Press Coverage in The Guardian Newspaper
Case Study written by Lucy Siegal
"When I first started I thought I would be well off and it would be easy," said Gareth Mitchell of starting up his own business selling trees as gifts on the internet in 2002. However, it took Mitchell a long time to get the business on its feet and it was three years before his tree gift company, 'Tree2mydoor' made a profit.
The idea first came to him when he tried to send his parents who live in Northern Ireland a fruit tree for Christmas as he thought it would be a "meaningful and long-lasting" gift. But he failed to find a company that sold and delivered trees as gifts in the UK, which gave him the idea to set one up himself.
He soon quit his job in marketing and started selling a selection of trees. "I got my friend to make a website for me. I had the idea that we would start selling Christmas trees. The revenue generated from Christmas tree sales would go into growing the gift business, but after loads of effort we only sold 32 Christmas trees. I was completely gutted," said Mitchell.
After failing miserably to raise the cash for his business, he was forced back to square one. "I had to go back to the beginning. I went and found out what I did wrong and started again."
He contacted several organisations that help people who want to set up their own business. He developed a business plan with the help of Business Link and obtained a £4,500 start-up loan from the Prince's Trust and around £12,000 in EU and UK government backed grants.
He also undertook a course called the New Entrepreneurship Scholarship at Manchester Metropolitan University - a free part-time business development programme for people wanting to start and manage their own business.
"I think that the number one thing is to try and get your thoughts onto paper and to look into the viability of your business idea at first. If you then go to a business support organisation with a thought out idea you can hit the ground running.
"Looking back on it I made too much of a rush decision to leave my job when I did. If I left it a bit longer I would have researched it more. There's quite a lot of support for people still in full time employment such as night courses where you can learn a lot about setting up."
By the end of 2003 Mitchell launched a limited company called tree2mydoor.com. "I started on a shoe string which meant I didn't have a life for two years.
"The company got a massive boost in June 2004 after only 8 months trading when we won a national award at the gift of the year awards.
"Sales volumes increased rapidly after this and we won more awards." Mitchell is now heavily involved in supporting new enterprise as a Fellow of the RSA and as an Ambassador for Make your Mark in Retail campaign.
Mitchell plans to expand his eco-friendly gift company into the USA in the immediate future and then into Europe, Asia and Australasia.
"The most important thing is to believe in yourself and believe in your business, confidence breeds success" he said. tree2mydoor.com