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Grasshoppers earns its stripes

PUBLISHED: 00:16 19 November 2011 | UPDATED: 14:57 20 February 2013

Jacquie stevens and Jason Knight

Jacquie stevens and Jason Knight

"Which way do you want your stripes?" That's one of the questions asked by Grasshoppers, a garden maintenance and soft landscaping company based near Cirencester when visiting a new customer to discuss their garden requirements, including how the...


Set up more than two years ago Grasshoppers found a niche in the market between garden designers, landscape architects and regular self-employed gardeners to provide regular, reliable garden maintenance. The idea worked so well that they now employ 8 full time staff and part-timers.



Whilst many people think that gardening is seasonal, owners Jason Knight and Jacquie Stevens are changing this preconception.



"Despite people thinking there is little to do in the garden during winter, nature actually provides work for us to do all year round," says Jason. "What we're doing is educating our customers so that they see the job for what it is: A year-round project to keep their gardens in the best shape."



Whilst he admits that January and February are the quietest times of the year, winter tidy-ups are still important to clear leaves and plan for the year ahead.



Grasshoppers focusses on developing good working relationships with customers, including the prestigious Watermark Club at South Cerney, where they provide soft landscaping around the new developments and reinstating the lakes and banks to recreate wildlife habitats.



Other work comes from local homeowners where they provide regular garden maintenance.



With business expansion in mind, Grasshoppers is determined to develop its business into a year-round activity, and has been working with Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services to plan ahead.



"We know we're not a seasonal business," said Jacquie. "We just need to make sure our customers know that too."



Grasshoppers can be contacted on 01285 650007.





Seasonal Businesses



If you sell Christmas trees or ice creams, your business will be seasonally affected. In fact most specialist retailers will experience peaks and troughs; every tourism business plans for its season, farmers work around the clock in the summer months and have you ever tried to get a plumber in the winter? Unless you've booked your boiler service two months earlier, you won't get a look-in until the weather improves.



Few businesses make their income evenly over 12 months and the successful ones will put the fallow months to good use.



A well-known local example is Westonbirt Arboretum, a historic collection of trees, owned and maintained for the nation by The Forestry Commission. A seasonal tourist attraction, the arboretum faced nine months every year without the colours that made it famous. Now, except in the spectacular Autumn season, Westonbirt is a venue, hosting live music entertainments in the Summer and Christmas events, as well as offering an upmarket caf and art shows. The marketing team has triumphed in developing a year-round attraction.



How did they do it? Probably by taking a step back and looking again at what they had.



Few businesses have 600 acres of prime woodland at their disposal, but whatever you do; you can make your business work for longer.



Business development can gain new new contacts or customers. When your business is quiet, pick up the phone and arrange to visit potential new customers or research new markets.



General maintenance is often how tourism or catering businesses use their time, but balance this with revisiting your marketing strategy and look at what your competitors are up to.



If you make your own products, build up your stock for the next round of craft shows or exhibitions - you can also consider developing an e-commerce website and open up your business to the world. If you have a craft market stall at weekends but little to do during the week, could you teach your craft to others? This offers the double whammy of earning money and marketing your products at the same time.



Look at what you sell and consider whether by making something similar, you can extend your season. If you make wedding dresses for the Spring and Summer, could you make evening dresses for the Christmas season?



Some businesses are only ever going to be busy for a few months of the year, such as restaurants and cafes in tourism hotspots or by the seaside. Those running such businesses often decide to work long hours from Easter to the end of September and accept that they must make 12 months' income in seven months of the year.



Philip Timson, director at Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services (GEBS) which provides support services and programmes to help small businesses in the county, says the toughest challenge for small business owners is maintaining cash flow and looking after staff. "The key to a successful business is accurate forecasting and sharing that information with your bank manager to make sure they are prepared to support you during times of low or no income. Then all parties are aware of all the facts and there should be no nasty surprises."



Seasonal Businesses



If you sell Christmas trees or ice creams, your business will be seasonally affected. In fact most specialist retailers will experience peaks and troughs; every tourism business plans for its season, farmers work around the clock in the summer months and have you ever tried to get a plumber in the winter? Unless you've booked your boiler service two months earlier, you won't get a look-in until the weather improves.



Few businesses make their income evenly over 12 months and the successful ones will put the fallow months to good use.



A well-known local example is Westonbirt Arboretum, a historic collection of trees, owned and maintained for the nation by The Forestry Commission. A seasonal tourist attraction, the arboretum faced nine months every year without the colours that made it famous. Now, except in the spectacular Autumn season, Westonbirt is a venue, hosting live music entertainments in the Summer and Christmas events, as well as offering an upmarket caf and art shows. The marketing team has triumphed in developing a year-round attraction.



How did they do it? Probably by taking a step back and looking again at what they had.



Few businesses have 600 acres of prime woodland at their disposal, but whatever you do; you can make your business work for longer.



Business development can gain new new contacts or customers. When your business is quiet, pick up the phone and arrange to visit potential new customers or research new markets.



General maintenance is often how tourism or catering businesses use their time, but balance this with revisiting your marketing strategy and look at what your competitors are up to.



If you make your own products, build up your stock for the next round of craft shows or exhibitions - you can also consider developing an e-commerce website and open up your business to the world. If you have a craft market stall at weekends but little to do during the week, could you teach your craft to others? This offers the double whammy of earning money and marketing your products at the same time.



Look at what you sell and consider whether by making something similar, you can extend your season. If you make wedding dresses for the Spring and Summer, could you make evening dresses for the Christmas season?



Some businesses are only ever going to be busy for a few months of the year, such as restaurants and cafes in tourism hotspots or by the seaside. Those running such businesses often decide to work long hours from Easter to the end of September and accept that they must make 12 months' income in seven months of the year.



Philip Timson, director at Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services (GEBS) which provides support services and programmes to help small businesses in the county, says the toughest challenge for small business owners is maintaining cash flow and looking after staff. "The key to a successful business is accurate forecasting and sharing that information with your bank manager to make sure they are prepared to support you during times of low or no income. Then all parties are aware of all the facts and there should be no nasty surprises."

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