Just one of the many good things about industry awards is, explains Rick McKeever: "They prove you’re making a difference for all the right reasons and achieving recognition for your hard word. They also show you are moving in the right direction."
Like all the winners of the Horticulture Week Business Awards 2018, that direction is up. Not only is McKeever doing all the right things with his fledgling company, USP Creations, but his specialism is no doubt climbing up a wall near you right now.
Wonderwall, USP Creations’ living — or green — wall, includes high-tech vertical pots that enable users to create horticultural displays for any type of indoor and outdoor use. The planters are weatherproof, boast a self-watering system and are adorning walls at schools, hotels, restaurants and garden centres, giving all a fantastically eye-catching display that involves little maintenance.
His company may be only 18 months old but McKeever, former Lovania Nurseries head of business development and marketing, has ensured that it has made its mark. He launched USP Creations in summer 2016 to bring what he calls "a new concept in vertical horticulture and change the way we look at gardening".
It worked, and continues to do so. In that time his company based in Manchester has supplied centres at Dobbies, Klondyke, Blue Diamond and Notcutts as well as 45 independents — and, like all of this year’s winners in the Horticulture Week Business Awards, McKeever, USP Creations and Wonderwall have enjoyed peer approval of the highest order. They have scooped multiple best-in-show and best-product awards from the HTA, the Four Oaks Trade Show and GroSouth.
"The support I’ve had from the industry has been overwhelming in terms of praise and positive feedback," he says. "Business nowadays is not just about profits and turnover, it’s about social responsibility and giving something back. So supporting industry awards is a good way of recognising the innovation, ideas and people who make it tick.
"The Horticulture Week Business Awards recognise and applaud our sector’s increasing desire to do good work. But they also have a crucial business element. I’ve been in this sector over a quarter-of-a-century and could not have progressed through my various career stages without good people beside me. Business awards flag up all those high achievers that we need to progress our industry.
"The best horticulture businesses, be they solo-practitioner led or multinational, need to work with or recruit people with bigger and better skills, with enthusiasm and passion. I love this industry not just because of the plants and all things horticulture, but because of the people who are defining its evolution."