Name (s): George Williams
D.O.B: 21st October 1990
Where’s home? Islington
Profession: Digital gardener
Company: Garden Compass
Did you go to university?
Yes – Leeds
Was it a clear-cut path after you left in terms of what you wanted to do?
No, not at all.
What was your first job and did you like it?
Interning at a headhunter, I became exceptional at pouring tea and coffee and cold calling people and asking what their salaries were.
What pressures do you think many twenty-somethings are faced with?
The thought that whatever you choose to do will seal your fate, and then making your decision.
What is Garden Compass?
Garden Compass is the worlds leading digital gardening tool, providing plant and pest identification through a network of over 50 horticultural experts. It also provides its users with tailored monthly advice for the plants in their gardens and an expert chat function.
How did the idea for Garden Compass come about?
Originally it was just a plant identification app. Having grown up around plants and lacking knowledge, it seemed very obvious to me that someone needed to help botanical ignoramuses like myself.
Did you have any idea how to set up an app before you set it up?
No, it was a completely fresh start.
What were the steps you took to set it up?
The first step was a serendipitous dinner where I was sat next to a man named Angus who was convinced that I must have an app idea, he was correct and when I told him we set up a meeting the next day…he was the first investor and my current business partner.
Then came finding a reasonable development team (not easy in London) and then it was around 4 months of building the app and then a launch at Clifton Nurseries in Maida Vale.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?
Changing the business model from selling plants to offering expert advice. The garden industry isn’t very prepared for technology and we hit a stumbling block when we realised that most of the websites we were passing our users on to weren’t even mobile friendly.
Who did you seek advice from and who really helped you in the early stages?
My newly found business partner was very helpful and beyond that I had many meetings with friends to run through ideas, every meeting was very useful in its own way.
Did you ever doubt yourself that you could do it?
Of course, but those thoughts only linger until something good happens.
How do you market Garden Compass?
Everything we have done so far has been organic, through word of mouth and app store rankings…We are now partnering with some pretty major gardening brands in the USA and the UK to offer an expert with any plant related thing a store such as Home Depot might sell.
What do you wish you had known then that you know now?
How to juggle
Any mishaps along the way?
We have had a fair few non-planty photo’s sent in…from nude people to slightly more questionable images, which has upset some of our experts.
How has Garden Compass evolved from when you first started it?
We have gone from UK plant identification to helping people care for their plants in over 72 different countries.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of setting up an app?
The idea that you set up an app, sit back and watch the Benjamin’s come in is far from the truth, it requires a lot of work…but very enjoyable at the same time.
What do you think the next steps are for Garden Compass?
We are about to launch a very exciting new website “My Garden Dashboard”, a gardening linkedin of sorts…allowing our users to view the gardens of people from all over the world (link at the bottom of interview).
What has been your best moment as a result of setting up Garden Compass?
Working with Harrods and Diarmuid Gavin at the Chelsea flower show this year.
What’s the end goal in regards to Garden Compass?
Have a product that is of genuine use to people who just want to make their outdoor space beautiful, and make the world a little bit greener at the same time.
You’ve been given an elephant. You can’t give it away or sell it. What would you do with the elephant?
First off I would probably name it, something like Michael or Malcolm…then I am not really sure…ride it?
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