Online and mail-order organic plant business Rocket Gardens was this week named the UK’s most exceptional business contributing to social and environmental impacts. The firm now sells more than 1 million organic plants per year and has created a plant growing and mail order packaging system which is 100% plastic free – the first UK mail order edible plant supplier to have done so.
Launched in 2006, Rocket Gardens has developed from a 2-acre smallholding into a 125-acre purpose-built growing facility with 22 modern poly tunnels setup with rainwater harvesting systems, automated ventilation and irrigation. Entrepreneur Mike Kitchen launched Rocket Gardens after growing his own organic vegetables at home whilst raising his two young children. That sowed a seed for a business growing and selling organic seedlings in “instant veg packs” ready for planting.
Kitchen is passionate about building a sustainable business that educates and encourages healthy lifestyles. “Ultimately the best way to reduce food miles and the cost of buying food is to grow it yourself and that’s what we want to encourage people to do,” he says. Kitchen has been named as the UK’s “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” in the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards, funded by the Citi Foundation. Alongside the recognition – with a strong field of entrants from all over the UK – he will take home a £7,500 cash prize for the business.
The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards are the annual celebration of Britain’s microentrepreneurs that have accessed “responsible” business finance. Rocket Gardens’ success story has been supported by SWIG Finance which has made three investments over the last two years. This capital helped accelerate the growth and profitability of the business through a planned programme of investment in automated machinery, increased production capacity and digital e-commerce capability. This investment has so far helped to realise a 50% increase in turnover, and the creation of four new jobs.
John Peters, Managing Director of SWIG Finance, commented:
“Mike is an inspirational entrepreneur whose success is driven by social and environmental principles. It is a privilege for us at SWIG Finance to work with such an ethically-focused and innovative venture as Rocket Gardens.”
The winners of the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards were announced on 13 March 2019 at an Awards Ceremony in Liverpool.