional small independent garden shops back. People need to be to re-educated - they don't have to get in their cars and drive 10 miles for a bag of compost. And my big dream? I would love to have a sister shop in Cornwall - that's where my family comes from.

What has been your most difficult job?

Let's just say - if there are any of my suppliers reading this - thanks for being so understanding. The cheque is in the post.


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