While many businesses were plunged into uncertainty at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, garden maintenance specialist, Aaron Breen from Gleno, used the opportunity to nourish his growing company with the help of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Business Client Manager, Laura McCourt.
Now, less than a year later, The Country Gardener is celebrating winning three new contracts with large commercial clients and has seen sales of its bespoke garden fertiliser for lawn care sprout by a phenomenal 300%!
Aaron, who set up the business in 2016 after recognising a gap in the market for garden maintenance, explains how the council’s Business Escalator Plus Programme – which is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme – helped him.
“Having realised that I wanted to expand my business I recognised that I needed support to help me take the next step.
“I initially met the council’s Business Client Manager, Laura McCourt, in 2020, during the height of the pandemic, to discuss my growth aspirations. Through engagement with Laura, I was able to avail of a package of specialist mentoring support in the areas of sales, marketing, website enhancement and HR.
“The ability to access these supports and the assistance of Laura, particularly during the Covid-19 crisis, was very beneficial in helping me grow my business during this challenging time.”
As a result of increased demand and recent investment secured through DAERA’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) Programme, Aaron’s business has been able to employ a new member of staff.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Business Client Managers are able to provide wrap-around support by creating connections with other stakeholders to secure additional support to fuel further growth.
Connections were made with the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), who were able to help Aaron secure an additional two apprenticeship opportunities for young people.
Future growth plans for the business include the continual expansion of its customer base and the development of an ecommerce sales strategy for retailing gardening products direct to customers online.