A £38 purchase of half a dozen wooden benches got the ball rolling for a multimillion pound Warwickshire business which is now celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The Garden Furniture Centre, based at Wootton Wawen, is celebrating two decades in business by reaching a turnover of £5 million and supplying products into Europe.
Jon Haimes started the business after turning a profit from selling six garden benches and the company now stocks more than 2,000 items of garden furniture and has a UK delivery network which has supplied customers from the Shetland Islands to Cornwall.
The company, which had record-breaking sales at the RHS shows at Chelsea, Hampton Court and Chatsworth, is based in the Yew Tree Farm Craft Centre near Stratford-upon-Avon.
The diversification project – which has been overseen by accountants Burgis and Bullock – has seen Yew Tree Farm grow to now host 18 retail businesses, from antiques to lingerie.
Jon said: “I had been selling ex-rental VCR players since the age of around 15, making good money, but that was slowing down as they became easier for people to afford.
“One day I was passing through Shropshire and came across some return Do It All benches. I had £40 on me and bought them for £38, so I got a couple of pints with my change, then put them up for sale at £25 each.
“They went quickly and the next purchase I made was some more expensive ones, which I sold for a bigger profit. That continued to grow for a number of years while my father used what is now our sales display area as a milking parlour.”
The Garden Furniture Centre now sells to clients all over the UK and overseas while Jon sources unique products, mostly from the Far East.
He said: “The competition is fierce so we have to make sure that we are selling items people can’t get anywhere else.
“We also realised very early on that our website would be crucial to our business growth and it has proved to be true. We do a lot of trade online.
“At the same time, we don’t want to lose that human touch so we have focused a lot on customer service and make sure that if someone has a question, they can speak to a real person to get the answer.”
Despite diversifying, there is still an operational farm of 1,000 acres, run by Jon’s brother Simon.
Trevor Day, who heads up the client services department at the Leamington Spa and Stratford offices of Burgis and Bullock, said: “We have worked with Jon and seen the changes at Yew Tree Farm over a long period and they have really put everything into ensuring their diversification was a successful one.
“We are seeing more and more that diversification is crucial for owners of farm sites. That can take many forms but Jon and his family have proved that they can operate successfully alongside an existing farming operation.”