Tell us a little about yourself and how long you have been running your business
My name is Earl and I'm 60. I am married to Rita and 4+ years ago we decided to buy a small garden nursery / pet shop. It was totally different to what we had done before, I had been an ambulance officer for many years, and Rita a chemist assistant for more years that she can remember.
Our team consists of Rita and I and Manda, our friend who's job it is to grow the plants. In the first 2 years we bought in plants to sell. In year 3 we started to grow herbs and vegetables. It was so successful that we decided to grow as much as we can. So far, so good. We are selling all our produce and still having to buy more, although not so much.
Our business has evolved during our time here. Some of what was popular 4 years ago is not longer in demand, so we have to constantly match our stock to the demand of the clients. We specialise in customer service and friendliness. Our BT website shows who and what we are. It is very descriptive and informative and is very 'us'.
We did have a weekend lad helping us, Dan, but we were able to get him a full time job so alas we are now recruiting to replace him.
The actual business has been on this site for about 20 years or so, and has always been popular. Like many small businesses, we have been hit by the recession, but now that the season has started, we are up and running again. We have offered the Kent Supportive Employment our services and hope to give work to a disabled - hate this word -person in order to get them into work and to help build their confidence.
When did you realise you needed a website for the business?
About 2 years ago it became obvious that the web was a shopping window to products and services for all businesses. Office workers eating their lunches at their desk scan the web for goods / products to save time wandering the high street. The old saying that if you cannot beat them join them was the answer. So a website was needed. Being 60, I was not a technophobe when it came to computers etc, but I thought that if others can do it, what can I loose. So a decision was made to check out web designers.
How important do you feel it is to have your business online these days?
As mentioned earlier, business evolves and one has to encourage ways of selling both the products and services. Every business has a website. Every business asks that you contact them via the web. This is obvious when you try phoning many companies. What do you get, 'Please hold', 'your business is important to us', 'you are climbing to the top', all words we hate to hear. So simple, email or log on to the web and get the information you want, now, no waiting, no holding on for hours.
You cannot ignore the future, so embrace it.
Did you expect BT to be designing websites?
When a BT rep contacted me about building a website I had no idea that the mighty communications company did websites. They are certainly not known for this. I had shopped around but had not found any website builder that I could relate to. Most tried to impose their thoughts and designs upon me for vast sums of money with extra for this and extra for that. Mmm, not for me thank you.
What made you choose BT websites over the other businesses you could have chosen?
When BT said that they could design the website, to suit me for a reasonable cost and full back up services, at first I thought, oh yes, heard that one before. The rep went through many points and convinced me that, for the cost, I would get just what I wanted. I took some convincing following experience I had had with other website designers.
So, I thought for the cost it was worth having ago, after all, if it went wrong I would not loose too much, and what did I have at the time, nothing, only ideas. A designer contacted me, as promised, we discussed what what I wanted and off he went. A young lady coordinated the work and phone calls and a little while later he contacted me again and said 'draft done'. When I looked at his work I could not believe it. It was us to a T. Just what I wanted. The guy had actually listened and kept his word to do what I wanted. It was so good that we only had to make a couple of fine tuning items.
I was elated and felt that I had entered the world of on-line sales. Magic, I had arrived.
What have you got planned for the next few months?
Now the season has kicked off, I want to up-date the website on a regular basis. I want to add items, offers of the week, details of our plants, birds and other animals.
We have a small animal hotel which has it's own dedicated web page, and so far we have seen an increase in booking through this.
The world is now our future. Watch this space.
If you could give a tip to other businesses, what would it be?
If I was to give advice to other businesses it would be to keep an open mind. Decide what it is you want, decide how you want your message about you and your company to be put to your website customers. Then contact BT and tell them. They will do the rest, AND they listen. Yes, they listened to what I wanted and got it right first time. Our customers love our site because it reflects who and what we are. Your's can too, after all, what have you go to loose and first hand recommendation is the best advice you can get. Good luck.