Top Sales or Marketing Professional - Winner Natalie Porter, Porters Fuchsias

Sales and marketing manager Natalie Porter joined the family business in August 2014 after gaining a first-class honours degree in English language, a subject that in no way prepared her for business, sales or horticulture.

Top Sales or Marketing Professional - Winner Natalie Porter, Porters Fuchsias
Top Sales or Marketing Professional - Winner Natalie Porter, Porters Fuchsias

She faced a company that had recently endured some turbulent times but boasted a well-equipped 2ha nursery, a highly skilled grower and a highly able manager (her father), determined to restore the business to its former pre-eminence.

Natalie identified that the company's values of quality and loyalty made it a better fit for garden centre supply, which offered much bolder margins than the contract and discount retail markets that were then sustaining it, and so set out to develop a format to meet this market. This meant enhancing the products offered by the company, most significantly introducing planted containers, for which she sourced the materials to optimise cost and value for money, buying container loads of tubs from China and utilising another nursery's heather surplus to protect quality and margin.

Supply rose from zero to 60,000 units within the first year, with a value of more than £162,000 of which 22% was profit for the nursery. This extra revenue she spent on professionally printed catalogues that were distributed nationally, helping to establish the business of 20 additional garden centres by mid 2015.

She also led the rebranding of the nursery's retail range as Happy Plants, a key part of building Porters' garden centre portfolio from near scratch to £1.2m-plus annual turnover, with the company's plants now stocked in more than 250 centres.

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