Kieran Would: Weeding out the competition

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Everything in Kieran Would’s life goes at 100 mph, including the business he started just over three years ago, Agrigem.

The horticulture firm, now based in Saxilby, specialises in a number of products including weed killer, fertiliser, grass seed and advice for all professionals in the industry as well as creating their own products.

Having gone from job to job, he knew that there was something missing from his life. He didn’t want to just be another face in a crowd of employees.

He wanted to be his own boss and has worked gruelling hours in order to achieve his dream of owning a multi-million pound business at the age of just 28.

Kieran became one of the youngest people in the agronomy industry, having been put through all his training by Cambridge-based company UAP, which has now been merged into a larger company.

In 2013, Kieran asked a close friend if he wanted to work for him.

He told him that it was going to be hard and that he wasn’t sure it would work, but from having started with just a few shelves in his garage, selling chemicals and advice to garden specialists, he now runs two companies which are expected to turnover a combined £6 million by the end of the financial year.

“In 2013, I thought, ‘Right, this is the right time. I’ve got some capital behind me and I’ve got this idea and I learned more about the industry.

“At that point, I went to a close friend of mine, Ollie, who is now my right-hand man, and said to him, ‘I’ve got an idea, I think it will work, will you quit your job and come and work for me?’

“To which he said, ‘Yeah, ok then. Let’s do it’.”

Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Business

Fast as lightning

Founded on January 1, 2013, Kieran and Ollie worked day and night, doing everything from taking an order to packing all the boxes, sending it out and delivering it, as well as the financials and trying to attend trade shows.

As a result, the company has grown at an exponential rate.

“I think our attitude and ethics of the business has just enabled us to grow so fast in such a short amount of time,” Kieran said.

“When I look back on it, it seems like it’s all happened very quickly but at the time it didn’t.

“It felt for a long time like we were treading water and not really getting anywhere. It feels like it’s only really come together in the last 12 months.”

The company gradually expanded, covering everything from amateur use, for people with gardens, to advice and chemicals for golf courses, commercial farms and large organisations like county councils.

“Because we sit across so many boards of the industry, it has allowed us to grow probably quicker than some of our competitors have.”

After trading for a year, they took on their first member of staff and now they have a total of six full-time employees.

Originally Kieran had wanted to reach 100 staff by the time they reached the five-year mark, but with his skilled team, watching how they manage to get everything done, he has decided better of it.

“If I’m honest, looking at the way the business has gone now, I think it would spoil what we’ve got.

“I think it would be better to keep a closer knit team, doing the job thoroughly and keeping the attention to detail that we have rather than letting it get too big.

“I compare us to our competitors who are probably about the same size as us but I think have at least three times if not four times as many staff to do the same level of business.

“That’s down purely to the automation we have for so many systems and the fact that we are so efficient in every single part of the business that we do.”

Due to how fast the company has grown, Kieran has now looked to future proof the business by investing £750,000 in a new purpose built 2,000 sq ft head office with an additional 5,000 sq ft of warehouse space, capable of holding 180,000 litres of product.

Looking at the new building he feels a sense of pride in what he has achieved in such a short space of time.

“Don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s easy.

“It’s not easy. It’s hard, it’s sometimes depressing and it’s tiring. It’s all of those things but when it goes right, to see your hard work in front of you and the success that comes with it is an immense feeling.”

Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Business

A gamble on Brexit

With ongoing talks surrounding Brexit negotiations, Kieran is keeping his ear to the ground. Being part of the EU has provided many challenges as well as positives for Agrigem.

“I actually voted out, I thought the industry that we’re in is ring fenced by red tape.

“You have environmental issues, you have legal issues and you have human health issues.

“All these different things that permit where a chemical can be used, how it can be used, where it sold, where it can be stored, all these sorts of things.

“Their environmental and green credentials in Europe are different to that in the UK.

“We need to be, as far as I’m concerned, able to make our own decisions on these, rather than being told by Brussels.”

Currently, Agrigem has 17,000 customers across Europe, which is growing every day and Kieran hopes that by the end of 2017 it will be over 30,000. This equates to between £300,000 and £400,000 in sales a year.

“We are limited with what we can sell them because just about every product we sell has a licence with it as to where it can be used because it’s a chemical. A lot of them we can’t sell outside of the UK.

“A lot of the overseas stuff, with the exception of Southern Ireland, is sundries and smaller things but Southern Ireland is really growing for us.

“There is quite a lot of demand there, especially with the way that the exchange rate has gone.”

Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Business

Finding the balance

He is now keen to see how the negotiations play out with not just one company but two under his wing, having just finished the first year with Gem Agronomics, which focuses on farms.

But for both his companies, it has been about building momentum and gaining those crucial customers.

“Some of the hardest things for us has been credibility – getting customers to stop dealing with the company that turns over a billion a year and start dealing with us.

“But I have many proud moments with of things with Agrigem and then things in my personal life and they all sort of blend into one.

“I look at the business now and it does make me very proud to see where it’s come from and where its going.”