A chef turned landscaper is celebrating his third year in business with a full order book for the remainder of 2021, as MBS Gardens capitalises on surplus demand for garden transformations with new expansion plans.
Michael Bell-Saunders (40) from Forest Hall has announced plans to grow MBS Gardens and recruit new staff members to help accommodate a move into bigger commercial projects in 2022, with the support of the North Tyneside Business Factory.
Michael, a former head chef, launched MBS Gardens in 2018 to provide landscaping and design services to residential clients in and around the North East. Initially working on smaller garden maintenance projects, the business has grown to offer complex garden design and landscaping services to both residential and commercial clients throughout the region.
Michael Bell-Saunders comments: “The business started really as a personal challenge to see if I could make self-employment work for me and my family. To be looking at a full order book until next year gives me a sense of satisfaction that I made the right decision to go out on my own at what was a difficult time.
“I was actually a head chef previously but the anti-social hours didn’t fit with a young family so I moved into landscaping work to help fuel my own creativity and apply some of the skills I had learnt in managing garden spaces. I really took to the work and thought perhaps it might be something I could make a go of in terms of running my own business. I took up the challenge and within one week MBS Gardens was trading.”
With two children and a 3-month old baby at home at the time, Michael set up the business with support from his wife, Gemma, who had just been made redundant from her position as a University lecturer. Together they created the basis for MBS Gardens with Gemma looking after the back-office business operations and Michael managing all garden design, quotations and labour.
Michael comments: “It was tough initially to go from working as an employee to looking after all aspects of a business. It was a baptism of fire in many ways as we were so early in our business journey that sourcing tools and materials to complete jobs was tricky. However, with time our confidence in both the potential of the business and our own abilities grew and today we are looking at how we can upscale the business to develop our brand and increase capacity to run projects concurrently.
“We have been lucky to build an excellent reputation and have grown from residential schemes to commercial work for schools and local authorities. We have also expanded the garden design side of the business to offer a computerised 3D design service to transform outdoor spaces from concept to completion. The design side of the business has proven incredibly popular given demand from people looking to really transform their outdoor space after lockdown.”
Michael and Gemma are now working with the North Tyneside Business Factory to help manage the upscaling of their enterprise as they enter into a new growth phase. With plans to take on permanent staff members and increase capacity.
Michael adds: “Our business advisor at the Business Factory, Janice Ross, has been an invaluable source of advice and guidance as we started to look at how we can grow the business in a sustainable way. We want to increase our team but also develop our current client base to allow for more tendering opportunities for longer-term commercial landscaping design and maintenance contracts. Janice has been great at using her wealth of experience and contacts to help create our new business strategy but she also was able to put us in touch with a specialist advisor helping small businesses learn the basics of procurement and how to tender for contracts successfully.”
Michael and Gemma worked with the team at the North Tyneside Business Factory, the business support programme from North Tyneside Council which is supported by the ERDF and delivered by TEDCO Business Support.
Janice Ross, business advisor with North Tyneside Business Factory comments: “Not only has the hard work and dedication of Michael and Gemma resulted in a solid new business pipeline, they are also taking steps to secure the future of their business with a new growth strategy to create jobs and opportunities. It has been a pleasure to act as their sounding board to date and I look forward to working with them on securing the future success of MBS Gardens as we finalise a growth strategy to take them into 2022.”
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