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How two young Essex gardeners are showing savvy for business success
Brothers Dale and Lee Connelly have bagged themselves a plot of land on television presenter Jimmy Doherty's farm. We think they're setting a great example for young businesses.
Essex may be synonymous with fake tan, fast cars and aspiring superstars - a place where the people shine orange even when the sun doesn't - but two lads with green fingers could be set to change that perception.
For anyone who's worried I'm calling for a Ground Force comeback featuring Alan Titchmarsh and Tommy Walsh, relax and fear not - I'm actually talking about brothers Dale and Lee Connelly, the self-styled Skinny Jean Gardeners.
Dale, 23, and Lee, 25, were born in Colchester, and in many respects embody the stereotypical smart-with-a-hint-of-scruffy Essex image. The difference is they're keen gardeners who are intent on improving people's knowledge of food.
Their enthusiasm is so infectious that celebrity farmer and TV presenter Jimmy Doherty has decided to give them a plot of land on his farm. This will enable them to explore their ideas while producing fruit and veg that will be sold in Doherty's shop - as well to local chefs and at farmers' markets.
Planting the seeds
The brothers revealed how they became interested in gardening after a lunchtime discussion on where their food came from. Dale admitted that they "didn't think any further than the supermarket" - but the rest, as they say, is history.
The brothers are intent to maintain a quirky approach. As such, they'll be growing electric daisies that supposedly fizz when they're eaten, while red strawberry popcorn and 'sweet aperitif' - sweet tomatoes with thin skins - are other unusual products in their range
Once the two realised they could grow their own produce the next step was relatively simple: they got themselves an allotment. Here, they quickly became easily recognisable for doing their gardening in skinny jeans rather than flat caps - as well as using a few unorthodox techniques. When Jimmy Doherty got wind of their antics, he decided to give them a larger area where their big ideas could come to fruition.
On the surface this could look like little more than a hobby - a side project with no real direction. However, Dale and Lee say they're determined to improve people's understanding of where their food comes from, and much of what they've done sets a brilliant example for small businesses.
First they've got their branding - Skinny Jean Gardeners is hardly the new Nike, but it's something interesting and different that's going to get their audience talking.
Next there's the product - the lads started out using an old shower door as a propagator, and they seem intent to maintain this quirky approach. As such, they'll be growing electric daisies that supposedly fizz when they're eaten, while red strawberry popcorn and 'sweet aperitif' - sweet tomatoes with thin skins - are other unusual products in their range.
And with Lee getting married next March, the brothers say they're planning on growing an edible bouquet - another adventurous project that is sure to attract attention.
One thing every business needs is a presence, and Dale revealed that the idea is to get as many people as possible to go to the farm to engage with its produce.
"For us it's about being together as brothers and developing a sociable garden where people can come and ask what's happening and why we're doing it," he said.
Naturally the gardeners will also benefit from their association with Jimmy Doherty, and in true Essex fashion they've recommended some of their favourite fashion brands on their website - a decision that could prove to be another shrewd business move.
But the main thing here is that there's passion - the brothers are genuinely excited about getting involved and making their mark on the industry. This is perhaps the most important quality a business person needs. Being passionate about what you do by no means guarantees business success, but it's a long uphill struggle without it.