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Me & My Job - Tom Mitchell, owner, Evolution Plants

Grow, 14 November 2013

Tom Mitchell, owner, Evolution Plants - Evolution Plants
Tom Mitchell, owner, Evolution Plants - Evolution Plants

How did you get started in the industry? I think of it more as an obsession than an industry, but I stumbled into my current job after burning out in my previous career as a banker. I wanted to combine my two great enthusiasms for biodiversity and exploration. Becoming a 21st century plant hunter seemed logical at the time.

What advice would you give to others starting out with a new business? Think again. If you are still sure that this is what you want to do and you have an original idea, sit down and prepare a carefully costed business plan. Run it by someone who has set up a business before and listen to their advice. Don’t spend a single penny until you know how you are going to fund all the start-up costs — doubled. Then go for it, with all you’ve got, and good luck.

What does your typical day involve? I might be lost in the Pyrenees collecting daffodil seeds one day, discussing website design a few days later and potting on hellebores the next. Most days involve juggling a dozen demands on my time. Building a brand means being intimately involved in every aspect of the business.

What is the best aspect of your job? I remember one lunchtime, high in the Caucasus mountains in Georgia, close to the Russian border. We had just found a fantastic colony of Galanthus platyphyllus, one of the rarest of all snowdrop species, and were celebrating with a beer and a picnic. "This is my job," I thought, and I considered myself fortunate indeed.

And the worst? Filing my quarterly VAT return.

What are your plans for the business? I’d like to make plants the new software and eclipse Bill Gates on the rich list. However, I’d settle for making enough to continue travelling, introducing new plants to cultivation and inspiring gardeners to be more adventurous in what they grow.

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