We’d used 2021 to get the core elements of the business and brand locked in. We also planted some pilot gardens to test out our designs, our process and, of course, the outcome. It was a useful year, but we weren’t fully operational. 2022 therefore was our first full year of trading and we were determined to make the most of it and see where Dig could go.
The biggest step change was the time myself and others have been able to invest in the day-to-day running of the business. In 2021 Dig had, for lack of a better term, been a ‘side hustle’ alongside my day job, so I was very grateful to the team at advertising agency Leagas Delaney for their support in letting me commit some of my time to Dig in the daylight, rather than just through the night! From February, I officially had one working day on Dig and that became four by May which made an enormous difference. Alex too was able to make the time to lead the design side of things, Ben was always available for website, tech and business developments and Ed shifted to working part-time, doing a full day a week on Dig from July onwards focusing on brand, marketing, and comms. I can only thank our core team for putting so much time and effort into making Dig even happen at all – without their support, guidance and leadership none of this would have been possible.
From the start, we believed we had a concept that people would find interesting and relevant to them. The only issue was that no one knew about us! This drove our focus on getting our name out there. Instagram, unsurprisingly, proved most effective and the wonderful Hollie Evans helped us revamp our page and ensured we were posting regularly to explain who we are and what we do. Our collaborations made a big difference for us last year too. In creating gardens for people who could help us reach our audiences – people who wanted to create a beautiful outdoor space, who wanted to invite nature in but didn’t know where to start – we found a really wonderful way of promoting ourselves to the people who needed our help. We’re very grateful, particularly, to Simon Hooper (@father_of_daughters) and Amanda (@houselust) and everyone else who took a punt with us.
As the year progressed and we headed into summer, things really began to move and we made the call to hire an extra pair of hands. Taking on our wonderful garden designer, Fabienne Maitland-Robinson, as our first full time employee. It was a big decision for a small business, but it has proven time and time again to be the right one ensuring we could help more customers and keep on top of the orders that were now flying in. Fabi has been, from the start, the ultimate professional – enthusiastic, proactive and smart – and we’re so lucky to have her on the team.
Alex and Fabi sharing their immense knowledge on our Instagram:
All of our themes (The Mediterranean, The Classic, The Cottage, and The Jungle) happily proved very popular in 2022, helping to shortcut the sometimes-daunting garden design process for customers who didn’t know where to begin, helping them choose a style of garden that suited them. The Mediterranean, in particular, seemed to really resonate, perhaps partly owing to the hot weather we enjoyed over through the middle of the year. We also launched a new theme in collaboration with child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed called The Adventure, which was specifically aimed at families… and the young at heart. With the success of The Adventure, and the joy we’ve seen it bring everyone who has planted one, we’re inspired to add another new theme to our roster this year. Watch this space.
Another source of invigoration last year was the variety of projects we took on – from our Instant Beds through to larger full scale design projects. This breadth helped us prove the flexibility of the business and our ability to create beautiful gardens of varying scale, whilst always ensuring we were competitive and cost effective.
As a small business, we were always looking to try new things and learn as we went. We had a stand outside Clapham Junction in April and also took on a stand at the Spirit of Summer fair in Kensington Olympia in June, followed by a stand at the Cotswold Christmas Fair where we sold ‘make your own’ bulb display kits alongside promoting our core business. They are always a lot of work and effort, but I’m glad we tried them and we’ve found it a great opportunity to meet many lovely people and bring Dig to a wider audience.
Throughout all of this, we’ve kept the business as lean as possible. We’ve worked flexibly, the team have used holiday to help plant gardens, we’ve stored plants, trowels, compost and stickers in our front gardens, back gardens, balconies and garages, but it has all been worth it to be doing something that brings more nature into people’s lives. It has also meant that my efficient little family van has often moonlighted as the Dig delivery van. (Though, in all honesty, it’s more like the Dig delivery van has occasionally moonlighted as my family van at this point). We have been all across the UK and have repeatedly been shocked at how many plants we can fit into a VW Caravelle!
We’ve used a great team of freelancers to help us – garden designers Emma, Catherine and Natasha and Petrus and Will to help with landscaping on larger projects and we couldn’t forget our friends Lauren Jaffe and Emily Mason for their ongoing beautiful designs and illustrations that have helped give our little company such a warm visual identity (in our humble opinion). A big thanks to all of them for making such a difference.
Above all, we wouldn’t be where we are now with Dig, if it wasn’t for the support of my family. From my helpful, brilliant children to my patient, insightful, creative and ever-supportive wife Joanna, they have made Dig possible in so many ways. Taking a leap of faith and starting a small business is a huge undertaking and their support has meant the world.
All in all, I’m so proud and surprised by what we achieved last year. I’d always told myself that 2022 was our ‘proof of concept’ year… Could we turn what felt like an interesting idea into a viable, growing business? Reassuringly, the answer has been a resounding yes. And, just as importantly, it has been great fun and a wonderful learning experience. I can only thank all our customers and followers who have taken an interest in Dig and our mission to make gardening easier, more accessible and to bring more greenery into people’s homes and lives.
So, with that, here’s to an equally exciting (and mad) 2023. We have lots of plans for this year that we can’t wait to bring to life. Happy new year and stay tuned!