How to build a plant-based business

We catch up with Tim Law from Simply Plants to chat about the roots of his seasonal business, scaling up cash flow, and a load of Christmas trees.

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With Christmas just around the corner, we could only jump at the opportunity to have two bushy, decked-out trees delivered and set up in our office by Simply Plants. We spoke to Tim, owner of Simply Plants, about the business’ roots and rapid growth.

Hi Tim, thanks so much for bringing in some festive foliage. Could you start by telling us a bit about your business?

Simply Plants spruces up offices across the Midlands and South of England. Our displays are also nurtured and cared for by us, making sure the plants are always in top condition. Plants are like people really, they need a lot of attention.

When did it all start?

The business was started many years ago by my wife at the time, she was a horticultural journalist. She started selling plants at a Saturday market, and I gave her a helping hand with the business admin. One day, somebody asked her if she could put a plant in their office, and then the business really got going. I took over in 1997.

It’s a pleasure to have these two beautiful trees in the office. Where did the idea for the Christmas trees come from?

It actually started by accident, someone just asked us to put a Christmas tree up in their building and deck it out. Once we saw the opportunity for more, it really took off. Now, it’s an integral part of our business – Christmas is our busiest time of the year by far.

Do you have a tree like this at home?

No, I have a pop-up one!

How do you cope with that seasonal demand?

Everyone always wants their tree within a two-week period in early December, so we run a tight ship. We get our trees from a local supplier, Digby Farm, and make sure to plan and schedule ahead. I try to be meticulous with cash-flow, but it can be completely unpredictable. On top of it all, we have to maintain the regular part of the business, fitting in our plant maintenance rounds. It’s a busy time.

You say that you try to be meticulous with cash-flow, how do you manage it?

You’ve got to keep on it all the time. One of the drawbacks of our company is that you have to buy everything up-front, and then you have to recover the money. We're always thinking about the future, and how we can develop. When we were looking to grow we had the issue of scaling the business effectively, and thinking about what the business can afford.

That’s where iwoca came in. We took on Liam earlier this year, with an eye for him to take over the day-to-day running of the business. The effects of another salary puts even more pressure on an already sensitive cash-flow. You can plan ahead but things do happen, and iwoca has been really useful for helping us bridge those gaps.

What's the main driver behind your business?

It’s all about people. It’s fantastic to see something develop and grow, and I've had the pleasure of taking on someone who is really keen. The plants are there for people to enjoy, so we focus on our relationships with our customers, and we try to develop a bond on the spot. Anyone can put a plant into a container: we’re giving a service.

Thanks so much, Tim, for bringing in the trees and for chatting with us.

Tim (right) and Liam from Simply Plants