Grass roots growth for GreenThumb as firm aims to be one in a million

The UK’s biggest lawn care company founded by a Flintshire businessman has been hailed as a “shining example” of how to be the best after reaching a major milestone in its history.

GreenThumb, based on St Asaph Business Park, in Denbighshire, is celebrating its 25th anniversary and is a classic tale of home-grown success.

The firm has defied the recession and continues to expand at a relentless pace, servicing a lawn every four seconds and treating over 31 million sq metres of grass every month.

As the biggest end-user of fertilizer in the UK, GreenThumb’s unique selling point is that they can treat your lawn cheaper than you can do it  yourself.

Today, there are 209 GreenThumb franchises from Inverness to the Isle of Wight and the annual turnover is more than £60 million

Stephen Waring, the founder and CEO of the company who lives in the Holywell area, is keen to stay true to the company’s roots and pay tribute to GreenThumb customers in North Wales.

According to Mr Waring, their support has been a vital part of the company’s continuing growth.

With that in mind he invited Vale of Clwyd MP Chris Ruane and the local AM, Ann Jones, to help celebrate the silver jubilee.

After a briefing about plans for future expansion, Mr Waring took them on a guided tour of the company HQ where the operation is masterminded.

Chris Ruane enthused: “I am very impressed with what GreenThumb has achieved. The company’s going upwards and onwards. I am very proud that they are in my constituency.

“It’s great to have such a success story here right in the centre of the Vale of Clwyd and I would encourage other companies to come to the area.”

Ann Jones was equally impressed with what she had seen and heard during the visit.

She added: “Here’s to another 25 years. I am sure they will continue to grow and I think the company’s ethos and Stephen’s commitment to bringing his staff through is fantastic.

“This is an indigenous, home grown success story and a shining example of how to be the best at what you do.”

The plush offices on St Asaph Business Park are in contrast to the humble beginnings of the company back in 1986 – the story is the stuff of which business legends are made.

The budding entrepreneur was just 20 when he invested £64 in 1,000 leaflets, put a bucket of fertiliser in the back of his Sierra estate car and knocked on doors in Penrhyn Bay offering to feed and weed lawns.

The son of a sales and marketing director, the young Stephen Waring first ventured into business while still at school.

At the age of just 16, he realised the potential of the loft insulation business, given the availability of local authority grants.

But his Eureka moment came during a visit to America for a family wedding in the Mid-West state of Ohio in 1985.

The lawn care industry over there was already big business with 23 per cent of Americans hiring specialist treatment services.

There was nothing like it available in the UK and he returned home with high hopes of exploiting a massive untapped market.

Mr Waring vividly recalls the excitement of signing up his first GreenThumb customer on April 1, 1986.

He said: “The very first door I knocked on, the lady said that it was just what she needed…that was almost prophetic.”

“It was an encouraging start because in a short period of time I ended up with 70 customers on the same housing estate.”

“It was proof that people really did want my service although there were some challenges at the time because I had to sell the concept before I could sell the service.”

A key element in the GreenThumb success story was a decision to go down the franchising route.

Mr Waring said: “I’m fairly sure that had I decided to set up a 209  branches myself it would have been a logistical and managerial nightmare – and an incredible financial burden.

“I am very proud of what we have achieved. This isn’t about one person this is about everybody here having a sense of ownership in GreenThumb.

“I’m also acutely aware and proud that our success has come from the support we’ve had from our customers, and we’ve got tens of thousands of them in North Wales.

“Our 25th anniversary is an important milestone for GreenThumb and an opportunity for me to say a particular thank to our customers in North Wales for their continued support.”

GreenThumb currently look after  around three per cent of the UK’s lawns and Mr Waring is confident they have only scratched the surface in terms of future growth.

“We think it could possibly be 10 times that number. In the short term, we’re looking forward to signing up our half millionth customer and we see a million customers as our next milestone.”

Caption: Pictured are Ann Jones AM, Stephen Waring Founder and CEO of Green Thumb  and Chris Ruane MP.

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