When Andy Shaw was made redundant from his IT job he decided it was a chance for a career change and grabbed it with both hands.
Now his firm, Gardening Services Edinburgh, is one of six finalists in an Edinburgh Evening News-backed Dragons’ Den-style competition.
The nationwide contest – the Local Business Accelerators – has attracted more than 3000 entrants and will see 1500 firms across the UK receive £15 million of free newspaper advertising.
Our local winners will receive free advertising in the News and mentoring from experts at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, as well as the chance to receive advice from real-life “dragon” Deborah Meaden.
Mr Shaw, 45, who established the company last year, said: “I was made redundant and I really just wanted to find something I was passionate about. I’ve done a lot of gardening in my time, helping older people, and the decision was, ‘go with your passion and you’ll never work another day in your life’.”
The firm, based in Colinton, has been growing since then, and he hopes that in 2012 it will at least double in size.
Mr Shaw said his chances of realising that growth would be boosted if he scooped the top prize in the competition. “Right now we’re growing organically so that would give us exposure to our marketplace in Edinburgh that we couldn’t afford now,” he said.
He currently has a team of three full-time workers and a further four people he can call upon to increase staff numbers as needed, and hopes eventually to be running several teams around the city.
He said: “We do all different types of gardening, we’re a full service agency. We can do a one-off clearance through to regular maintenance. The new feature for us is that we do garden design and landscaping.
“I take a lot of care about recruiting members of staff because I want them to be qualified and experienced, and I want them to be passionate about it as well, because that comes across to the customers.”
Having already established his website at www.gardening-services-edinburgh.com, one of his major projects for 2012 is to put in place an IT system that will manage every aspect of customer contacts.
If he wins the competition, he hopes the expert business mentors will help him with that, as well as strengthening his management team to pave the way for future growth.
After pitching at a Dragon’s Den-style event at the Evening News offices to a judging panel comprising entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer, former Prince’s Trust director Geraldine Gammell and former Scottish Businesswoman of the Year Liz McAreavey, he is hopeful about his chances of making it through to the national finals.
He said: “Now I’ve got a chance of winning I think what a great opportunity that would be to represent Edinburgh and Scotland in the national competition.”