Primrose Cottage Garden Services is a small co-op doing gardening work in the Southampton area.
Enter Nigel Clark:
What were your biggest challenges on day one?
Finding enough customers.
What or who was the biggest help?
The fact that I had been working part-time with a local garden designer and had built up a network of contacts with friends who I had done informal work for in the past.
How did you go about getting funding?
I funded it from my personal savings.
What problem is your business solving?
Providing a service for people who want a nice garden, but don’t have the time or energy/skills to do it themselves.
How did you find out that this problem exists?
Working part-time for other gardeners and friends.
Why a coop, why not a regular business?
I have been a supporter of the Co-operative movement since the 1980s.
What type of cooperative are you?
A business limited by guarantee, Co-operatives UK member.
What is your cooperative’s income sharing structure?
All workers on the same hourly rate, all profit [ if we ever have one ] shared equally.
What is your decision making process?
All decisions by general meeting of the members, or informal agreement of all members.
How quickly can you make decisions?
Formal decisions made at meetings with fourteen days notice – in practice as soon as we can get together. Day to day matters decided by e-mail around the members.
How would you compare the individual level of autonomy as compared to a regular employment?
Very different, in that all workers get a say in running the business.
What extra advice can you give to would be founders of coops?
Don’t panic ! It will take longer than you expect, and might not go the way you first planned, so be ready to adapt to unexpected opportunities.